5 of the Most Heart Healthy Lunch Foods
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Our lives are busier than ever. Sometimes, it’s hard to hit pause for lunch. Even when we do, we aren’t likely making the healthiest choices possible, especially when it comes to our hearts.
Fast-food drive-thrus are super convenient ways of packing in more than an entire week’s worth of sodium, and diners and local pubs offer menu items laden with unhealthy preservatives and grease.
Even if you think you don’t have time to pack a healthy lunch, we can help. We’ll talk about why lunch is important, how heart health is impacting our society, and give you five heart-healthy lunch ideas that are quick, easy, and incredibly filling.
Why Your Heart Needs a Healthy Lunch
It’s more than just a meal, it’s the midday pick-me-up your body actually craves. Instead of feeding that craving with yet another coffee or sugary snack, eating a healthy lunch provides nutrients your body actually needs.
Blood Sugar Levels
In the middle of the day, your blood sugar levels usually drop, which can leave you feeling lethargic and irritable (aka, hangry). While you’re finishing up a report, it’s easy to grab a snack from the fridge and wash it down with your third espresso of the day, but that doesn’t offer your body any nutritional value.
Additionally, your blood sugar levels will spike and then decline rapidly, leaving you feeling even more tired than you were before.
Lunch Prevents Excess Snacks
If you’re trying to lose a few pounds it can be tempting to skip meals. Since you’re already busy, skipping lunch seems like it just makes sense. The truth is, skipping lunch doesn’t usually save you any calories.
If you find yourself frequenting the office kitchen or grabbing more snacks from your pantry later in the day, it’s probably because you skipped lunch. Skipping lunch results in packing in more calories and eating more pre-packaged, unhealthy foods.
Lunch Curbs Cravings
Ever find yourself craving salty snacks in the afternoon? It could be because you aren’t eating a proper lunch. Eating lunch can help curb your cravings for salt. The American diet is typically very high in salt, which isn’t a heart-healthy mineral. Eating lunch can keep you from depositing another 75 cents into the vending machine and 1,000 more milligrams of salt into your body.
What’s the Big Deal With Salt and Fat?
Salt and fat aren’t necessarily bad for you. In fact, your body needs both to function properly. However, when we eat excessive amounts of fat and salt, our hearts can suffer.
The Scoop on Salt
Excessive salt intake causes water retention. When our bodies retain more water than normal, it places a strain on the organs that work to pump the fluid out, like the blood vessels, kidneys, and heart.
If you already suffer from high blood pressure, eating a high sodium diet can cause your body to double down its efforts to move fluid efficiently. This increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.
While the current sodium intake guidelines are set at 2,300 milligrams a day, a better goal is to consume no more than 1,500 milligrams per day, especially if you want to protect your heart for the long haul.
The Facts About Fat
There’s a lot of misinformation floating around about fat. Is it good? Is it bad? It can be hard to tell.
The truth is, not all fat is bad. Just like salt, fat is something our bodies need to function. However, there are different kinds of fat, and not all fat is good for us.
Trans fats are fats that are synthetically produced from other fats. These fats are hydrogenated, and cause the original fat source to become a solid at room temperature. These fats were created to be a more shelf-stable option than natural fats that needed to be refrigerated.
Trans fats increase your “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, which can place you at a higher risk for developing coronary artery disease, the most common form of heart disease.
Although we have been told that all saturated fats are bad for us, science now supports that that is not the case.
A new important class of fatty acids were discovered, called odd-chain saturated fatty acids, including C15:0, which has recently been identified as an essential fatty acid. This means our bodies don't make it and we have to get it through our diets.
Science supports that higher levels of odd-chain saturated fatty acids are associated with better heart health. There are now calls to action to update current dietary guidelines to differentiate between good and bad saturated fats.
How Serious Is Heart Disease?
Heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the United States for over 80 years, and our diets have a lot to do with it. Too much sodium, trans fats, and a lack of heart-healthy nutrients have created an entire society that isn’t as healthy as it could be.
Heart disease can lead to heart failure, so taking care of our hearts is incredibly important. One of the easiest ways to support your heart health is by simply eating a healthier, more balanced diet.
Five Heart-Healthy Lunches
You can boost your heart health, skip the sodium, and opt for healthy fats by eating one of these easy and delicious lunch ideas. Not to mention, you’ll probably save a lot of money, too.
1. The Salad of the Week
This collection of salad recipes from The American Heart Association is extensive and includes plenty of recipes for salads that are quick, easy, and packed with heart-loving ingredients.
From lean protein sources like chicken, tuna, and chickpeas to an array of brightly colored veggies like zucchini, peppers, onions, you’ll get a great, filling meal each day that promises to support your heart health and never leave you bored.
2. Build a Better Sandwich
The lunchtime classic gets a makeover when you start with whole grain bread, which contains plenty of fiber to help support healthy cholesterol levels and keep you full. Add a lean protein source like turkey or chicken slices to keep you fueled for the afternoon.
Ditch the mayo and add creamy avocado, which provides additional flavor and texture without trans fat. Round it out with veggies of your choice. Toss in a banana, and you’ve got the perfect meal to protect your heart, and keep you full.
3. A Better Potato
The potato is loved by virtually everyone, whether in whole form, or sliced and fried into chips or wedges. White potatoes, however, pack in lots of carbohydrates with less nutritional value than their sweet potato cousins.
This fiber-loaded recipe uses baked sweet potatoes for a source of healthy carbohydrates and a touch of sweetness without sugar or additional calories. Black beans, kale, and hummus add flavor, more fiber, and nutrients to keep you satiated all afternoon.
The next time you have an extra sweet potato leftover from dinner, consider making it part of your heart healthy lunch.
4. Stir-Fry Rice Bowl
Meal prepping a week’s worth of lunches may seem like a daunting task, but when you keep it simple and freezable, it’s completely worth it. You can easily make a stir-fry rice bowl that’s lighter than the local take-out place and has more nutritional value.
Start with whole grain rice. Top with a mixture of stir-fry vegetables cooked over medium heat with a little cooking spray. Top with sesame seeds and a drizzle of soy sauce. Tofu pieces, soybeans, or a lean meat of your choice round out the dish.
5. Easy Tortilla Soup
This heart-loving recipe from The American Heart Association will fuel your day with 30 grams of protein but less than 300 calories per serving. Easy ingredients like low sodium chicken broth and frozen vegetables make it very fast to prepare. Why not make a double batch and freeze the excess for another week?
Supplement Your Lunch
In addition to a healthy lunch, a supplement can be a solid way to fill in nutritional gaps and support your health. All health, including heart health, starts in your cells. If you’ve never really given much thought to how to keep your cells healthy, that’s okay — not many people do until there’s a problem.
As we get older, our cells get older and weaker, leaving us susceptible to illness and age-related diseases. When our cells fail, tissues, organs, and entire systems begin to fail, including the health of our hearts. But now, there’s a way to support our cells and give them a fighting chance as they age.
C15:0 (Pentadecanoic Acid) and Your Cells
C15:0, also known as pentadecanoic acid, is an odd-chain, saturated fatty acid that science supports as the first essential fatty acid to have been discovered in over 90 years.*
C15:0 supports your cells in three important ways:*
Increased mitochondrial function. Aging cells have sluggish mitochondria. C15:0 increases mitochondrial function by up to 45%, so your cells can carry out their functions more efficiently like they did when you were younger.
Stronger cell membranes. Cell membranes protect our cells from external stressors and damage. As we age, cell membranes often become weak. C15:0 is a sturdy fatty acid that integrates into cell membranes, keeping them strong and fortified so your cells can stay protected for longer.
Improved cardiometabolic health - C15:0 naturally binds to receptors found throughout our bodies, called PPARs, that help to regulate our metabolism, including our cholesterol and glucose homeostasis. This helps to explain why daily fatty15 supplementation helps to promote healthy cholesterol, triglyceride homeostasis, and heart health.
Where do you find C15:0? It’s in whole-fat dairy products, and a scattering of plants and fish. That makes it tough to work more C15:0 into your diet, without consuming a lot of extras, like more calories, more sugar (lactose), and more dairy fat that's found in whole-fat dairy products.
Studies have shown that adults who consume more dairy milk are more likely to have a higher body weight than those who drink less. Many plant-based milk replacements don’t even include C15:0.
Go the more efficient route, minus the calories, sugar, and fat, when you opt for the C15:0 found in fatty15.
The fatty15 supplement helps promote a healthy metabolism, support a more balanced immune system, and aid in heart health. Further, higher levels of C15:0, the only ingredient in fatty15 has been repeatedly associated with healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as improved heart health.
Rely less on cows and cattle (and the potential environmental issues regarding methane production), and give your body an easier way to obtain the C15:0 it needs to stay healthy.
Fatty15 Lunch and Learn
Fatty15 is the first and only supplement that contains the pure, vegan-friendly version of C15:0. Just one sustainably sourced capsule per day can support your cells (and your heart).* It’s the easy way to do more for your body and make aging your ally.
Working lunch? No problem. Adding fatty15 to your heart-healthy lunch will help keep you focused and your cells happy.*
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.
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