Heart-Healthy Cooking and Substitutions

Heather Reese Health Guide
  • Diet plays a large role in heart health. Choosing healthy foods when preparing meals is a first step in reducing your risk of heart disease and the chances that you’ll suffer from a coronary event. Unfortunately, healthy cooking often gets a bad rap and is assumed to be bland and boring. However, there are ways to prepare your meals with healthy ingredients that enable you to capture the flavor and enhance the nutrients without adding unwanted fat and calories.

    Herbs and spices are a great substitution for salt, which is high in sodium. They are a great way to add color, taste and aroma to foods. If you choose fresh herbs that aren’t wilted, add them towards the end of cooking, use dried herbs in the earlier stages of cooking. If you are preparing a recipe that calls for fresh herbs but you don’t have any – you can just substitute your dried ones but you should only use about a third of the amount.
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    Many other substitutions are as simple and obvious as using herbs and spices in place of salt. Using low-fat cheese, sour cream, cream cheese and milk in place of the full-fat versions can cut up to half the fat. But not all substitutions are as easy to figure out. For example, you can use plain low-fat yogurt in place of sour cream and skim milk in place of heavy cream or evaporated milk.

    Egg yolks are a saturated fat and should be limited on a heart healthy diet. You can replace a whole egg with two egg whites or with egg substitute to reduce the saturated fat but keep the flavor and texture of the original recipe. However, if you are making a baked good or dessert – replace half of the eggs with egg whites. Baked goods made with only egg whites tend to have a tough texture.

    Many people are hesitant to replace the oils in baked goods. But you can reduce the amount of oil you use and make up the difference with applesauce, prune puree, mashed banana or canned pumpkin without affecting the flavor. If you aren’t comfortable reducing the amount of fat that you use than try using a healthier oil. Regular vegetable oil is high in trans fat, which is directly linked with heart disease. You can replace regular vegetable oil with healthier canola oil without affecting the flavor or texture.

    Even simply switching to a healthier fat can help reduce your risk of heart disease. Instead of using butter, lard, palm oil, coconut oil and shortenings use mono and polyunsaturated oils like olive, canola, peanut, soybean, sunflower, safflower, sesame and cottonseed. While nuts are a healthy form of fat, they are high in calories. Try cutting the amount you use in half and toasting them to enhance the flavor.

Published On: February 22, 2007