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.