Heart Health and Our Flexitarian Dinner Challenge

In honor of Women’s Heart Health Month, I would like to share with you the heart health benefits of a flexitarian diet. A flexitarian — or flexible vegetarian — is someone who eats mostly plant-based foods but occasionally eats meat, poultry and fish.

In this two part post I will give some  information on women’s heart health and the guidelines for a flexitarian dinner that Michael and I will host in our home.

We are inviting friends to cook and share meatless dishes that are healthy,  appetizing, and delicious enough to convince people to give up meat once in a while.

My hope is that by having the dinner, my guests and I will be introduced to dishes that make meatless meals less intimidating.

After the dinner, I’ll report what dishes were served along with how well they were received.

Why Heart health for women?

More than 42 million women are currently living with some form of cardiovascular disease. More than 8 million women have a history of heart attack and/or angina, a chest pain or discomfort that occurs when an area of your heart muscle doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood.

Five and a half million women will suffer angina,  chest pain or discomfort that occurs when an area of your heart muscle doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood

Heart disease is the leading cause of death of American women, killing more than a third of them.

35.3% of deaths in American women over the age of 20, or more than 432,000, are caused by cardiovascular disease each year.

More than 200,000 women die each year from heart attacks- five times as many women as breast cancer.

More than 159,000 women die each year of congestive heart failure, accounting for 56.3% of all heart failure deaths.

For African American women, the risk of heart disease is especially great. Heart disease is more prevalent among African American women than Caucasian women, as are some of the factors that increase the risk of developing it— such as high blood pressure, being overweight, and having diabetes.

Hispanic women also have high rates of some factors that increase the risk of developing heart disease, such as diabetes, being overweight or obese, and physical inactivity. Some 83 percent of midlife Hispanic women are overweight or obese, and more than 10 percent have been diagnosed with diabetes.

More than 80 percent of midlife African American women are overweight or obese, 52 percent have high blood pressure, and 14 percent have been diagnosed with diabetes.

Facts from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute articles “What is Aginga” and “Heart Truth“.

Why Flexitarianism?

Eating a plant-based diet has many health benefits. People who follow a vegetarian diet generally eat fewer calories, weigh less and have lower cholesterol levels than do nonvegetarians. If giving up meat all together seems too drastic for you, flexitarianism might be a good compromise.

By enjoying the benefits of a plant based diet — without giving up ALL of the other foods you love — you will be positioned to prevent the conditions that could lead to poor heart health.

Participating in the Flexitarian Dinner Challenge

We are asking each guest to bring a vegetarian dish to the event.  The dish cannot be a dessert! Since the best way to really know what we are eating is to make it ourselves, we are asking everyone to cook their own dish! Sorry folks NO store bought dishes.

Here are some tips we are offering participants:

A Successful Dish in the Flexitarian Challenge should be…

Healthy: The dish should have moderate calories and be limited in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. The recipes should use some of the following: beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lots of herbs and spices for flavor, and small amounts of vegetable or olive oils.

Simple: The number of ingredients should be limited and easily found in most major grocery stores. Dishes should appeal to children and adults alike.

Delicious: Of course it should be!

Each participant will present a tasting (2-3 bites) of their dish.  During their presentation, they will have the chance to tell us what they are serving (think Iron Chef) while also discussing key ingredients and nutritional information.

Judges will rate their dish in 4 categories:

  1. Presentation (10%)
  2. Nutritional value/knowledge given (30%) – give us the numbers, we want to know
  3. Taste (40%)
  4. “Flexitarian” – ism (20%) (wow, I would give up meat if I could eat this everyday)

Bonus Points

  1. I “flexed” for a week bonus (5%) – Participants will be given 5 pts for taking a break from meat. If they pledge not to comsume any meat starting Monday February 28  — and stick to the plan — they will get 5pts added to their total score.

After everyone has presented our guest judges will tally their votes and announce the winners! Yes, there will be a prize for 1st place!

Do you want to try the flexitarian challenge?  What are you thinking of cooking?  Leave a comment and let us know!

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