Feb 8, 2021 Heart-Healthy Recipes With Tons of Flavor

Make the most of spices that are good to eat and good for you.

You probably know that a heart-healthy diet includes lean proteins, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods. But have you heard that some spices can also help protect the heart?

Three that have been extensively studied are garlic, cinnamon, and turmeric. All three of these spices boost the flavor of a dish and eliminate the need for extra salt, fat, or sugar. Moreover, they’re low in calories and relatively inexpensive.

Garlic has a positive effect on blood pressure and is a favorite flavor for many. Raw garlic has a strong, pungent taste that may be too harsh for some, so sauté it in a bit of olive oil at medium heat for about 30 seconds. You can also mash a clove of garlic and add it to a mix of vinegar and olive oil for a flavorful homemade salad dressing. To truly transform garlic, try roasting it (see recipe below) to bring out a delicious caramelized flavor and make a smooth spread for whole-grain bread.

Cinnamon is a fragrant spice that may help to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels. It enhances the sweetness of foods or beverages, making it a great choice for those trying to control the amount of sugar in their diet. Add a pinch of cinnamon to your tea or coffee and you may not need any sugar at all. Cinnamon also tastes great on fruit and in savory dishes, such as tomato sauce.

Turmeric, an earthy, warm, and slightly bitter spice is an anti-inflammatory food, meaning that it reduces swelling and pain in the body. Turmeric is also high in antioxidants, which help keep cells healthy.

Turmeric originated in India more than 4,000 years ago and migrated to the cuisines of China, East, and West Africa, and finally to Jamaica. It’s the main spice in curry and is used to flavor and color yellow mustard. Cooking enhances the flavor of turmeric, so a little goes a long way.

Turmeric is versatile. Add it to a few recipes a week, such as soups, stews, rice, poultry, and lentil and vegetable dishes.

“Try adding a dash to scrambled eggs and macaroni and cheese,” says Kerri Likakis, MS, RDN, of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center’s Reverend Dr. Ronald B. Christian Community Health and Wellness Center. “My kids love the enhanced color and flavor of these family favorites!”

A word of caution: While these healthy spices can be added to any foods, check with your doctor before taking supplements, since large doses of some spices could interact with medicines. Pregnant or nursing women should avoid spice or herbal supplements.

For heart-healthy comfort food this winter, try the recipes below from the Reverend Dr. Ronald B. Christian Community Health and Wellness Center.

Roasted Garlic


  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 whole head of garlic


  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Using your fingers, peel away all the loose, papery outer layers around the head of garlic. Leave the head itself intact with all the cloves connected.
  • Trim about ¼ inch off the top of the head of garlic to expose the tops of the garlic cloves.
  • Drizzle olive oil over the exposed surface of the garlic, letting the oil sink down into the cloves.
  • Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil and roast in the oven for about 40 minutes. The garlic is done when a center clove is completely soft when pierced with a paring knife.
  • Let the garlic cool slightly before serving. Press on the bottom of a clove to push it out of its paper. Roasted garlic can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
Spicy Caribbean Potato Soup

Spicy Caribbean Potato Soup

Serves 6


  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 cups peeled, cubed sweet potato
  • 3 cups chopped fresh kale
  • 1 cup frozen sliced okra
  • 1 cup reduced-fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 cup black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice


  • In a large, sturdy pot with a lid, heat canola oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, sauté onions until tender. Add garlic, ginger, and spices. Cook one minute longer.
  • Stir in broth and sweet potato and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Stir in kale, okra, and coconut milk. Return to a boil, cover, and simmer 10 minutes longer or until sweet potato is tender.
  • Add tomatoes, peas, and lime juice. Heat through.

Baked Apples with Cinnamon Oat Topping

Serves 8


  • 4 large apples, cut in half
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar, unpacked
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose or gluten-free flour
  • 8 tablespoons quick oats
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon


  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Remove core and seeds from apple halves with a small paring knife or spoon.
  • In a small bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, flour, and oats. Spoon on top of apple halves and sprinkle with cinnamon.
  • Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm.


Serves 5


  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil (or olive oil)
  • 1 cup white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 4 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste


  • In a sturdy pot with a lid, heat sesame oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 6 minutes.
  • Stirring constantly, add water, lentils, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and salt. Bring to a low boil, then turn heat to low and cover. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until lentils are very tender.
  • Stir in tomato paste until well combined. Cook for about 15 more minutes.

Newark Beth Israel Medical Center's Reverend Dr. Ronald B. Christian Community Health and Wellness Center, located at 208 Lyons Avenue, offers free wellness classes to community members. To learn more, call (973) 926-7371.