Heart-Healthy Foods to Love

Anne FormalGet enough sleep. Practice self-care. Enjoy heart-healthy foods.

A few simple steps can go a long way toward improving your heart health and total body wellness in 2021, says Anne Hytrek, MSEd, RD, LD, CDCES. Hytrek is a dietitian and diabetes educator for Hy-Vee, and an Advisory Committee member for the Iowa Food & Family Project.

“When we are tired, we tend to reach for less healthy snacks and beverages to give us a boost like energy drinks or sugary convenient foods. We also may lack the energy to exercise or cook a healthy meal,” says Hytrek. “Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night to feel rested and ready to take on the day. Consuming tart cherry juice is beneficial in improving the sleep duration and quality in healthy adults. It may also help manage disturbed sleeping in some people.”

Poor sleep can drive insulin resistance, which Hytrek says is one of the strongest risk factors for weight gain and obesity.   It disrupts your appetite hormones, reduces your physical and mental performance, as well as plays a role in your body’s immune response.

Physical fitness is obviously important, but it also is important to practice self-care. Self-care means taking care of your mind, body, and spirit so you can be healthy. Self-care looks different for everyone, but some examples include: journaling, breathing exercises, and fun movement like a walk in nature, dancing, riding a bike or enjoying a bubble bath with a bath bomb!

“Working hard and juggling all the things is great, but you can’t maintain your active lifestyle without a little ‘you’ time to recharge,” says Hytrek. “Self-care also means connecting to others.  Human beings need social connections, so happiness is the heart of any effective self-care.”

Another important part of a healthy lifestyle is eating well. Hytrek says confusing messages have been shared in recent years about saturated fats and heart disease. Saturated fat is not “good” for you when eaten in excess. If you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure or are at high risk for heart disease, you may want to take note of these two key points from the research: (1) You may reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke by replacing saturated fats (butter, cheese, coconut oil, palm oil) with unsaturated fats (nuts, seeds, fatty fish like tuna and salmon, olive oil, avocados) in your diet. (2) You will likely increase your risk for a heart attack or stroke by replacing the saturated fats in your diet with low-fiber, fast-digesting carbohydrates (examples: fruit juice, pop, candy, pasta, rice, energy bars).

Moderation is really the key. Hytrek recommends eating these three foods to show your heart some love:

  1. Low-carb Vegetables – serving size is ½ cup cooked or 1 cup raw or 2 cups raw leafy greens. Examples: green beans, broccoli, spinach, kale, mushrooms, zucchini, yellow squash, Brussels sprouts. These veggies are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber and are low-calorie in comparison to other food groups.
  2. Walnuts – serving size is 1 ounce or approximately 7 walnuts. Walnuts are primarily a healthy fat source with some carbohydrate and a little bit of protein. They are high in vitamin B6, folate, thiamin – playing a role in cellular energy and a healthy nervous system.
  3. Salmon/Tuna – salmon and tuna are both fatty fish and are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, a polyunsaturated fat. Studies have found when participants replaced just 1% of their saturated fat intake with the same amount of calories coming from polyunsaturated fats, their risk of heart attack or stroke decreased by an average of 7%. The American Heart Association considers 3.5 ounces of cooked fish or ¾ cup to be a single serving. For adults, two servings per week are recommended to help lower risk for heart disease.

In celebration of February Heart Month, Ann Hytrek is sharing a recipe for a warm salad that contains all three of these foods and is rated 5 stars! This simple one-pan meal is rich with heart-healthy ingredients.


  1. Clifton PM, Keogh JB. A systematic review of the effect of dietary saturated and polyunsaturated fat on heart disease. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2017 Dec;27(12):1060-1080. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2017.10.010. Epub 2017 Oct 18. PMID: 29174025. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29174025/

The information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

Walnut-Crusted Salmon Winter Salad

4 Servings


  • 12 oz. baby red or yellow potatoes, halved
  • 12 oz. Hy-Vee Short Cuts sliced Brussels sprouts
  • 1 tbsp plus 1/3 cup Gustare Vita olive oil, divided
  • 1 large Honeycrisp or Gala apple, cored and cut into ½-inch-thick wedges
  • 3 T. Gustare Vita balsamic vinegar
  • 2 T. packed Hy-Vee brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. Hy-Vee Dijon mustard
  • ⅛ tsp. Hy-Vee salt
  • 4 (5-oz.) pieces skinless fresh salmon fillets, ¾- to 1-inch-thick
  • ¼ cup Hy-Vee chopped walnuts (NOTE: Substitute pistachios or Panko breadcrumbs instead of walnuts.)
  • 6 oz. mixed salad greens
  • ⅓ cup Hy-Vee Short Cuts chopped red onions


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Place potatoes and Brussels sprouts in a large bowl; toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Spread in a single layer on a 15x10-inch rimmed baking pan; add apple wedges. Roast for 10 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
  3. Whisk together vinegar, brown sugar, mustard and salt in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in remaining 1/3 cup olive oil. Divide vinaigrette into two portions and set aside.
  4. Push vegetables and apples to edge of pan, leaving them in a single layer. Pat salmon dry with paper towels; place in center of pan. Lightly brush salmon with one portion of vinaigrette; sprinkle with walnuts. Roast for 6 to 10 minutes or until salmon flakes with a fork (145 degrees) and vegetables and apples are tender. Drizzle with half of the remaining vinaigrette; sprinkle some of the greens around the salmon.
  5. Place remaining salad greens on four salad plates; sprinkle with red onions. Arrange salmon, vegetables and apples on top. Drizzle with remaining vinaigrette.

Nutrition Facts per serving: 600 calories, 33g total fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 65mg cholesterol, 260mg sodium, 42g total carbohydrates, 5g dietary fiber, 19g total sugars, 7g added sugars, 36g protein. Daily Values: Vitamin D 80%, Calcium 8%, Iron 15%, Potassium 30%