Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. It may manifest itself in early symptoms like high blood pressure and elevated blood serum cholesterol. If unchecked, heart disease can lead to congestive heart failure, stroke, or cardiac arrest. For some, a serious heart event is their first indication of heart disease.
Fortunately, small changes in diet and lifestyle can help lower your risk of heart disease, even if you have already suffered a stroke or heart attack. Including more whole grains and vegetable protein sources in your daily menu, for example, can provide your body with more of the nutrients it needs for heart health.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating at least three one-ounce equivalents of whole grains every single day. One-ounce equivalents include:
• One slice of 100-percent-whole-grain bread,
• One half cup of cooked quinoa or brown rice,
• One cup of prepared, 100-percent-whole-grain cereal,
• One and a quarter cups of puffed cereal.
In addition, the AHA recommends eating at least four and a half cups of fresh fruits and vegetables daily and two servings of fish–preferably fatty fish–per week.
Quinoa for a Healthy Heart
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) promotes heart health in a couple of ways.
1) Soluble fiber lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation, all of which contribute to heart disease. Quinoa has 50 percent more fiber than brown rice, and 36 percent of that fiber is soluble.
2) Magnesium relaxes blood vessels, shortening the duration of migraine episodes and helping to prevent heart attacks and strokes. A quarter cup of unprepared quinoa contains about 30 percent of the daily recommended value of magnesium for American adults.
In addition, quinoa provides an alternative to animal sources of protein that may come bundled with saturated fats and cholesterol.
Quinoa in a Heart-Healthy Diet
There are many ways to include whole grain quinoa in your heart-healthy diet. If you prepare a batch of quinoa in advance, you can store it in the refrigerator and scoop out individual servings as needed.
Try stirring half a cup of cooked quinoa into eight ounces of Greek yogurt for a high energy breakfast that will stick with you until lunch. Or serve it with your morning eggs instead of grits or toast.
For lunch, you might add half a cup of prepared quinoa to a cup of bean soup or include it in a salad with your favorite greens and dressing.
Remember, quinoa is a whole grain that cooks in only twenty minutes, meaning that your busy nights can still be nourishing. Be sure to cook extra. A bowl of leftover quinoa in the fridge makes it easy for your and your family to meet the goal of three servings of whole grains per day for a heart-healthy diet.