LEXINGTON, KY. (Feb. 7, 2017) — Kate Breeden closed her eyes as she took a bite, trying to concentrate on the flavors of the food she was sampling.
"Well, it's definitely a brownie," she said, "but I have no idea what the mystery ingredient is. Maybe carob instead of chocolate, or dates? But I'm not 100 percent sure to be honest."
Breeden was among dozens of women – and a few men – gathered on Feb. 3 to launch Heart Month at UK with "Gill Goes Red."
The celebration of women's heart health in the hospital's Pavilion A atrium featured giveaways, prizes and simple tips and substitutions to make your diet more heart-healthy. But the most popular attraction? Free samples of tasty treats with a "secret ingredient" that made each treat more heart-friendly.
"Every New Year, thousands of people resolve to eat healthier and lose weight, but lose their momentum within a few weeks and return to their old habits," said Dr. Gretchen Wells, director of the Women's Heart Health Program at the UK Gill Heart Institute, and one of the day's speakers. "We encourage people to take baby steps to improve their diet as a long-term path to healthier eating and better heart health."
Vanessa Oliver, a dietitian with the University of Kentucky's Health and Wellness program, shared with the audience her tips for making foods more nutrient-rich as a way to take those baby steps.
"Women’s risk of heart attack has been directly related to waist circumference," Oliver said. "Making an effort to enhance the quality of the choices you make can be an effective way to reduce waist circumference without a sense of self-denial."
Oliver suggested a few simple changes that can help achieve that goal, including substituting brightly colored foods (usually fruits or vegetables) for "white" or "beige" foods, increasing dietary fiber by choosing whole grains over processed ones, and reducing sugar intake, particularly from sodas and fancy coffee drinks, which contain large amounts of "hidden" sugars.
"One of the best ways to start making those changes is to keep a food journal, either by writing it down, using an app, or even taking a picture," Oliver said. "Doing so can help you be aware of what you're eating and identify places where you can make changes."
At the end of the program, the secret ingredient for each treat was announced to a chorus of laughter and exclamations of surprise.
Jennifer Vissing, the nurse coordinator for the Gill's Structural Heart Program, correctly guessed that the brownie's secret ingredient was black beans.
"Black beans provide extra fiber and complex carbohydrates, which can improve blood cholesterol levels " Oliver said.
"The brownies are made with applesauce and blueberries as well, reducing the amount of refined sugar and adding a dash of antioxidants."
The prize for correctly guessing that the chocolate chip "cookie dough" was actually a form of hummus went to Maria Kraemer, a postdoc in the Saha Cardiovascular Research Center.
"Chickpeas are a more complex carbohydrate than the white flour in traditional cookie dough, which makes you feel fuller longer," Oliver said. "On top of that, the recipe is much lower in fat than the real thing, since it contains no butter or eggs."
The granola was the true mystery treat, and no one was able to guess its secret ingredient.
"Most granolas are made with a lot of oil, which greatly increases fat content," Oliver explained. "This granola is made with made with egg whites instead of oil."
Oliver reminded attendees that portion size is important. "You should be able to indulge every once in a while, and these are wonderful options, but even black bean brownies aren't healthy if you eat half a pan," she said. "Think of these as one of many ways you can improve nutrition for you and your family."
Vissing, like many of the participants, voiced her enthusiasm for the day's events.
"I really enjoyed learning more about how to make anything healthier, and it was fun," she said.
Wells was pleased that attendees came away from the day with some real information to help them live healthier lives.
"We wanted to have fun, we wanted to celebrate women, and we wanted to empower women to make changes in their lifestyle," Wells said. "I think Gill Goes Red 2017 achieved all three."
Note: if you want to make these treats at home, the brownie recipe comes from Forks Over Knives.
The granola recipe comes from Epicurious.
The "Cookie Faux" hummus recipe comes from The Wannabe Chef.
UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: uky.edu/uk4ky. #uk4ky #seeblue