Eat Well, Live Well: Eating for a Healthy Heart

By | 2017-01-13T20:42:23+00:00 July 1st, 2014|
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Joanne Smith and Kylie JamesPeople with spinal cord injuries face a host of secondary health complications — cardiovascular disease being the most serious. CVD is the leading cause of death for people with SCI, who tend to have reduced HDL (good cholesterol) levels and increased LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglyceride levels. All of these contribute to a greater risk of heart attack and stroke. So it’s critical to understand the role nutrition can play in helping prevent and manage CVD. Here are four important and easy steps to better heart health:

Increase fiber. The fiber that’s found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes binds to cholesterol/fat in the intestines, and helps eliminate it in your waste.

Increase antioxidants. Antioxidants, such as selenium, vitamins A, C and E, protect arteries from free radical damage. Free radicals attack and damage tissue, particularly arteries. This can lead to plaque build-up and contribute to development of CVD. Antioxidants act to neutralize these damaging free radicals. Antioxidant-rich foods include dark green leafy vegetables, dark berries, citrus fruits, yellow and orange vegetables (e. g., carrots and sweet potato) and sunflower seeds.

Eliminate trans fats. Trans fats are unnatural, man-made fats that increase shelf life of foods (e.g., hydrogenated oils). These fake fats can cause major clogging of arteries, are known to increase LDL and lower HDL, and can interfere with your body’s use of beneficial omega-3 fats. Avoid fast and junk food, which tend to be loaded with this unhealthy fat.

Reduce/eliminate refined sugar. High blood sugar levels not only contribute to increased LDL and triglyceride levels, they cause collagen damage in your arteries.

This delicious curry quinoa recipe combines above recommendations and more! Quinoa is a protein-rich seed that’s incredibly easy to cook and acts as a great substitute for rice and pasta. This super seed contains ample fiber and other important heart-healthy nutrients, such as copper and manganese, which serve as co-factors to a very powerful antioxidant. Quinoa is also a great source of magnesium, a mineral that helps to dilate arteries, inhibit platelet aggregation and blood clot formation, as well as reduce the size of arterial blockages. Moreover, the rich, yellow spice turmeric used in this recipe is a potent antioxidant and has powerful cholesterol-lowering, triglyceride-lowering and anti-inflammatory properties. Try something new and eat your way to a healthy heart!

Joanne Smith and Kylie James are co-authors of Eat Well Live Well with SCI and Other Neurological Conditions. Learn more at

Curried Quinoa
1 cup quinoa
1½ tablespoons coconut oil
½ cup diced onions
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
½ fresh green chili, minced, or 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¾ cups water
½ cup fresh or frozen green peas
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

1. Place quinoa in fine-mesh strainer, rinse with cold water, drain well.
2. In a heavy saucepan, warm oil. Sauté onions, medium high heat, for 4-5 minutes. Add ginger, chili (or cayenne) and quinoa. Cook one minute, stirring constantly. Stir in turmeric, coriander, cinnamon and salt and cook for another minute, stirring.
3. Add water, bring to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Stir in peas, cover and cook for 4 or 5 minutes, until peas are tender and water is absorbed.
5. Before serving, fluff with fork and add cilantro, if you wish.

Recipe provided by Moosewood Restaurant New Classics Cookbook