Heart Healthy Grilling
Summer just feels good for so many reasons. Boots have been stored in favor of flip flops. Earlier sunrises and later sunsets let us linger in warmth and light as the longest day of the year approaches, bringing more hours after work to walk the dog and play in the yard with the kids.
As we savor the moments until the horizon turns into a tapestry of pink, orange and purple, backyard grills replace the stovetop as the family hearth. With the whoosh of gas igniting or the slow crackle of coals, summertime grilling brings us together for all the right reasons: family, friends and fresh food.
For so many of us, grilling holds a special place in the heart. And “heart-healthy grilling” need not be a contradiction.
“We do a lot of grilling on the weekends,” says Oklahoma Heart Institute cardiologist Dr. Mathew Good. “Grilling is a great method for increasing your intake of fish, vegetables and even fruit.” He advises his patients, his family and anyone pursuing a heart-healthy diet to consider these alternatives to steaks, burgers and hot dogs.
“Try to limit steak, red meat and processed meats to no more than once a week—less if possible.” Flavorful and heart-healthy fish options include those high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout and herring. Brushed with olive oil and seasoned, fish can go directly on the grill, wrapped in foil or placed in a grill basket.
Dr. Good’s family adds color and interest to dinner with a plate of grilled vegetables. “We love to brush a variety of vegetables such as zucchini, bell peppers, red onions and asparagus with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and then put them on the grill for a few minutes each side,” he says. “Grilling brings out the flavor in vegetables." Scouting for grill-ready, in-season produce is reason to take an extra pass at the farmers market for inspiration.
And don’t forget about dessert. Dr. Good says in his family, it is even part of dinner on a warm Oklahoma evening. “Our kids love salmon and shrimp with grilled pineapple slices for dessert,” he adds. “Grilled peach halves are also a favorite.” Topped with a spoonful of Greek yogurt and drizzle of honey, it is a dessert that tastes of summer.
Eating well this summer doesn’t necessarily mean well-done beef, and that’s OK. It just means there’s more space on the grill for what’s good for our heart and good all around.
Dr. Mathew Good is a cardiology specialist with Oklahoma Heart Institute and director of cardiac rehabilitation at Hillcrest Hospital South. Dr. Good is board certified in internal medicine, cardiology and cardiovascular computed tomography