Heart Matters

BY Bill Walsh

Like far too many once-active big men one-time Buffalo Bills linebacker Paul Maguire didn’t change his eating habits when retirement put him on the sidelines and in 1991 at the age of 53 he suffered a near-fatal heart attack.

Some weeks later a recovering Maguire a football commentator with NBC when he was stricken was interviewed for a pre-game show and talked about the new eating regimen doctors had prescribed.

Determining whether a food was allowed or verboten was pretty simple Maguire said: Take a bite. If it tastes good spit it out.

Times have changed. In the intervening years doctors nutritionists and chefs have learned how to make meals that are as cognizant of the taste buds as they are of the arteries such as these three luncheon possibilities that Kevin O’Connell executive chef of Country Club of Landfall offered this year’s Red Dress Luncheon organizing committee.

“The tenderloin is basically fat-free ” O’Connell said. “The roast turkey wrap is basically fat-free with a straight mango puree — nothing added. The muffaletta I made is slightly different. Trying to stay a little heart healthy I used focaccia bread low-fat ham and turkey as well as provolone and the olive mixture. For dessert we will be serving a low-fat raspberry cheesecake.”

O’Connell prepared a green salad with each of his three luncheon options and included diced fruit with two. That’s right in keeping with American Heart Association guidelines. “Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables ” the New Hanover County Regional Medical Center advises in its The Coastal Heart Cookbook. “Choose five or more servings per day.”

Red Dress Luncheon and Fashion Show

Proceeds from this Feb. 2 luncheon and fashion show will enable the Coastal Heart Center and the Coastal Care Van to continue to partner together to hold community outreach activities identifying women at risk for heart disease in New Hanover Pender and Brunswick counties and saving lives through early detection.

The luncheon is one of many events this month marking National Heart Month. Later this month (Feb. 17) The American Heart Association is hosting the Cape Fear Heart Ball an annual black-tie event focusing on women and heart disease. The ball at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside includes a sit-down dinner live music by Heart and Soul dancing and a silent auction. Last year’s A Night on the Red Carpet brought in about $120 000 for the A.H.A. Call 762-1708 for more information.

Beef tenderloin salad with mixed greens and southwestern black beans

4-5 oz. filet mignon

Season on all sides with salt and black pepper

Could you get by with three to four ounces rather than four to five New Hanover Health Network dietician Nicole Lother wonders?

The American Heart Association says that lean meat is an excellent protein choice but puts the emphasis on the adjective urging consumers to steer clear of “prime” grades which are heavily marbled and thus high in saturated fatty acids. And Lother says to mind the salt as well. The recommended daily allowance is only 2300 milligrams about a teaspoon.

Black Beans

1 can black beans (soup-can size) drained
1/2 cup diced fresh tomato
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 fresh jalapeno remove seeds mince
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1/4 cup finely diced green pepper
1 tsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 stick butter
1 beer

Combine all ingredients except black beans and tomatoes in medium pot. Sauté on medium high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add beans and half of the beer.

Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add tomatoes. Simmer 5 more minutes.

Lother suggests steering clear of the quarter stick of butter and using a non-transfat margarine instead. Better use Smart Choice.

And yes beans are good for your heart as are all the rest of their legume friends.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 cup balsamic vinegar
/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 tbsp minced onion
1/4 cup honey
3 cups olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Place all ingredients except oil in blender. Slowly add oil to blender while on low speed until all oil is added.

Consuming about two tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil a day may reduce the risk of heart disease according to the Food and Drug Administration. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat which can lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol in the blood. Most of the benefits however come from substituting olive oil for saturated fats such as butter rather than just adding more olive oil to your diet. Too much olive oil can lead to weight gain Lother cautions due to its high calorie content.

Focaccia Muffaletta

A New Orleans specialty sandwich a muffaletta “is not just a bunch of cold cuts and cheese ” according to a Crescent City afficianado. “Anyone can make that.”

Traditionally the round muffaletta loaf is sliced horizontally and both sides are covered with olive oil and a marinated olive salad. The traditional sandwich consists of layers of capicola salami mortadella emmantaler and provolone and is sometimes heated through to soften the cheese.

As heart-healthy alternatives focaccia bread low-fat ham and turkey as well as provolone and the olive mixture are used.

Be careful with deli meats Lother advises. When fat is reduced producers often add more salt for taste. Salt increases blood pressure and fluid retention.

Olive salad

1 cup green olives
1 cup black olives
1/4 cup minced onion
1 clove garlic minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup roasted red pepper (canned is ok)
1 anchovy fillet
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Chop all ingredients well mix with oil salt and pepper. Let stand for one hour before using. Split the focaccia loaf horizontally. Spread each half with equal parts of olive salad and olive oil. Place meats and cheeses evenly on bottom half and cover with top half of bread. Cut in quarters.

Low-fat Raspberry Cheesecake


2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1 stick melted butter

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Mix well. Press crust into greased 9-by-12 inch cake pan or casserole dish.


2 1/2 lbs low-fat cream cheese softened
1 lb sugar
5 eggs
8 oz. heavy cream
1/2 cup raspberry jam

Combine cream cheese and sugar in mixing bowl. Blend well with electric mixer. Combine remaining ingredients in separate bowl mix well. Add to cream cheese and mix thoroughly with mixer. Pour over crust. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Place cake pan inside a larger pan filled halfway up with water. Place cake (in water bath) on middle rack of oven. Cook for 45 minutes. Check with a toothpick in center. When toothpick comes out clean the cake is ready. Cool invert on large dinner plate to remove from pan.

To make this recipe even more heart-friendly substitute Splenda (for baking) and a stick of margarine for the butter in the crust and replace the cup of heavy cream with a mixture of a half-cup of evaporated skim milk a quarter-cup of low-fat yogurt and a quarter-cup of low-fat cottage cheese. Low-fat cream cheese is good; fat-free cream cheese is better.

As to the butter substitution not all margarines are the same. Avoid margarines that list hydrogenated oil as the first ingredient or any that contain transfats.

Easy Changes

“I was always a ‘care-less’ eater ” Joe Toohey said while taking a break from a recent workout in the New Hanover County Regional Medical Center’s cardiac rehabilitation unit. “I didn’t ever really think too much about my diet.” But since having a heart attack and undergoing double bypass surgery in December 2005 Toohey has changed his tune.

“It has changed pretty radically ” the Leland resident says of his diet. “I eat a lot of chicken very little red meat. I eat a lot of salads more than I’ve ever eaten before. Sometimes just a salad. I don’t eat butter and stay away from all dairy products as best I can.”

The bottom line he says “is it’s not very hard to do.”

Turkey such as the wrap that Chef Kevin O’Connell prepared for the Red Dress Luncheon Committee is a good low-fat choice. Some other low-fat luncheon meats may have added salt so it pays to read the label.

Toohey had a sweet tooth and giving up ice cream caused a few pangs. “Now you substitute with sorbet or flavored ice or something that will give you the sweetness without the rest of it ” he says.

He quit smoking 15 years ago and has always been physically active. “This heart problem came as a total surprise to me ” Toohey says. “I had never had any physical problems in my life. I am sure that it came as a result of diet the accumulation of bad eating habits. Good eating habits are pretty easy they really are.”