Top Heart-Smart Vegetables
America's top heart hospital, the Cleveland Clinic, has compiled a list of the top 13 vegetables that it says are so cardio-protective they should be eaten often. Its experts picked vegetables that provide the most heart benefit for the calories they contain. Each food is loaded with nutrients that can lower cholesterol and blood pressure and help you lose weight.
Here you'll get appetizer, soup, salad, side-dish and main-dish recipes featuring Cleveland Clinic's top vegetable picks. You'll also find tips for selecting and storing the vegetables.
Orange-Sauced Broccoli & Peppers
Power Vegetables: Broccoli, Bell Pepper, Onion, Garlic
Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin C. Serve this as a side dish or spoon over rice for a quick, vegetarian main dish.
Power Vegetable: Carrots
Fresh ginger adds a sweet bite to this colorful side dish. Plus, carrots are brimming with vitamin A.
Tip: To store fresh ginger, wrap it tightly in a paper towel and place it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. It can be kept there for up to three weeks.
Power Vegetable: Tomato, Onion
The bright colors in this salad make it a festive addition to any occasion. Red and yellow tomatoes are also high in vitamins A, C, and E.
Tip: Studies indicate that organic tomatoes may contain more antioxidants. To keep them fresh, refrigerate after cutting.
Power Vegetable: Asparagus
Simple to prepare and delicious to eat, asparagus can be enjoyed with the lightest of flavorful toppings. It's also full of vitamin B6, which helps to lower the amino acids linked to heart disease.
Tip: It's best to buy asparagus from March to June. The veggie's seasonal peak is in April and May.
Sweet Potato Fries
Power Vegetable: Sweet Potatoes
When you get a hankering for fast food, try these sweet potato fries instead. You'll satisfy your craving for crunch, and a bit of salt, while still being good to your heart.
Tip: Leave the skin on the sweet potatoes for even more fiber.
Power Vegetables: Squash, Onion, Garlic
This rich, buttery soup is easy to make and freezes well. High in potassium, winter squash helps regulate heart and muscle contraction.
Glazed-Chicken Spinach Salad
Power Vegetables: Leek, Garlic, Leafy Greens
Sweet apple-glazed chicken will please any dinner guest, and spinach -- high in zinc -- strengthens the immune system and helps regulate blood pressure.
Tip: Don't throw your leek leaves away; toss them in your spinach salad for added antioxidants.
Power Vegetables: Carrot, Bell Pepper, Tomato, Onion, Garlic
Whip up this special dish on a whim, and improvise with any of your favorite heart-healthy vegetables. Vivid bell peppers are especially high in vitamins A and C, which help keep cholesterol in check.
Baked Mashed Potatoes
Power Vegetables: Potato, Onion
Now here's good reason to eat one of the nation's favorite comfort foods: High in potassium, potatoes can help the body regulate normal blood pressure.
Power Vegetable: Leafy Greens, Tomato
Silverware optional. Take this convenient lunch along on your next walk or bike ride. Chock-full of potassium and magnesium -- essential nutrients for regulating a healthy blood pressure -- this garden-on-the-go is sure to please.
Mixed Bean Cassoulet
Power Vegetables: Onion, Carrot, Bell Pepper, Tomato, Garlic
This recipe packs five of Cleveland Clinic's top veggie picks, and it's also high in fiber. Talk about a powerful heart-healthy dish!
Pork Primavera Sandwiches
Power Vegetables: Carrot, Bell Pepper, Onion
Simmer this tangy barbecue pork all day (if you can wait that long) and enjoy its cardio benefits. Carotenoids, found in carrots, have strong antioxidant effects.
Very Cherry Salad
Power Vegetables: Shallots, Leafy Greens
Shallots have a sweet flavor that's a cross between onion and garlic. Besides adding a bit of kick to your salad, they also provide folate, which lowers homocysteine levels, an amino acid associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and reduces the inflammation of blood vessel walls.
Breakfast Tortilla Wrap
Power Vegetable: Bell Pepper, Tomato
Veggies in the morning? You bet! Start the day off right with this power-packed treat. Loaded with vegetables high in vitamin C, you might even be able to skip the orange juice.
Grilled Red Peppers with Garlic
Power Vegetables: Bell Pepper, Garlic
Enjoy these as a side dish or toss them with salads and pastas. Red peppers also work well as a colorful condiment for grilled meats.
Tip: Unwashed, raw bell peppers stay fresh in a refrigerator crisper for up to five days.
Asparagus and Shrimp Salad
Power Vegetables: Asparagus, Leafy Greens, Garlic, Onion
Citrus-orange dressing adds a special twist to this seafood salad. Plus, three of the four power veggies are high in folate, which helps decrease homocysteine levels (high levels are a risk factor for heart disease and stroke).
Garlic Chicken with Sweet Potatoes
Power Vegetables: Sweet Potato, Onion, Garlic
A deep, orange hue in sweet potatoes is attributed to vitamin A. This important veggie is also high in copper. Studies show that diets low in copper are linked with cardiovascular complications.
Spaghetti Squash with Chili
Power Vegetables: Squash, Tomato, Garlic, Onion
Shredded squash is a great way to sneak vegetables into your diet, and you'll get bonus A, B, and C vitamins. Squash also creates a mild base for the spicy chili topping.
Power Vegetables: Potato, Leek
Here's just one more reason to jump out of bed in the morning: a hot cheesy potato dish. Toss leftover leek leaves into a mixed green salad and serve alongside this delicious casserole for a lunch option, too.
Red Pepper and Fennel Soup
Power Vegetable: Bell Pepper
Because the ingredients for this nutrient-packed dish are available year-round, you can savor its refreshing sweetness anytime. Plus, its bright and warming color makes red pepper soup pleasing to the eye.
Spinach Salad with Strawberries
Power Vegetables: Leafy Greens, Onion
Nothing says fresh like tossing fruit and vegetables together in a salad.
Tip: Wash and dry spinach leaves with paper towels. Keep spinach free of moisture during storage to prevent it from spoiling quickly.
Salmon and Asparagus
Power Vegetable: Asparagus
Asparagus accompanies the omega-3 rich salmon in this easy-to-make dinner. Asparagus can be finicky in the cooking process, so keep a close watch when you steam the delicate vegetable -- only 4-8 minutes is necessary.
Tip: To better regulate baking time, avoid buying stalks of asparagus that are too thick or too thin.
Braised Parsnips, Squash, and Cranberries
Power Vegetables: Squash, Onion, Garlic
Don't save this recipe for autumn. You'll love the creamy garlic flavor of these heart-healthy root vegetables any time of year. Sweet potatoes and parsnips contain high levels of fiber.
Mandarin Orange Salad
Power Vegetable: Leafy Greens
Have a little fun: Add visual and nutrient variety by using a mixture of greens in this salad. Save money by buying leafy greens by the head rather than in a bagged mix.
Saucy Chicken with Garbanzo Beans
Power Vegetables: Onion, Carrot, Garlic, Tomato
Bring a little Indian flair to your table. Garam masala, a blend of spices, takes this tomato-based sauce to a whole new level. Lycopene, which gives tomatoes their red color, is also a powerful antioxidant.
Power Vegetable: Garlic
Garlic offers many heart-health benefits including immunity-boosting properties. The garlic and chili paste complements the milder, delicate flavor of lamb.
Tip: For the best flavor and quality, purchase lamb that has a pinkish (not deep red) flesh color.
Power Vegetables: Asparagus, Bell Pepper, Onion
Frittatas are quick and easy to make. They also taste great as leftovers. Play with different combinations of your favorite heart-healthy vegetables for the stuffing.
Tip: Asparagus stays fresh for about four days in the refrigerator. Snip the bottom ends of the bundle and store upright in water.
Chicken and Veggie Soup
Power Vegetables: Carrot, Broccoli, Bell Pepper
Don't wait until you're fighting a cold to stir up chicken soup. Loaded with vitamin C-laced veggies, this comfort classic will do your heart good.
Pasta with Red Pepper Sauce
Power Vegetables: Bell Pepper, Garlic, Tomato
Roasted red peppers add a sweeter taste to the sauce than just tomatoes. For a more intense flavor, dice the garlic bulbs as fine as possible.