Take Heart

Candy Heart

The heart is a muscular organ about the size of a fist. That’s true, but it’s not the way we think of it, not when it’s February. This month is all about Valentine’s Day.

The Valentine heart is the amorous heart. It’s the home of love and desire and romance. It’s symmetrical, bright and clean. It’s the red emblem winking up at us from greeting cards and jewelry stores. The Valentine heart is the shape of edible treats, rendered in chocolate or cherries, on the conversation candy hearts that proclaim “Love You,” “Kiss Me,” and “Be Mine.”

It’s easy to picture, isn’t it?

But what’s difficult to digest is this: For all the attention we lavish on our Valentine hearts, too many of us neglect our actual, beating hearts…

This is never more ironic than at Valentine’s Day. Restaurants entice lovers with special, celebratory menus. But those fat steaks, buttery lobsters and decadent desserts can harm a heart, especially when we indulge more than once in a while. It isn’t appetizing to imagine our clogged arteries and our cholesterol levels. It’s easier to ignore the warnings and our own common sense.

No one likes to be scolded for eating or drinking the wrong things, for being overweight or under-active. And to me, that’s the biggest obstacle to embracing heart health: We imagine deprivation and denying ourselves the foods we enjoy. It feels like a punishment, like an endless, bland buffet of dull and dreary, flavorless food.

The good news is that creative cooks are devising and adapting recipes to reflect the awareness that can help establish healthier habits; do a search for “heart healthy cooking” and you’ll get thousands of results. (See low sodium recipe for Salmon with Dill and Stone-Ground Mustard Sauce below.) Plenty of restaurants will grill or broil their catch of the day instead of frying it. At farmers’ markets, local growers enjoy steering customers toward the seasonal foods with the best flavor. Cooking classes can help develop the culinary confidence to explore and discover new tastes.

Each year, February is recognized as American Heart Month, according to a 1963 joint resolution of Congress and by Presidential Proclamation. It acknowledges “the importance of the ongoing fight against cardiovascular disease.” That isn’t very romantic, not when we want love and steak and cheesecake.

But in a peculiar and, I think, wonderful way, changing what we put on the table and share with our loved ones is the ultimate expression of devotion. It is a truly tangible way to say, “Your heart matters to me.”

For more information about American Heart Month visit : http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/


Salmon With Dill and Stone-Ground Mustard Sauce (a low sodium recipe)


  • Four 6-ounce salmon fillets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium stone-ground mustard (available at health food stores)
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnishing
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper or more to taste
  • Cucumber and lemon slices for garnishing (optional)

Preheat over to 350. Grease a baking dish big enough to hold the fish and set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium flame, heat the oil then add the shallot and garlic. Reduce heat if needed to prevent burning as the mixture cooks. When it begins to brown, add the wine. Raise heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the mustard, chopped dill and pepper. Remove from heat.

Arrange the fillets in the baking dish and pour the sauce over them. Bake for 15 minutes or until the fish is no longer translucent and flakes easily with a fork. Serve topped with reserved dill, cucumber and lemon slices.

Serves 4



Filed under Holidays, Recipe

10 responses to “Take Heart

  1. Yeah, when did Valentines become all about rich sauces and huge hunks of meat?
    Now, a little dark chocolate? That’s good for almost anyone…

  2. As a physician who has cared for many people with heart disease, I have seen how the choices people make affect their health. Unless you are blessed with great genes, my best advice to people is “all things in moderation”. We don’t need have to deprive ourselves totally but can make heart healthy choices that still taste wonderfully. Thanks for giving us some intellectual food for thought as your column is always stimulating

  3. Thank you, Amy Rogers, for helping us remember the importance of our heart health and taking care of ourselves. I’m looking forward to trying out the salmon recipe, but right now, I think I’ll go for that walk I was considering. Happy Valentines Day!

  4. My radio show theme tonight is broken hearts… the Post Valentine’s Apocolypse Show… but nothing would be more heartbreaking than to lose someone you know to heart disease. I worked in health care, with the emphasis on preventive measures, for a decade and from a personal standpoint, heart issues loom large in my life… my family has been affected by heart problems and high blood pressure. So, I take health and prevention as seriously as I possibly can.

    This essay has the capacity to move a lot of people to take the necessary steps to reduce the risk of heart disease. Go red for heart health… thanks for starting the conversation (hearts), WFAE and Ms. Rogers.

    Clair DeLune
    Blues Moon Radio
    Columbia SC

  5. Meg Humphrey

    Nothing says “I love you” like serving your beloved meals that will keep them around longer. I’ll definitely try this reciope!

  6. Perfect day for this important reminder.

  7. Jenny Rosenthal

    Thank you ,Amy ,for your HEARTfelt words. I will be trying the recipe this week.

  8. As someone who has had both parents suffer multiple heart attacks, I cannot thank you enough for this wonderful article reminding us of the importance of heart healthy meals.

  9. Thanks sis for this essay. It’s so meaningful to me. What I meant to tell you about George’s appetite exhibit is he had M&Ms made with his face on them…now why aren’t you surprised!!!

  10. Thanks for the great reminder! We always indulge in such high calori meals when it comes to celebrations! I agree with Meg about serving healthy food to show our love!

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