I think it’s fantastic for general awareness and education that February is American Heart Month. But, really, shouldn’t every month and every day and day of my life be focused on the health and well-being of this organ that actively keeps the rest of my body working properly? Considering cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in America for both men AND women (1 in 3 of us will die from heart disease and stroke) combined with the fact that I have a family history of heart-related issues has made me take a proactive role in the health of my heart. I love my heart, do you love yours?
High cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, lack of physical exercise, being overweight and smoking are all factors that increase the risk for heart disease. After taking care of the home, looking after a family and meeting the demands of a career, women all too often don’t even consider taking care of their own hearts. Heart disease isn’t even on the radar unless some sort of symptom has popped up; and even then it’s often whitewashed away as “stress.” And, to exacerbate it all, with the onset of menopause, a woman’s natural defenses against heart disease are diminished.
Under the care of your doctor, it is important to fully understand your risk for heart disease and take steps to live a healthier lifestyle through diet, exercise and breaking bad habits. Studies have shown that if you can avoid the conditions that put you at risk for heart disease until you turn 50, chances are good that you may never develop it. It’s never too early to be proactive and make your heart health a priority.
In terms of what to eat to be heart healthy, it’s not so much a “diet” as it is an ongoing, day-in and day-out lifestyle. Meals and purposeful snacks high in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in sodium and trans fat along with moderate levels of lean protein are the optimal choices for a heart-healthy diet. It may surprise you, but as far as lean protein options go, beef is one of the best. Although beef sometimes gets a bad rap as a health food, the reasoning is outdated and uniformed. Today, there are 29 lean cuts of beef (accounting for nearly 70% of the butcher counter) that have 10g of fat or less per serving. This puts beef putting on par with skinless chicken breasts, thighs and other lean proteins, but with much more taste (in my opinion) and many more essential vitamins and minerals -- iron, b vitamins, zinc, niacin and selenium, just to name a few. The news that lean beef can be part of a heart-healthy diet is also corroborated by a recent study published in the January 2012 edition of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition This research shows how beef plays a hand in a cholesterol-lowering diet, despite commonly held beliefs to the contrary. Participants in the 5-week BOLD diet (Beef in an Optimally Lean Diet) experienced a 10% reduction in LDL “bad” cholesterol after giving up white meat to eat 4.0 to 5.4 ounces of lean beef daily.
So, all this talk about beef has made me hungry! In honor of loving and taking care of our hearts, I have created a healthy recipe for Slow-Cooker Orange & Sugar Snap Beef. It’s made with a chuck shoulder steak, a lean cut of beef that has just 6g total fat in a 3-ounce serving (1.9g of those being saturated fat). And, talk about low-stress (just trying to keep those risk factors at bay), this easy recipe basically cooks itself in the crockpot all day while you take care of family, business and at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise! All you do is come home, toss in orange slices and crispy sugar snap peas, serve over a bed of brown rice and enjoy!