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Welcome to WFAEats — a fun adventure where we explore all things tasty and interesting in the Charlotte food scene. We want to share stories, recipes and culinary escapades and hear about yours!

How Much Do You Know About Cooking And Eating For Heart Health?

heart shaped fruit

Butter, chocolate, and wine are good for you, right? No, wait; they’re bad. We should all switch to coconut oil, carob, and kombucha, yes? The answer is…Maybe.

Since Valentine’s Day is a time to indulge in high-calorie (and high-dollar) dinners, we here at WFAEats wanted some answers. So we reached out to Kevin Soden, M.D., M.P.H. He’s a Charlotte-based physician whose career has taken him from the hands-on practice of emergency medicine to his current role consulting in epidemiology and public health for corporations around the world. (He’s also a really good cook; more on that in a moment.)

Despite our awareness of heart disease and the medical advances to address it, we’re not getting healthier. The American Heart Association reports that about 790,000 people in the U.S. have heart attacks each year. 

To help us figure out where we're going wrong, take this quiz to see how much you know about cooking and eating for heart health. 

To wrap up, we asked Soden to tell us how he cooks for his family. “Anything you can modify to put in fish or chicken, add tomatoes or onions, nuts or beans; that’s what a Mediterranean diet would push you toward.” He often prepares Panzanella salad and adds torn basil that grows year-round on a countertop garden in the kitchen. “It’s very simple and doesn’t require a lot of heavy oils or dressing. I do very little, just to give it a little flavor.”

So in the spirit of Valentine’s Day and all things “heartfelt” here’s a healthy, simple recipe for you to try.

And yes, you should definitely follow it with dessert.

Simple Panzanella Salad

  • Olive oil
  • Small baguette, cut into cubes about 1"
  • Fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers; 1 or 2 of each, seeded and roughly chopped
  • Chopped red or green onions, small handful
  • Clove of chopped garlic
  • Fresh basil leaves, torn
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Oil and vinegar (or prepared dressing)

In a heavy skillet, heat a small amount of oil over medium heat. Add the cubed bread and sauté until brown. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine all the vegetables, season with salt and pepper. Add the bread. Whisk together the oil and vinegar and drizzle sparingly. Serve at room temperature.

Variations: add cooked cannellini beans, grilled chicken or fish if desired.

Serves 4 to 6.