Healthy eating often involves plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains versus refined, limited saturated and trans fats, and lower levels of sugar and salt. Certain foods like fish, soy, chocolate, and beans have the power to lower your risk of heart disease or blood pressure. And others—like spinach, flax seeds, berries, and nuts—are simply good for your heart. But along the way, you’re probably also looking for convenience: quick meals you can throw together before a busy day. We spoke to four dietitians and food bloggers about their favorite heart-healthy recipes for the slow cooker, and why eating for your heart is so important.
Working Heart Healthy Foods into Your Diet
“Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, and so much of it is preventable with diet and exercise,” says NYC-based registered dietitian Natalie Rizzo. “I’m passionate about helping my clients live [their] healthiest lives while still eating tasty and satisfying foods. Heart-healthy foods are a large part of any healthy diet. And it’s important to teach people about the benefits of these nutrient-rich foods so that they feel like their best self long into old age.”
When Erin Kaese, personal trainer and managing editor of Athletic-Minded Traveler, scans a recipe, she looks for certain markers in order to eat for a healthy heart: healthy fats as well as lean sources of protein, fiber, and antioxidants that come from vegetables. “I look [for minimal] preservatives, sodium, unhealthy fats, and sugar,” she says. “Calories will also factor in, but by making fiber and vegetable content a priority, calories naturally come in lower. All of these lead to heart-healthy eating.”
Heart-Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes
Our experts shared their favorite slow-cooker recipes full of heart-healthy ingredients.
1. Southwest Chicken and Black Bean Chili
“I really like this recipe,” says Deanna Underwood, founder and lead editor at Honey + Lime. “It’s made with all-natural, heart-healthy ingredients. These include black beans and kidney beans, which are high in minerals and fiber without the saturated fat—and avocado, tomatoes, fresh chicken breast, and more. Also, it doesn’t use any flour or other thickeners for the broth. And it’s delicious!”
2. Vegan Tacos with California Walnuts
You’ll love this recipe even if you’re not a vegan. Rizzo touts it as one of her all-time favorites. It’s high in protein, fiber, healthy fats, and contains plenty of veggies—all of which are great for heart health. “Legumes make up the base of these bean tacos, and research shows that eating them can lower cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as help with bodyweight management, which are all risk factors for heart disease. Plus, these tacos are topped with omega-3 rich walnuts and don’t contain any artery-blocking animal fats,” she says.
3. Crockpot Shredded Mexican Chicken
To make this recipe even more heart-friendly, Meg Davis of Simply Green Moms says to “focus on alternatives that provide the biggest reductions in fat and cholesterol,” like substituting avocado for butter, or cottage or ricotta cheese for cream cheese.
4. Slow Cooker Pork Tacos
Kaese created an original recipe for Aaptiv readers that combines fiber-filled black beans with lean pork tenderloin. She says this cut of meat is “high in B vitamins and selenium,” the latter of which helps improve blood flow and lower your chances of heart disease. Additionally, beans reduce bad cholesterol in the body as well as offer potassium and folate among other vitamins and minerals.
- 1-1.5 lb pork tenderloin (look for a lean cut)
- 1 Hak Korean BBQ Marinade Packet (Note: Kaese has no relationship with the Hak brand, but prefers it in this recipe. You can certainly make it yourself, as well!)
- 1 can of black beans, slightly drained (Kaese uses the Trader Joe’s brand.)
- Taco shells and any other taco toppings you prefer
The night before, trim the big muscle off of the pork. Poke it or cut slits, then add marinade. The day of eating, use a six-quart slow cooker and spray the bottom with oil. Add the pork, set the slow cooker on low, and cook 4-5 hours. Then, remove the pork, shred it, and add it back to the slow cooker on “warm.” Add the can of beans. Serve when ready as taco filling, or over quinoa or rice. You can add more “sauce” via the marinade or salsa.