“For the concept of a circuit of the blood does not destroy, but rather advances traditional medicine” – William Harvey, 1649.
The heart. A muscular organ that pumps blood, nutrients and oxygen around the body whilst carrying metabolic waste to be cleansed within the body. The anxiety of the new year can weigh heavily on us as we move through the first month of January and the year begins to take shape. As stressful as January can be, February can prove to be a tough month for many of us as well. To assist our hearts as we navigate through the month of love, we must stay mindful of our heart and its health.
The essential nutrients that support the heart are numerous and can be obtained from various sources. Predominantly, a diet high in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, which are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, all of which support the heart and its primary functions. In particular, they are high in vitamin K, an essential vitamin used for the protection of our arteries and helps promote proper blood clotting. In conjunction with this, the dietary nitrates prevalent in these greens have been shown to reduce blood pressure, decrease arterial stiffness and improve the function of the cells lining the blood vessels.
Another important food source to help improve heart health are whole grains. An extra one or two servings per day of these foods can decrease the risk of coronary heart disease by approximately 10-20%. Whole grains include all three parts of the grain: the germ, endosperm and bran. Common whole grains include whole wheat, brown rice, oats, rye and buckwheat.
A significant contributor to ill heart health is oxidative stress, a disturbance between the production of reactive oxygen species, known as free radicals, and our antioxidant defence. Oxidative stress can induce inflammation throughout the body and increase the proliferation and migration of our vascular smooth muscles. This can lead to cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis and hypertension.
Food sources that are naturally high in antioxidants include some classics. Tomatoes are loaded with lycopene, a natural plant pigment with powerful antioxidant effects. This is how tomatoes get their iconic red colouring! Tomatoes are linked to increases in our high-density lipoproteins, also known as good cholesterol. Olive oil is also high in antioxidants, so feel free to drizzle it over your cooked dishes or add it to vinaigrettes and sauces!
It goes without saying that everyone loves a little bit of chocolate. Due to its aphrodisiac qualities, it is synonymous with Valentine’s Day; feel free to indulge in a little bit over the month. Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants such as flavonoids which are linked to boosting heart health. However, because chocolate is high in sugar and calories, overindulgence can negate the benefits. Be sure to pick high-quality dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa and consume it in moderation. Once finished with that, feel free to wash it down with a relaxing cup of green tea. Green tea is associated with increased fat burning and improving insulin sensitivity. Priming with polyphenols and catechins, these flavonoids can act as antioxidants to protect the health of your heart.
The recipe for this month is a different variation on the classic crumbed schnitzel. Using other veal or chicken, this meal will provide your body with all the valuable nutrients it needs to support it!
Quinoa crumbed veal schnitzel with greens and Panzanella salad
- ¾ cups quinoa flakes
- Two tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon chives, finely chopped
- ½ cup wholemeal plain flour
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 4 x 125g lean veal schnitzels (or chicken)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 3 thick slices of multigrain bread, coarsely torn
- 250g cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 Roma tomatoes, quartered
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 4 tablespoons basil leaves, roughly chopped
- ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 bunches broccolini, to serve
- Preheat oven to 200⁰C. Place coarsely torn bread onto a baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes or until bread is toasted and golden brown. Set aside.
- Combine quinoa flakes, parsley and chives and put in a small flat bowl.
- Put flour and eggs into 2 separate flat bowls.
- Dip a piece of veal into the flour, then egg mix, and then the quinoa flake mixture. Place crumbed veal onto a plate and repeat for the other 3 schnitzels.
- To make Panzanella Salad, place cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, red onion, olive oil, red wine vinegar, basil, black pepper and bread into a large bowl and toss gently to combine.
- Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Cook schnitzels for 3-4 minutes per side, or until golden and cooked through.
- While schnitzels are cooking, cook broccolini in a saucepan of boiling water for 4-5 minutes or until just tender. Drain.
- Serve schnitzels with Panzanella salad, broccolini and a lemon wedge.