Eating Right for Your Heart’s Sake

By Michelle Chalkey

February is Heart Health Month, making it an ideal time to stop and look at how we’re preventing the nation’s leading killer, heart disease, from happening to us. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease. If you’ve made it a goal to lead a healthier lifestyle, let this time of year serve as a reminder to eat right for your heart’s sake and carry those good habits forward throughout the entire year!

One thing that gets our hearts pumping here at the Iowa Food & Family Project is beef, quite literally! Did you know that including lean beef daily in your diet can improve cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure? A serving of lean beef provides heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, the kind that helps reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood.

 Today’s beef is leaner and lower in saturated fat than ever! In fact, 69% of all beef muscle cuts sold at grocery stores are lean. You won’t struggle to find quality cuts of beef in this state. Beef cattle are raised in all of Iowa’s 99 counties, and cattle outnumber the human population in Iowa!

As if serving the heart isn’t enough, beef also gives your body a variety of nutrients. A 3-ounce serving of lean beef provides 10 essential nutrients including zinc, iron and B-vitamins. With 25 grams of high-quality protein, one serving of beef is sure to leave you full and satisfied.

Here’s how some of the key nutrients in beef work hard for your body:

  • Iron: Helps your body use oxygen
  • Choline: Supports nervous system development
  • Protein: Helps preserve and build muscle
  • Vitamins B6 and B12: Help maintain brain function
  • Niacin: Supports energy production and metabolism
  • Riboflavin: Helps convert food into fuel

For a heart-healthy diet, focus on eating lean protein, including lean cuts of beef like top sirloin, strip steak and flank steak.

No matter your age, managing your heart health is critical to preventing heart issues. Implement healthy changes to your lifestyle, like getting proper nutrition and increasing your physical activity. Remember to pair heart-healthy food like lean beef with regular exercise. Your heart will thank you!

Try this recipe for Beef and Couscous-Stuffed Baby Bell Peppers for a heart-healthy appetizer your friends and family will love!

Beef and Couscous-Stuffed Baby Bell Peppers

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 30

Recipe from: Iowa Beef Industry Council


1 pound 93% lean ground beef
15 baby sweet bell peppers (about 2½ - 3 inches long, about 1¼ lb.)
⅔ cup regular or spicy 100% vegetable juice
½ cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
¼ cup uncooked whole wheat or regular couscous
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp dried oregano leaves
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
½ cup reduced-fat shredded Parmesan, Monterey Jack, white Cheddar or Italian-blend cheese

Heat oven to 400°F. Cut bell peppers in half lengthwise; remove seeds and membranes, but not stem. Place peppers, cut-sides up, on two rimmed baking sheets.

Combine ground beef, vegetable juice, spinach, couscous, garlic, oregano, salt and black pepper in large bowl, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Spoon beef mixture evenly into peppers. Sprinkle with cheese.

Bake, uncovered, 25 to 30 minutes or until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of pepper registers 160°F and peppers begin to brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

For more information about beef’s nutrition, visit For more recipes, download the Iowa Food & Family Project cookbook.