Consultant Cardiologist, Dr Ali Khavandi from BMI Bath Clinic and The Cardiologist’s Kitchen, shares his recipe so you can enjoy a heart-healthy barbecue this summer.
The traditional image of the ‘Great British BBQ’ is not necessarily the picture of healthy eating. Take a charred pork sausage in a white flour roll, for example. But what’s so bad about BBQ’s? And how can we give ourselves a healthy heart boost?
The effects of BBQ’s on your health
Processed meats, such as sausages, are often the highlight of a typical barbecue. The bad news is they’re associated with cardiovascular diseases like coronary heart disease1. Add in the refined carbohydrate content of a white flour roll and the sugar content of shop-bought sauces and you have a recipe for weight gain and health problems such as type 2 diabetes.
Bring in Mediterranean style eating. Known for reducing the rate of chronic diseases and improving longevity,2 the Mediterranean diet is not a low-fat or calorie reduced diet, Instead, it focuses on seasonal plant-based eating of real foods such as fruit, vegetables, beans, pulses, extra-virgin olive oil and nuts.
Meat and fish are the perfect complement; however quality over quantity is king. Sprinkle in some alfresco dining with family and friends and you have the basis of the Mediterranean lifestyle which is associated with lower cardiovascular problems3.
Focus on a diverse diet based on seasonal protective whole food fats, proteins and high-fibre carb-swaps such as legumes3
- Ingredients for a healthy heart include:
- Legumes (lentils and beans) are super easy to incorporate into your diet. You can buy them prepared in tins and tetra-packs in your local supermarket. Use them as a base to make exciting and interesting sides and salads. They are also a great ‘carb-swap’.
- Vegetables and salads such as beetroot, rocket and spinach contain nitrates which help your arteries relax and can lower blood pressure. Buy a Japanese mandolin slicer to immediately transform the humble vegetable into an exciting side.
- Dress your salads with healthy fats such as protective extra-virgin olive oil combined with vinegar, mustard, lemon juice or pomegranate molasses. Throw away anything in your cupboards or fridge that says ‘low-fat’, ‘light’ or ‘lighter’ as they often contain added sugars.
Don’t believe the hype - avoid anything in the supermarket labelled as ‘low-fat’, ‘light’, ‘lighter’ or ‘low calorie’, especially if you want to lose weight. Focus on a diverse diet based on seasonal protective whole food fats, proteins and high-fibre carb-swaps such as legumes.
Avoid added sugars, excess alcohol and refined carbohydrates if you are demonstrating metabolic cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and atrial fibrillation. A healthy diet and regular exercise can help to manage these conditions.
Another thing to remember is that artificial sweeteners are not a good substitute. The clue is in the name - ‘artificial’!
Here’s a Cardiologist’s Kitchen BBQ favourite where the side dish is just as exciting as the meat.
Persian lemon chicken kebabs
- 1 x chicken breast or 2 x boneless/ skinless thighs per person
- Fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 x white onion
- 1 clove of garlic
- Salt and black pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Chop the chicken into chunky pieces that can be easily skewered for the BBQ.
- If you have a blender then you can simply blitz the marinade ingredient together (otherwise you can grate the onion). You need enough marinade to cover the chicken pieces using the onion and garlic clove to half a squeezed lemon.
- Season generously and add a good glug of extra-virgin olive oil. Marinade for at least four hours or ideally overnight.
- Skewer just before the BBQ and cook over white coals until golden on the outside and cooked through. If you have a food brush and some melted butter, then give them a coat every so often during the grilling.
Whole-grain couscous salad
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Black pepper
- Sea salt
- 1 clove of garlic
- 240g wholegrain couscous
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 bunch mint
- Black olives, pitted
- 1 handful dried apricots
- 1 handful pine nuts
- Cook the wholegrain couscous as per the packet instructions, then fluff with a fork. Meanwhile, chop the parsley and mint with the garlic (I used wet garlic or you could even use wild garlic if available).
- Chop handful of pitted black Kalamata olives, (‘the king of black olives’), a handful of dried apricots and the pine nuts. Add to the couscous. Season and dress with a glug of extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- Dress with a good glug of extra-virgin olive oil and a fresh squeeze of lemon. Toss everything together and serve.
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1Unprocessed Red and Processed Meats and Risk of Coronary Artery Disease and Type 2 Diabetes – An Updated Review of the Evidence
2 Mediterranean Diet and Prevention of Chronic Diseases
3Dietary patterns and the risk of major adverse cardiovascular events in a global study of high-risk patients with stable coronary heart disease