The restaurant world can be a little indulgent sometimes. When you’re looking for the perfect dish, it can be only natural to use rich ingredients – but what if you also want to be a little more ‘heart health conscious’? Rich foods can be enjoyed in moderation, but to make sure you’re looking after your body as much as your appetite, you need to understand exactly what good heart health is, and how the foods you eat can affect it.
To help you get started, here is some background information for heart-healthy chefs.
Understanding Heart Health
One of the most important things you need to understand about heart health is how diet can have an impact on your body. Take cholesterol, for example.
There are two types of cholesterol – HDL and LDL. The latter is sometimes known as “bad cholesterol”, and it’s important to keep this at the recommended level. Even though cholesterol is made by the liver and used in many bodily processes, elevated LDL-cholesterol is one of the risk factors for heart disease.
What does this mean for chefs? Fortunately, diet (and the foods we eat) can help us keep cholesterol at a recommended level.
Replacing Saturated Fats with Unsaturated Fats
So how is LDL-cholesterol produced, and what can you do to keep your levels within healthy limits? Research suggests LDL-cholesterol levels are linked to the amount of saturated fat we consume – so one thing you can try is substituting saturated fats for unsaturated fats in your diet. This is relatively easy to do, especially for a savvy chef!
Instead of cutting out foods such as butter, cheese and fatty meat entirely, simply swap them with alternatives that are lower in saturated fats, or eat them less often. Experts recommend replacing saturated fats with ‘good’ unsaturated fats. These can be found in oily fish, avocados, vegetable and olive oils (and products based on them), nuts, and seeds. Increasing your intake of these, and decreasing your saturated fat intake, is one of the ways we can help lower cholesterol.
It’s important to remember that cholesterol is only one risk factor associated with heart disease, and there may be other aspects of your lifestyle (such as smoking or alcohol consumption) that also need to be addressed to maintain good heart health.
Heart Health Savvy Meals
So, what does all this mean for the average chef wanting to produce great-tasting recipes? For a start, it’s worth looking at the kind of meals you’re already making, and working out their current fat profile. This doesn’t need to be complicated – just take your favourite dishes, and think about whether they contain a lot of ingredients with saturated fat in them, and whether they could include more unsaturated fat options.
This can be very simple – salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, and other oily fish can be sourced responsibly, and make a great alternative to fatty red meat. Cook with olive or vegetable oils rather than butter where possible, and try adding nuts and seeds to salads, desserts, and mash. The avocado trend is still alive and kicking, so it’s not hard to find interesting ways to add it to meals: it makes an excellent counterpoint to salty flavours.
Not only can this help you maintain heart health, but it can also provide you with a reason to spice up your menu, create new dishes, and find new ways of cooking with different ingredients you may not be familiar with.
Taking Care of Your Heart
So, there you have it: a couple of great suggestions on how to experiment in the kitchen, and help look after your old ticker.
Of course, it is important to remember that these are just a few ideas to help you on your way to becoming a heart-healthy chef. Remember that there’s more to looking after your heart than simply eating right. If you want to find out more then book an appointment with your doctor – they can go through all of the different factors at play.