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30-Minute Heart-Healthy Meals

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Wheat Penne with Roasted Vegetables and Shrimp

Every year in the U.S., more women than men die from heart disease. The good news is that what you eat for dinner tonight can cut your risk. These delicious recipes and quick tips are doable and can add years to your life.

Makes: 6 servings

1 small cauliflower, chopped

2 medium red onions, peeled and cut into 1-inch-thick wedges

2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into 1-inch pieces

2 small Delicata squash, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into thin half-moons

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

3 sprigs fresh thyme

1/2 pound whole wheat penne pasta

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Coarse sea salt to taste

Parmesan cheese for garnish

Set a large, rimmed baking pan on the middle shelf of the oven; preheat to 500 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add salt. Put cauliflower, onions, carrots, and squash in the pot; cover until water returns to a boil. Uncover; cook 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to a colander. Reserve cooking water for later.

In a bowl, toss vegetables, shrimp, tomatoes, wine, oil, garlic, cumin, red pepper, and thyme. Transfer to the pan in the oven; roast 15 minutes, stirring midway, until veggies are tender and shrimp is cooked. Discard thyme.

Return the pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and transfer to a wide serving bowl. Toss pasta with veggie mixture; season with salt and pepper. Add cheese if desired.

Nutrition facts per serving: 459 calories, 21g protein, 47g carbohydrate, 21g fat (3g saturated), 8g fiber.

Easy Lemon Lentil Soup with Spinach

Makes: 5 servings

1 1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed

1 cup chopped tomatoes with their juice

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

8 whole garlic cloves, peeled

4 slices fresh ginger (each about the size of a quarter)

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 bay leaf

10 ounces (1 bag) washed baby spinach

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Coarse sea salt or kosher salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

Combine 6 cups of water with the lentils in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan over high heat. Skim off the foam as the lentils begin to boil. Add tomatoes, oil, turmeric, and garlic. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Wrap ginger, rosemary, and bay leaf in a piece of cheesecloth, tie it closed with kitchen string, and add to the pan. Simmer until the lentils are tender and the garlic is soft; discard the cheesecloth.

Add the spinach and simmer until wilted. Stir in the lemon juice. Crush the garlic against the side of the pot with the back of a spoon and stir so that it melts into the soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Nutrition facts per serving: 319 calories, 18g protein, 43g carbohydrate, 10g fat (1g saturated), 12g fiber.

Seared Salmon with White Bean Puree

Makes: 4 servings

For salmon

4 6- to 8-ounce salmon fillets

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons canola or grape-seed oil

For bean puree

2 15-ounce cans organic white beans (Great Northern, cannellini, or navy beans)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 garlic cloves, crushed

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving

Preheat the broiler. Rinse the beans briefly under running water; drain well. Combine them with oil, parsley, garlic, and lemon juice in a food processor and pulse to form a coarse puree. Transfer to a bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Pat the salmon fillets dry with a paper towel. Season the skin side with salt and pepper. Pour the oil into a medium ovenproof, nonstick skillet and place it over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the salmon, skin side down. Cook for 4 minutes, until a crust forms on the bottom. The top will still be raw. Remove the pan from the heat. Broil fillets for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the tops are sizzling and the fish is medium rare. Spoon the bean puree onto serving plates, and place the salmon on top. Serve with lemon wedges. (Note: The leftover puree makes an excellent sandwich spread or crostini topping.)

Nutrition facts per serving: 540 calories, 53g protein, 22g carbohydrate, 26g fat (4g saturated), 7g fiber.

Spicy Pan-Seared Scallops with Ginger and Soy

Makes: 4 servings

20 large scallops, muscle removed

Finely ground sea salt

1 tablespoon canola or grape-seed oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Pat scallops with a paper towel; season lightly with sea salt. Heat the oil in a wide nonstick pan over medium heat. When it's hot, add the scallops, turn the heat to medium high, and sear for 3 minutes, until golden brown. Turn the scallops and sear for 1 minute. Be careful not to overcook. Remove them from heat and put on a plate.

Add the remaining ingredients to the pan. Simmer for 1 minute over medium-high heat. Return scallops to the pan and toss to coat. Reheat briefly and serve.

Nutrition facts per serving: 104 calories, 14g protein, 2g carbohydrate, 4g fat (0g saturated), 0g fiber.

Celery Salad with Apples, Walnuts, and Mustard Vinaigrette

Makes: 6 servings

6 large or 8 medium celery stalks, thinly sliced

1/3 cup roughly chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

1 large Granny Smith apple

1/4 cup finely chopped celery leaves

Place the celery in a bowl and cover with cold water. Refrigerate. In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the nuts for 3 to 4 minutes, shaking the pan for even browning. Transfer to a plate to cool.

In a salad bowl, combine lemon juice, mustard, garlic, honey, and salt. Whisk in the oil, and season with pepper. Peel and quarter the apple; core the quarters, and slice each quarter into 2 wedges. Cut the wedges across into thin slices, add them to the dressing, and toss. Drain the chilled celery and blot dry with a paper towel. Add the celery, celery leaves, and walnuts to the apples and toss. Serve immediately.

Nutrition facts per serving: 167 calories, 2g protein, 11g carbohydrate, 14g fat (2g saturated), 2g fiber.

Thai-Style Chicken Coconut Curry

Makes: 4 servings

1 cup thinly sliced shallots

2 tablespoons grape-seed or canola oil

2 serrano chilies, thinly sliced

1 one-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into matchsticks

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 1/2 cups cabbage, sliced into 1/2-inch-wide strips

1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced

1 cup sliced mushroom caps

14-ounce can light coconut milk

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast cut into 1-inch chunks

2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

2 medium tomatoes, cored and sliced into wedges

1 cup snow peas, strings removed, cut in half

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

1 scallion, greens sliced into 1-inch lengths, whites thinly sliced

1 cup jasmine rice, cooked according to package directions

1 lime, cut into wedges, for serving

Combine shallots and oil in a large saucepan over high heat; saute for about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; add the chilies, ginger, garlic, and turmeric, and saute for 1 minute. Add cabbage, carrot, and mushrooms, and saute for another 2 minutes. Pour in the coconut milk and 1 cup of water; bring the mixture to a boil. Add chicken and soy sauce and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix in tomatoes and snow peas and simmer for 3 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Add the basil and scallion and simmer for 1 minute more. Serve with jasmine rice and lime wedges.

Nutrition facts per serving: 436 calories, 33g protein, 38g carbohydrate, 17g fat (6g saturated), 4g fiber.

Two New Ways to Assess Your Heart Disease Risk

  • Log on to Answer a few questions about your health and family history, and the program — developed by Harvard University researchers — will tell you your risk for a heart attack or stroke over the next 10 years. (Note: You'll need to know your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.)
  • Get an hs-CRP test, which can detect the level of inflammation in your coronary arteries. High levels mean you may be at risk for sudden cardiac death, the most common kind of heart-related death in women. The test costs less than $20, depending on insurance, and is one of the only screenings for which research was done primarily on women.

Take Action Today!

1. Shake the salt habit. Too much sodium leads to high blood pressure, which can cause heart disease, heart attacks, or strokes, says Mark Moyad, MD, MPH, director of preventive and alternative medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center. Aim for about 1,500 milligrams of salt (two-thirds teaspoon) daily, and be vigilant about checking the sodium content of packaged goods, such as frozen meals, soups, and snack foods.

2. Eat some fat. "Too little fat in the diet can increase your risk for heart disease because it lowers your good cholesterol about 5 to 10 points," explains Dr. Moyad. About 25 to 35 percent of your calories should come from fat — that's 50 to 70 grams a day for a woman on an 1,800-calorie diet. Limit your intake of saturated and trans fats and focus on eating more mono and polyunsaturated fats (omega-3s are a form of polyunsaturated fats), like those found in nuts, canola and safflower oils, and fatty fish.

3. Get more fiber. Studies show that it slows the progression of heart disease, yet the average woman eats only about 15 grams a day. Try to consume at least 25 grams daily by adding beans, veggies, fruits, and whole grains to your meals.

4. Get your superfoods. Research indicates you can lower your cholesterol by consuming plant stanols, naturally occurring compounds in fruits and vegetables. To get the 2 to 3 grams recommended by Dr. Moyad, eat plenty of fruits and veggies, and look for packaged foods that are fortified with stanols. You'll find at least 0.4g per serving in Benecol Spread, Minute Maid Heart Wise Orange Juice, and Corazonas Tortilla Chips.

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Originally published in FITNESS magazine, November 2007.