Thursday, February 5, 2015

Have a Heart

My good friend Laura is working on promoting the American Heart Association's "Go Red for Women" heart disease awareness campaign and I couldn't help but think of how many people I know that have passed from this preventable disease. In our flavorful Latino culture, we tend to toss caution to the wind when our traditional dishes are placed in front of us. These wonderful delicacies were created by loving hands with recipes passed down from prior generations.

However, we do not live the same lifestyles as our abuelos. Mine were humble ranching people. They kept animals and grew their own produce. They were hard workers from sun up to sun down raising many children who learned the importance of sacrifice and hard work.

Today, my generation hasn't seen a live chicken in over a decade and we pass our time staring into computer and phone screens. Not that what we do is not important, but we are not as physically active as our grandparents and parents. We don't have a need for fatty foods because we are not poor. We know when our next meal will be and have the luxury of having a host of options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. What I'm getting at is that we relish the thought of our traditional dishes but forget that we do not need all those calories or fatty ingredients as much as our ancestors did just 50 years ago. Our food is now laced with questionable ingredients and medications such as anti-biotics and products we cannot pronounce.

We have to be cautious and understand how we nurture our bodies, especially us women. Yes, having a curvy body is all the rage these days but be sure your heart is healthy before eating that 7th tamal or reaching for the pan dulce in the morning. Let's make good choices, use healthier ingredients in our traditional food and indulge on special occasions. I'm not saying give up on our favorite fatty dishes, just modify them or have them sparingly. Let's add more veggies than arroz to our plates and reach for tequila shots instead of the whole sugary margarita (ahh, you liked that one huh?!). There are creative and simple ways to work around the heart-clogging foods we love and still celebrate our culture and food heritage. Let's have a healthy heart and a long life!

Heart disease facts for women:
  • Heart disease causes 1 in 3 women's deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute.
  • 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
  • Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease and the gap between men and women's survival continues to widen.
  • The symptoms of heart disease can be different in women vs. men, and are often misunderstood.
  • While 1 in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, 1 in 3 dies of heart disease.
  • On average, Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than non-Hispanics.
  • Only 1 in 3 Hispanic women are aware that heart disease is their No. 1 killer.

Here are some tips for healthy eating to try this Heart Month. Recipes can be found on
If you devote one day to healthy eating, you will know you can do it again and learn to enjoy it!
1. Slow down on the sodium: Americans eat more than double the daily amount of sodium recommended by the American Heart Association. Too much sodium increases the risk of heart diseasestroke and other health problems, but this excess isn’t just from salting at the table. Americans get most of their sodium — 77 percent — from processed foods. If you choose these foods, compare the labels and look for lower-sodium versions.
2. Pile on the fruits and vegetables: Choose all kinds of fruits and vegetables — fresh, frozen, canned, juiced and dried. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Look for fruits and vegetables of many different colors. Then try a “healthy sauté” using a small amount of liquid to cook vegetables. Need a quick, healthy weeknight dinner? Try a salad. The American Heart Association has tasty recipes packed with such items as tofu, broccoli, mushrooms and much more.
3. Get the skinny on fats: Learn how to substitute good fats (mono and polyunsaturated fats) for bad fats(saturated and trans fats). For example, try canola oil or olive oil instead of butter. Choose lean meats, poultry without skin and fish instead of fattier cuts of meats. Enjoy heart-healthy fats in moderation and remember this tip: 1 teaspoon equals 1 serving.
4. Cook at home. Cooking at home is not only a great way to make sure the ingredients are healthy, but portions are correct. Try using a smaller salad-size plate instead of a big dinner plate, as well.
Check out this important video:

Join the fight and Go RED on National Wear Red Day, Friday, February 6, 2015. That same day, San Antonio buildings will celebrate the day by turning their buildings red in support.  Be on the lookout Friday evening for San Antonio landmarks going red including the Alamo Quarry Market (smokestacks), the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, North Star Mall, The Shops at La Cantera and the University Health System's Robert B. Green Campus.