Maintaining a Healthy Heart

healthy-family stock

by Sharon Palmer, RD

While American Heart Month – or February – has passed us by, it’s important to maintain heart-healthy habits into March and the remainder of the year.  Heart disease is a serious matter and deserves a little extra recognition; it is a leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States.

But, there’s good news. Heart disease is preventable.  You can help protect yourself from heart disease by managing your stress in healthy ways, by being active daily, and by eating a heart-healthy diet – or a diet that simply emphasizes fiber and nutrient-packed fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

A heart healthy diet also embraces unsaturated fats while keeping saturated fats, cholesterol, and trans fat in check. For example, when you’re eating the polyunsaturated omega 3 fatty acids found in flax seeds, walnuts, and salmon, you’re reducing your risk for heart attacks, and potentially lowering your blood lipid levels and blood pressure.

Better yet, if you pair a serving of salmon with canned tomatoes, you are well on your way to creating heart healthy habits.  A new study released by Tufts University in Boston, which analyzed over a decade of data, revealed that individuals who ate lycopene-rich foods – such as tomato products – over an 11 year period, were at a 26 percent reduced risk for heart disease. As this study suggests, lycopene, the antioxidant responsible for giving tomatoes their red color, may be a key factor in the protection against heart disease. And since lycopene becomes more bioavailable to the body after tomatoes are cooked, tomato products may be the most important dietary source of the antioxidant. So powerful is lycopene, in fact, that a Cambridge University study found that supplementation of lycopene has been shown to boost blood flow to the heart and soften hardened arteries.

By combining heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids with heart protective lycopene, such as in the recipe below, not only will your heart thank you, so will your taste buds.

Asian Salmon with Kale and Tomatoes


Asian Salmon with Kale & Tomatoes


Blend the rich flavors and vibrant colors of kale, tomatoes and salmon into one easy skillet dinner you can whip up in less than 30 minutes.


1 tablespoon sesame oil (or olive oil)

½ cup red onion, sliced thin

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (may substitute ¼ teaspoon ground ginger)

3 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups kale, torn or roughly chopped, stems cut into ¼-inch slices

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 pound salmon filet, cut into 4 portions

4 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

4 slices fresh ginger (or dash ground ginger)

4 thin slices of lemon

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds



  1. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onions and sauté until softened. Add 1 teaspoon fresh ginger (or ground ginger) and garlic, sauté another minute.
  2. Add kale, using tongs to quickly turn and coat the leaves with oil. Add tomatoes and red pepper flakes, continuing to turn the mixture.
  3.  When kale is just wilted, add salmon and spoon a teaspoon of soy sauce over each portion. Then, top each with 1 slice of ginger (or dash of ground ginger) and lemon.
  4. Cover skillet and cook about 6-8 minutes depending on thickness of salmon, until done. Serve salmon on bed of kale and tomatoes, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition Information per Serving: 267 calories, 27 g protein, 13 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 498 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber.