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Eat to your heart's content

Popeye got it right. His love for spinach guarantees him a healthy heart. With reports suggesting that 70% of Mumbaikars are prone to heart-related ailments and with one-third of the cardiac patients being under 40, it might be right to re-look at our lifestyle choices. While exercise is a must, diet is also a key in keeping the heart in top shape.

Following a diet doesn’t mean having to live on bland food. By including certain foods into one’s diet like green leafy vegetables, oats, soy, whole grains, olive oil, red wine and almonds, it’s possible to keep a healthy heart. We zeroed in on three such wonder foods: spinach, strawberry and lentils, and we invited chef Tarla Dalal to suggest a few recipes with these as the main ingredients (read box alongside).

Nutritionist Anjali Peswani states the benefits of these foods: “Spinach is very rich in fibre and vitamins A, D, E, K, C and B. Vitamin A and C are natural antioxidants and by keeping cholesterol from oxidising it keeps cholesterol in check and absorbs Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol. Thanks to its folate and phytonutrients, it puts less pressure on the heart by not allowing fat to get deposited. It is also a good source for folate and magnesium. Besides, it lowers BP and puts less pressure on the walls of the heart and prevents heart attacks.”

Peswani says that strawberries boast of flavanoids and phytochemicals that are antioxidants and keep the free radicals at bay. “They also boost immunity and fight with foreign particles that attack the heart, liver or kidneys. They can counter the effects of LDL and they also have anti-inflammatory properties, which are very helpful as the heart is the biggest muscle of the body and is prone to inflammation,” she adds.

Lentils, especially moong, are high in fibre and protein and low in fat and sugar content. “Since there is no excess sugar it doesn’t get stored as fat and thus reduces cholesterol and protects the heart from arteriosclerosis (caused by fat deposition in the heart).”

She adds that it’s not necessary that people who are overweight that are prone to heart ailments: “A high level of stress could also be to blame. One must monitor stress levels; in this regard, simple breathing exercises can help. Indulge in a favourite sport or laughter therapy to keep your heart fit. A short break is also a good idea.”

As far as cooking goes, she advises people to opt for minimal cooking using less oil so vitamins and proteins in foods get absorbed. Rice bran oil and olive oil are good options. “Include high fibre in the diet and ensure you consume fruits, vegetables, jowar, bajra and corn,” she reiterates. 

STRAWBERRY SPINACH SALAD
Preparation time:
10 to 15 minutes

Serves 4
For the dressing
>>2 tbsp sesame seeds (til)
>>1 tbsp poppy seeds (khus-khus)
>>3 tbsp sugar
>>2.5 tbsp olive oil
>>4 tbsp vinegar
>>Half tsp white pepper powder
>>Half tbsp red chilli flakes
>>Half tsp vegetarian Worcestershire sauce, readily available in the market
>>1 tbsp finely chopped onions
Other ingredients
>>3 cups spinach (palak) leaves, finely torn into pieces
>>2 cups sliced strawberries
>>3 tbsp blanched and slivered almonds (badam)
For the dressing
1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
2. Cover and keep in the refrigerated for at least an hour.
How to proceed
1. Just before serving, combine the spinach, strawberries and almonds in a bowl, pour dressing over the salad and
toss well.
2. Serve immediately.


Preparation time: 
10 to 15 minutes
Serves 4

For the dressing
>>2 tbsp sesame seeds (til)
>>1 tbsp poppy seeds (khus-khus)
>>3 tbsp sugar
>>2.5 tbsp olive oil
>>4 tbsp vinegar
>>Half tsp white pepper powder
>>Half tbsp red chilli flakes
>>Half tsp vegetarian Worcestershire sauce, readily available in the market
>>1 tbsp finely chopped onions

Other ingredients
>>3 cups spinach (palak) leaves, finely torn into pieces
>>2 cups sliced strawberries
>>3 tbsp blanched and slivered almonds (badam)
For the dressing
1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
2. Cover and keep in the refrigerated for at least an hour.
How to proceed
1. Just before serving, combine the spinach, strawberries and almonds in a bowl, pour dressing over the salad and
toss well.
2. Serve immediately.

MOONG DAL PANDOLI
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Soaking time: 2 to 3 hours

Serves 4
>>1 cup green moong dal (split green gram)
>>1/4 cup fresh curds (dahi)
>>2 tsp ginger-green chilli paste
>>Salt to taste
>>1 tsp oil
>>1 tsp mustard seeds (rai/sarson)
>>1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
>>Half tsp asafoetida (hing)
>>2 tsp lemon juice
>>2 tsp fruit salt for serving
Green chutney
How to proceed
1. Clean and soak the moong dal in enough water for 2 to 3 hours. Wash thoroughly to remove some skin and drain.
2. Add 1 tbsp of water and curd and blend in a mixer till smooth.
3. Add the ginger -green chilli paste and salt and mix well.
4. For the tempering, heat the oil in a small non-stick pan, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and asafoetida.
5. When the seeds crackle, add the tempering to the batter and mix well.
6. Tie a muslin cloth on top of a vessel half-filled with water and heat till the water boils.
7. Just before steaming sprinkle the fruit salt on the batter and add lemon juice over it, when the bubbles form, mix gently.
8. Put 1 tbsp of the batter on the muslin at regular intervals, cover with a dome shaped lid and steam for 5 to 7 minutes.
9. Repeat with remaining batter to make more pandolis.
10. Serve immediately.

Rajma and spinach wraps
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Makes 4 wraps
For the dough
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
Half tsp oil
Salt to taste
For the rajma and spinach stuffing
>>2 tsp oil
>>Half tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
>>A pinch asafoetida (hing)
>>1.5 cups finely chopped onions
>>1 tsp crushed garlic (lehsun)
>>1 tsp ginger-green chilli paste
>>Half tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
>>1 tsp coriander-cumin seeds (dhania-jeera) powder
>>Half tsp chilli powder
>>3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
>> 1.5 tsp tomato ketchup (optional)
>> 3/4 cup soaked and boiled rajma (kidney beans)
>>Salt to taste
>>4 cups finely chopped spinach (palak)
>>2 tbsp chopped coriander (dhania)
Other ingredients
>>4 readymade or leftover chapatis
>>4 lettuce leaves
>>3 tbsp eggless mayonnaise
>>1 cup thinly sliced onions
For the dough
1. Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl and knead into a soft dough using enough water. Keep aside.
2. Knead again till smooth, cover with a wet muslin cloth and keep aside.
For the rajma and spinach stuffing
1. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and add the cumin seeds.
2. When the seeds crackle, add the asafoetida and onions and sauté on a medium flame till the onions turn translucent.
3. Add the garlic, ginger-green chilli paste, turmeric powder, coriander-cumin seeds powder, chilli powder, tomatoes, tomato ketchup and 2 tbsp of water, mix well and simmer till the tomatoes are soft.
4. Add the rajma and salt, mix well and cook on a medium flame for 5 to 7 minutes.
5. Add the spinach and coriander, mix well and cook on a medium flame for another 5 minutes.
6. Divide the rajma and spinach stuffing into 4 equal portions and keep aside
How to proceed
1. Place a chapatti on a flat, dry surface, arrange a lettuce leaf over it and apply 1 tbsp of the mayonnaise chutney mixture evenly on it.
2. Place a portion of the stuffing at the edge of the roti, spread ¼ cup onions on it and roll it up tightly.
3. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make 3 more wraps and serve immediately. 

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