Cardiologist preparing a healthy dinner at home.

When the dinner bell rings, it’s natural to let your palate’s preferences (or your mood or your energy levels) lead the way. However, one cardiologist recommends following your heart, literally.

“What we put in our mouths every day has a tremendous impact on our health,” he says. Dr. Daniel Hermann, MD, interventional cardiologist at Memorial Hermann in Houston. “In fact, the leading modifiable risk factor for death in the U.S. is poor dietary choices… It’s really important to make good food choices to stay healthy, feel better, and live longer.”

In fact, a 36-year cohort study of more than 85,000 people published in 2022 found that people who maintained a body mass index in the normal range never smoked, consumed a healthy diet, and followed public health advice. on alcohol and physical activity lived longer. .

But just because it’s possible to modify dietary choices doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park, and Dr. Hermann understands that. “With our busy and chaotic lifestyles, it’s challenging to plan and prepare meals, so having some healthy options is convenient and obviously good for the heart,” he says.

A 2017 study linked meal planning to healthier food choices. So what does Dr. Hermann look for when it’s time for dinner? He shares his favorite heart-healthy meal that doesn’t take hours to prepare.

Related: ‘I’m a cardiologist: this is the snack I eat almost every day’

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A cardiologist’s favorite dinner

What’s for dinner at Dr. Hermann’s? Often, this cardiologist prepares a fresh salad accompanied by grilled salmon. We know we mentioned letting the heart choose dinner over the taste buds. However, there’s good news for people who want it both ways: “I love the freshness and lightness of food,” says Dr. Hermann. “It’s delicious.”

Beyond that, light, fresh food is rich in nutrients. “Fresh, leafy green vegetables are packed with vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants,” explains Dr. Hermann. “Salmon is also loaded with vitamins and contains omega-3 fatty acids that improve lipid profiles and reduce arterial inflammation, which contributes to atherosclerosis.”

Leafy green vegetables contain fiber, vitamin C, zinc, and vitamin A, all of which can reduce the risk of heart disease. Darker leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, and romaine lettuce are higher in nutrients than iceberg lettuce, according to the Cleveland Clinic. A 2021 study linked consumption of leafy green vegetables to a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating two servings of fish a week (six ounces cooked) to reduce your chances of heart disease and stroke, and the AHA specifically emphasizes the benefits of fatty fish, such as salmon.

To keep this salad heart healthy, Dr. Hermann suggests avoiding a common mistake.

“You have to be very careful with salad dressings,” he says. “They can be high in calories and a source of processed foods. Ultra-processed foods are a huge and, frankly, dangerous source of calories in the average American diet. Eating processed foods is linked to cardiovascular disease, and It is one of the main current causes of dementia.

A study published in 2022 showed that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with higher chances of heart disease and death. Another study published online the same year linked the intake of ultra-processed foods to cognitive decline.

Related: The Only Thing That Really Reduces Plaque Buildup in Your Arteries, According to Cardiologists

Other Ways to Easily Make Heart-Healthy Dinners

When you’re busy or stressed, it’s easy to reach for the first thing in your kitchen or pantry. Dr. Hermann has a quick tip that will help you make sure that “thing” is something his heart will delight in.

“Place healthy food options in front of your eyes, in your pantry, and in your refrigerator,” she recommends. “We often choose to eat one of the first two or three options we see. Don’t hide the good, healthy stuff in those dull refrigerator drawers.”

Salmon may not be the dressing for your salad, and that’s okay. However, you’ll want to choose alternatives wisely. “Be sure to replace processed red meat with fresh fish and legumes and avoid ultra-processed foods,” shares Dr. Hermann. “This is really challenging because we are inundated with these foods and they are usually relatively easy to prepare.”

Dr. Hermann says high-sodium add-ins, like tortilla chips, can also reduce the heart-healthy benefits of a salad, as can drinking soda or other sugary drinks with food.

Finally, not all factors associated with heart disease risk, such as genetics and age, can be controlled. However, you can control other aspects, such as exercise and food choices, for the most part. Dr. Hermann emphasizes that it is important to use this truth to empower him when he opens the refrigerator instead of sending him into a spiral of shame.
“Your choices matter, which is very empowering,” she says. “Even small healthy changes can produce big results.”

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By Sam