Heart-Healthy Breakfast Options
Did you know February is American Heart Month? Heart disease is still the leading cause of death for both men and women world-wide. National trends are showing death rates from heart disease are actually increasing in younger adults, age 35-64 years old. The key message of this years' American Heart Month campaign is ~ Take control of your heart health!
💕Find time to be active (150 minutes per week)
💕Make healthy eating a habit
💕Quit tobacco - for good
💕Know your numbers (HDL, LDL, total cholesterol, waist circumference)
💕Take medications as prescribed (always talk with your doctor before changing a prescribed medication)
To learn more about American Heart Month 2019, click HERE.
To give you some inspiration on heart-healthy breakfast options, I've included an assortment of DELICIOUS ideas below. Some of these dishes might be slightly different variations of something you already enjoy. Others might be completely new to you. Any foods for which I've already posted a recipe, I've included the link so you can easily check it out. Mix it up a bit and try something new!
Whole Grains ~
Oats are an excellent source of soluble fiber, which absorbs water and helps waste pass through the digestive tract more easily. Soluble fiber also binds to substances like cholesterol and glucose (sugar), preventing or slowing absorption into the blood. Lowering blood cholesterol helps protect against heart disease. Soluble fiber also helps boost the population of good bacteria in the gut, which is linked to enhanced mood, improved immunity and anti-inflammatory effects. Read more about the health benefits of dietary fiber HERE.
Did you know you can soak whole grains overnight to decrease cooking time and increase creaminess? Give it a try!
Old-Fashioned Oatmeal. For one serving, combine 1 cup unsweetened nut milk, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1 apple, chopped (unpeeled), 1/2-1 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 cup walnuts (pictured below is a combination of regular English walnuts and Red walnuts). Cook over medium/low heat until thick and creamy.
Chia Pudding. Chia seeds are not a grain but they are used like one. This is a dish to prep the night before. No cooking is needed, but the seeds need to soak for about 8 hours. For one serving, combine 3/4 cup of nut milk with 2 Tbsp of chia seeds and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Just before eating, add fresh berries and 1 Tbsp hemp hearts. To learn more about the benefits of chia seeds and to try my Double Chocolate Chia Pudding, click HERE.
Rolled Spelt. Spelt is not a gluten-free grain, but it does contain similar nutrients to oats and a bit more fiber. It's a little darker in color and tastes slightly nutty. Cooking methods are the same as for rolled oats. This version contains my New England Cranberry Sauce and pumpkin seeds (pepitas).
Quinoa. Quinoa is also a seed and not a true grain, although it can be cooked in a similar fashion. If I'm serving quinoa with dinner, I like to cook extra to have for breakfast the next morning. Just warm up plain cooked quinoa with a little nut milk. When heated through, add sliced almonds and fresh or frozen berries. Prepare quinoa using a 1:2 ration of seed to liquid. Some brands no longer require rinsing of the seeds prior to cooking to remove the bitter saponins. Check the label carefully. If in doubt, rinse for several minutes under cold running water before cooking.
Steel Cut Oats. Sometimes this is packaged as Scottish or Irish oatmeal. Rather than the whole oat grains (groats) being rolled out flat, they are cut into pieces using steel blades. Steel cut oats contain the same nutrients as rolled oats but less are used per serving. They also require additional cooking time unless you soak them overnight. To switch it up a bit, I like to occasionally make savory oats.
For one serving, combine 1/4 cup steel cut oats, 1 cup unsweetened nut milk, 4 strips of smoked tempeh, cut into bite-sized pieces, and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Cook according to package directions. Serve with a scoop of lacto-fermented red cabbage. Lactic acid-fermented foods (or lacto-fermentation) are beneficial for increasing healthy gut bacteria ~ and they're YUM-O! Current research suggests an association between a large population of healthy gut microbes and heart health. Likewise, fermented foods can be easier to digest and increase the bioavailability of certain nutrients. Around the world, fermented foods are more often being included in national food guidelines. Read more HERE.
Almost any vegetable can be lacto-fermented. Here's the recipe for my Lacto-Fermented Moroccan-Spiced Carrots. If you're new to lacto-fermentation, this is an EASY and TASTY place to start.
Quick Oats. Although I prefer the thicker old fashioned-oats, quick oats (not instant) can be an option if you're pressed for time. Generally, they contain slightly less fiber and have less texture than thick rolled oats. This is another savory version with smoked tempeh, jalapeno slices, cilantro and a squeeze of lime, served with a side of kimchi (spicy lacto-fermented Napa cabbage).
Nut butter wraps ~
I like the portability of making a meal into a wrap ~ plus, anytime I can add a serving of vegetables to breakfast (and everyone loves it!) is a step in the right direction towards getting in enough vegetables throughout the day. This tortilla is spread with two Tbsp of almond butter, 1/2 cup of baby arugula (packed), 1/2 banana, sliced and 1/2 cup fresh blueberries. When I first threw this together, I was skeptical. Fear not, it is FANTASTIC! Arugula can easily be swapped out for baby spinach or any other leafy green you like. I enjoy the smokiness of the arugula with the other flavors.
Some other options to try: apples, spinach and nut butter; strawberries, oak-leaf lettuce and nut butter; pears, dried cranberries, nut butter and baby kale. Other add-ins: sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, chopped walnuts, pumpkin seeds, dried fruit (preferably unsweetened), low-sugar granola, unsweetened toasted coconut, chunks of avocado, a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom.
~ Tofu Scramble
This is one of my favorite weekend breakfasts, especially in the fall after a hard frost. This is when kale is sweetest! Turmeric, nutritional yeast and black salt are key to making the tofu resemble scrambled eggs in both looks and taste. I use a healthy portion of chopped kale because it cooks down so much and kale is such a powerhouse of vitamins. Peppers, onions and garlic all add fantastic flavor and a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals too. Try my Tofu Scramble HERE.
With a little planning, a tofu scramble can be loaded into a tortilla for a delicious weekday breakfast burrito! This one does not include kale, but I've added some black beans for extra protein and fiber ~ one of my personal FAVORITES!
~ Stuffed Avocados
If I'm pressed for time, I love filling half an avocado with whatever other veggies are within reach. Try adding a squeeze of lime, a sprinkle of smoked salt, dash of hot sauce and grab a spoon! Avocados are loaded with monounsaturated fat and may help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while raising the amount of HDL (good) cholesterol in your body. Avocados are not a good source of protein, so be sure to add some protein too. Beans are an excellent plant-based companion. Try filling the empty cavity with cooked black beans, pinto beans, or small red beans... SCRUMPTIOUS! It doesn't get much easier than that.
~ The Ultimate Avocado Toasts
If I have a few more minutes, I'll scoop the avocado flesh onto toasted whole grain bread, give it a quick smash and top it with lacto-fermented vegetables. A sprinkle of sesame seeds and sea salt makes this a PERFECT breakfast or snack! This one is topped with lacto-fermented red cabbage and fennel from Gracie's Garden in Standish, Maine.
Sometimes I don't even take the time to smash the avocado. Loaded up on sourdough toast with another variety of lacto-fermented cabbage, a sprinkle of sesame seeds and a dash of sea salt [or better yet Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend!], and I'm good-to-go with this meal! This variety of lacto-fermented cabbage is also from Gracie's Garden. This one is a standard green cabbage that's been fermented with whole red chilies, lending a beautiful pink hue and nice kick of heat!
If you're not a fan of lacto-fermented cabbage, you might like to try my Lacto-Fermented Moroccan-Spiced Carrots instead. Brightly colored, aromatic, crunchy and flavorful, they would be perfect on avocado toast as well.
This might just be the most creative avocado toast I've ever made. Left-over New England Cranberry Sauce inspired me to up my game a bit. These are whole grain waffles with smashed avocado, cranberry sauce, toasted pecans, a little orange zest and the tiniest sprinkle of nutmeg. I know some of you may be dubious, but this is MOUTHWATERING! (and yes, I surprised myself even). Cranberries are loaded with proanthocyaninidins (PACs), a type of flavonoid which continues to be studied for potential usefulness in protecting against cardiovascular (CVD) disease, among other benefits.
They don't always need to be GREEN to be of benefit to your body.
This one gets that brilliant purple from wild blueberries and dark cherries. I keep a plant-based protein mix on hand for times when I may not have time to eat a snack, but want to ensure I'm not skipping out on important nutrients and calories.
If you have frozen cranberries in your freezer, give this smoothie a whirl: 1/2 cup cranberries, 1/2 banana, 1 scoop of your favorite protein shake mix, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 2 Tbsp hemp hearts, 1 cup unsweetened nut milk and 4-6 ice cubes. Again, cranberries are a powerhouse of PACs and this is a great way to include them on a more regular basis.
There are certainly a number of other foods that contribute to maintaining a healthy heart and well-functioning cardiovascular system. These are just some ideas you might like to try.
What are some ways you are looking after your heart-health? Drop me a comment below, and be sure to let me know what you think if you try any of my recipes ~ I love getting your feedback!
Stay tuned for Heart-Healthy Snack ideas coming up next!
your favorite plant-based chef & culinary nutritionist 💕