‘Chopped’ & championing heart health

It is time for the Food Network to step up to the plate. The gastronomic giant can do a lot toward educating viewers about heart-healthy cooking.

Call it chance, but in recent weeks several journals published morsels of data on foods that have a beneficial cardiovascular effect. The challenge is disseminating those findings.

One study focused on avocados. The researchers compared a lower-fat diet, a moderate fat diet and an avocado-a-day diet in obese and overweight patients. The avocado diet reduced low-density and non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol as well as total cholesterol. Another examined blueberries. The researchers concluded that a daily dose equivalent to a cup of fresh blueberries for eight weeks lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure in postmenopausal women.

As an aficionado of the TV show “Chopped,” I naturally imagined those two items nestled in a basket as “secret ingredients.” The program pits four chefs in three rounds of cooking. Each round has a basket of “mystery items” in a basket that competitors open and then must use in a timed period. One cook gets eliminated after each round, leaving one victor at the end.

“Your secret ingredients are … eel! Harissa! Chartreuse! And snap peas! Your time starts now.”

That would be host Ted Allen, telling the chefs what curve balls they threw at them for the challenge. While the cooks frantically try to make lemonade out of lemons, three judges provide insights about the ingredients at hand.

“Harissa is an Arabic condiment that combines a variety of chili peppers and spices,” they might pontificate. “It carries quite a punch and should be used in moderation." Or “Chartreuse is a liqueur made from a variety of plants and herbs that tastes like rotten cherries macerated in grass clippings.”

You get the gist.

The shows often have themes, and what would be better than heart-healthy meals? So I throw the oven mitt down and challenge Ted and company to plot out a mischievous but heart-healthy set of baskets. By the way, I see avocados and blueberries working quite nicely in a dessert round.

The clock starts now.

Candace Stuart

Editor, Cardiovascular Business