Health & Medicine

With small changes, sweet treats can promote heart health

Attendees at the Gill Goes Red event tasted a variety of sweet treats that are actually heart healthy.
Attendees at the Gill Goes Red event tasted a variety of sweet treats that are actually heart healthy. UKHC

Comfort foods are not completely out of the question when it comes to eating healthier.

University of Kentucky employees were treated on Feb. 3, National Wear Red Day, to heart-healthful recipes including maple-walnut granola with dried cranberries, peanut butter chocolate chip dessert humus and decadent brownies.

At the event, sponsored by the Gill Heart Institute, attendees tasted food and tried to guess the secret substitute ingredient.

All of the treats tasted great to Patricia Gray, a nurse at UK Chandler Hospital. She guessed correctly that the brownie recipe used applesauce. Gray has used healthful substitutes in recipes before.

“This is awesome just to find out how you can be healthier,” Gray said.

College of Pharmacy employee Lisa Grissom enjoyed the granola the most. She had not substituted ingredients in recipes for a while, she said, but she will try to use the tips in her cooking.

Healthier substitutes in recipes include using applesauce in place of sugar, butter or oil, using puréed black beans in place of flour, using avocado, prune purée or banana in place of butter, and yogurt in place of sour cream. Be sure to check the recipe before making substitutions.

Other ways to make your diet heart healthier include increasing fiber and decreasing sugar, nutritionist Vanessa Oliver said. To lessen sugar intake, she suggested choosing fruit for dessert, drinking more water and using about one-third less sugar in baking. To increase fiber, Oliver recommended choosing whole grains over refined grans and eating 2 1/2 to 3 cups of vegetables a day.

Dr. Gretchen Wells, director of Women’s Heart Health at UK, suggested several ways to help prevent heart disease, which can cause diabetes, heart attack or stroke. Those include not smoking, getting exercise daily and controlling your blood pressure.

“Getting 30 minutes of exercise, five out of seven days a week, lowered most women’s risk by 50 percent,” Wells said.

Heart disease in Kentucky is on the increase, Wells said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 616,000 Americans die each year from heart disease.

At Gill Goes Red, Oliver said keeping a food journal can help you assess your current diet and help you know where you can improve.

McKenna Horsley: 859-231-1687, @mckennahorsley

Maple-walnut granola with dried cranberries

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

 3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar, divided

 1/2 cup pure maple syrup

 1/4 cup egg whites (about two large eggs)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 1/4 teaspoon maple extract

1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

3 cups old-fashion oats

1 cup walnut halves, broken in half

1 cup dried cranberries

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Generously coat heavy large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Stir  1/2 cup sugar and syrup in heavy small saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves, occasionally brushing down sides with wet pastry brush. Pour into large bowl; cool to lukewarm. Whisk in egg whites, extracts and spices. Add oats, nuts and remaining  1/4 cup sugar; toss well.

Spread mixture in even layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake 35 minutes. Using metal spatula, turn granola over (bottom will be brown). Bake 10 minutes. Sprinkle cranberries over top; bake until dry, about 10 minutes longer. Cool granola completely in pan. Makes about 8 cups.

Recipe from Bon Appétit

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Dessert Hummus

2 cups chickpeas

 1/4 cup natural peanut butter

 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup

 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

 1/4 cup chocolate chips

Drain, measure, wash and peel your chickpeas. (Peeling them isn’t absolutely necessary, but it makes for the creamiest hummus and is worth the effort.)

In a food processor, add the first four ingredients and process until hummus is smooth and emulsified. Remove the blade and fold in chocolate chips. Makes about three cups.

Put in a deep serving bowl and serve with graham crackers or baby carrots.

Recipe by UK HealthCare’s Kira Litras, RD, LD

Decadent brownies

1 cup oat flour

 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup light brown sugar

1 packet instant coffee (optional)

 1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips

 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

 1/3 cup cooked or canned black beans (drained and rinsed)

 1/2 cup blueberries (if frozen, thawed)

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350º F and grease a 9-inch square pan or line with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk oat flour, cocoa, baking powder, brown sugar, coffee and salt, if desired, until well combined and set aside.

Heat chocolate chips in microwave for 20-40 seconds, just until they are soft, not totally melted. Combine chocolate with applesauce, beans, blueberries and vanilla in a food processor or blender and purée until smooth.

Add wet mixture to flour mixture and stir to combine. It will look too dry at first but it’s not; keep mixing until you have a thick and shiny batter.

If it appears dry, you can add a splash of nondairy milk, but you should not need it. Keep mixing. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes. Serves nine.

Tip: To make oat flour, pulverize rolled or quick oats in a dry blender at high speed until you have a flour consistency.

Recipe from Forks Over Knives