I thought Valentine’s Day would be the perfect time to talk about something very near and dear to each of us. In fact, none of us could live without it! It is your heart!
On this day we see hearts everywhere, but we rarely think about our own heart and how important it is to us (or to those we love). You may already know this, but Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. and also the leading cause of death worldwide.* That’s right – not cancer, not drugs, not suicide – but something that in most cases is preventable.
This hits close to home for many of us with aging parents. It was just a year ago this week that my family gathered to mourn the death of my father. He died of a massive stroke at the age of 85 after having surgery to restore circulation to his foot (which had a bad ulcer). He had high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and was taking 12 medications just to stay alive (I found this list in his personal calendar). Like many men his age, he was overweight, rarely ever exercised and had a love for food (which I do as well). He was a veteran of the Korean War, faithfully loved his wife for 64 years, provided for us 4 kids – but he didn’t make his health a priority. Now my Mom is living alone in an assisted living facility and dealing with dementia.
As we get older, we look at our parents to see what we could become (both good and bad). Some of us have the genetics hardwired toward certain diseases and we just accept the fact that we will probably have to deal with the same illnesses. When I stated in this blog, I mentioned how genetic testing showed that I have a higher chance of getting several diseases that my parents and grandparents dealt with (and are still dealing with). There is good news, though! Science is starting to show the impact of healthy lifestyle choices in preventing and even reversing many of these same diseases!
One of the websites that lead to my husband and I cutting out meat, fish and dairy from our diet was NutritionFacts.org. Michael Greger M.D. FACLM also had seen firsthand what heart disease did to his own family and it lead to his becoming a medical doctor. Today many doctors ignore diet as a means to prevent or treat disease and instead just prescribe more medicine with terrible side affects. Even as far back as the ancient Greeks, the physician, Hippocrates knew the importance of good nutrition to counteract disease. He is quoted as saying “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
OK – I’ll get off my soapbox for now and give you a heart-healthy recipe to cook up for your favorite Valentine. But remember, the biggest gift you can give any of your loved ones is a healthy heart. Lord willing, you will be sticking around for them as long as possible!
Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili
- 1 Tbsp olive oil or 1/4 cup of water
- 1 large onion, chopped (I like sweet yellow onions)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced (1 1/2 tsp.)
- 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
- 2 chipotle chiles in adobo, minced (optional: we leave this out because it’s too spicy for us wimps)
- 1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 (14.5 oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth, plus more if needed (I use low sodium if available)
- 1 1/2 – 3 Tbsp chili powder (according to taste)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 cups cooked black beans or 2 (15.5 oz) cans black beans, rinsed drained
- Heat the oil or water in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until softened (about 10 minutes).
- Add the sweet potatoes, chipotles (if using), diced tomatoes with their juices, crushed tomatoes, broth, chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, salt, and beans. Stir to combine, then bring to boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender (about 45 minutes).
- Add more broth if the chili is too thick for your taste. If you prefer a thicker chili, cook uncovered for 15 minutes to thicken. Serve hot. We like to serve this with vegan cornbread muffins.
*According to the article, “The top 10 leading causes of death in the United States” posted by Medical News Today. Last updated 23 February 2017 By Hannah NicholsReviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNP