Happy Heart Health Month! Knowing the ways to keep our hearts healthy is extremely important in combating all the health issues associated with bad heart-health maintenance, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
Many foods are considered to be heart-healthy, including salmon, almonds, flaxseed oil, broccoli, asparagus and more. You may be well aware of the benefits of eating these kinds of lean protein and vegetables, but what about when you are hankering for some after-dinner dessert?
There’s no reason to fight off the urge for something sweet every time you get the desire. Many heart healthy foods can also be used in desserts. For example, topping the list of foods packed with vitamins and nutrients good for your heart include oranges, blueberries, sweet potatoes, walnuts and even dark chocolate – all of which go quite well as savory confections.
Here’s a list of 5 heart healthy desserts to satisfy your sweet tooth and ensure you’re still eating what’s best for your heart.
Besides being delightfully citrusy and leaving a titillating combination of tangy and sweet on your tongue, oranges contain important carotenoids such as beta- and alpha-carotene, which enhance the immune system and reduce certain health risks. They also have flavonoids, which help the body respond better to viruses, allergens and carcinogens and reduce cardiovascular disease risk, as well as vitamin C, potassium, folate and fiber.
Recipe: Cinnamon-Orange Créme Brûlee
With a short preparation time and all the sweet elegance you desire, this Crème Brûlée is sure to satisfy that cloying craving with only one-third the calories and fat found in the traditional form of this dessert.
Blueberries are often referred to as a super food. These tiny little morsels can be served in more ways and used in more recipes than most people can count. They have just the right natural combination of sharp and candied taste, and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dessert with no guilt whatsoever. They also are rich in carotenoids and flavonoids, as well as polyphenols, which help reduce cardiovascular risk. And like oranges, they are loaded with vitamin C, folate, potassium and fiber, all excellent for your heart.
Recipe: Blueberry Parfait
It doesn’t get much simpler than this. All you need are some fresh blueberries, low-fat vanilla yogurt and low-fat cinnamon graham crackers. Follow this simple recipe and combine for a delicious treat you can enjoy first thing in the morning, for an afternoon snack or to satisfy that longing for something sugary after dinner.
Sweet potatoes have gained notoriety lately due to the growing popularity of sweet potato fries. But it’s hard to justify gaining the heart-health benefits of this potato, which include carotenoids, vitamins A, C and E, and fiber when it’s been sliced up and dropped into a deep fryer. If you’re appetite is calling for this tasty starch, then perhaps adding it into a yummy dessert recipe is a better alternative.
Recipe: Sweet Potato Custard
If you’re a fan of custard (but not a fan of the high calories associated with it), this may be the perfect dessert for you. It combines sweet potatoes, bananas and raisins, along with some other simple ingredients, for a delectable treat your heart will thank you for.
Walnuts add a distinctive crunch to many of your favorite foods. They’re pleasant to nibble, and also extremely good for your heart. Walnuts are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke. They also contain vitamin E, magnesium, fiber and mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which can help control blood sugar and insulin levels and improve blood cholesterol levels to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Baked apples are absolutely divine, but stuffing them with walnuts, dates, cinnamon, ginger and a little coconut milk launches them straight up to heavenly-status. Follow this recipe and you’ll have the perfect after-dinner delight to serve to the whole family to promote heart-health while satisfying a sweet tooth.
If you have a list of favorite foods, it is likely that chocolate is near the top. Who doesn’t love the rich decadence of biting into one of those distinctive little squares? But be careful. Opting for a small amount of dark chocolate, rather than milk chocolate, will give your heart some benefits you may never have realized existed. Dark chocolate comes complete with resveratrol, an antioxidant that protects against heart disease, and cocoa phenols, flavonoids that fight bad cholesterol and promote a healthy immune system.
Recipe: Dark Chocolate Nut Clusters
This might just be the perfect dessert recipe. It combines all the healthy glory of dark chocolate with other heart-healthy foods, such as walnuts and almonds. It’s also simple to make and creates the perfect synthesis of sweet and savory you can enjoy after dinner or for a guilt-free snack.
**Note: Although it’s fine to enjoy a sweet treat on occasion, these heart healthy dessert recipes do not mean that you should over-indulge and eat them on a daily basis. Because some of them contain sugar and sodium, they should only be enjoyed in moderation to avoid stopping your weight loss progress.
Author: Caitlin Hendee
Diet-to-Go Community Manager
Caitlin is a journalist by trade and an avid runner. She is passionate about maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle and encouraging people to engage in common-sense eating. Caitlin believes a well-rounded life is all about balancing fitness with nutrition that incorporates all aspects of food and proper portion-sizes.
Follow Caitlin on Twitter @CaitlinHendee