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The cross-cultural kitchen

The typical American diet, high in fat and sugar, is notorious for clogging arteries and causing obesity. But there’s hope for us yet. Thanks to our melting-pot culture, the influx of ethnic cuisine can bring healthier food to our table. Researchers have long been interested in learning why heart disease, diabetes and cancer are almost unheard of in certain parts of the world. For example, people in the Far East and in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea typically have much lower rates of lifestyle-related disease than we do. And men from Crete enjoy the longest life expectancy in the world.

What do these areas of the world all have in common? A cuisine that relies heavily on plant-based foods, grains, beans, lentils, fish and plenty of fruits and vegetables—with very little meat. Such a menu makes their diets high in antioxidant vitamins and low in saturated fat. Take a tip from their menus: Expand your nutritional horizons and try these flavorful, heart-healthy recipes from around the globe.

A Middle-Eastern favorite, this dish is packed with antioxidant vitamins from six different vegetables.Makes 4 servings.

  • vegetable oil spray
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. lean lamb from loin or shoulder arm chop, all visible fat removed, cut into cubes
  • 1 medium onion, sliced (1/2 cup)
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced, or 1/2 tsp. bottled minced garlic
  • 1 cup canned, no-salt-added tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into cubes
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, coarsely chopped (1 cup)
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 small zucchini, cut into cubes (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup okra, sliced (optional) (6 to 7 small pods)
  • 3 slices lemon
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper, or to taste

Spray a stockpot, Dutch oven or large, deep skillet with vegetable oil spray. Add oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add lamb cubes and brown thoroughly on all sides, about 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Add onion and garlic and brown slightly, 3–4 minutes. Add undrained tomatoes and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and adding a small amount of water if necessary. Preheat oven to 350°. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Transfer mixture to a 3-quart ovenproof ceramic or glass casserole dish. (Don’t use plain cast iron; it will discolor the vegetables.) Cover and bake for 1 hour, or until vegetables are tender.

Nutritional information: calories 272, protein 28 g, carbohydrates 22 g, cholesterol 97 mg, total fat 9 g (saturated 4 g, polyunsaturated 1 g, monounsaturated 3 g), fiber 7 g, sodium 82 mg


This robust stew from Italy features plenty of seafood and nutrient-rich tomatoes.

Makes 10 servings.

  • 1 1/2 lbs. red snapper or other firm, white fish fillets, skinned
  • 1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion (about 3 medium)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped green bell pepper
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced, or 1 1/2 tsp. bottled minced garlic
  • 4 cups chopped tomatoes (5–6 medium)
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine (regular or nonalcoholic)
  • 1/4 cup clam juice
  • 2 Tbs. snipped fresh parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3/4 tsp. dried basil, crumbled
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 3 to 4 dashes red hot-pepper sauce
  • 1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (13 to 15)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • juice of 1 medium lemon

Rinse fish and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into 2-inch cubes and set aside. Heat a heavy stockpot over medium heat. Add oil and swirl to coat bottom. Sauté onions, bell pepper and garlic for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, wine, clam juice, parsley, bay leaves, basil, pepper, and hot-pepper sauce. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add fish and cook over low heat for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add shrimp and simmer for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in salt and lemon juice.

Nutritional information: calories 108, protein 14 g, carbohydrates 9 g, cholesterol 44 mg, total fat 2 g (saturated 0 g, polyunsaturated 1 g, monounsaturated 1 g), fiber 1 g, sodium 198 mg

Vegetable stir-fry

The Asian technique of stir-frying makes cooking this meal quick and healthy.

Makes 8 servings.

  • 1 lb. fresh broccoli
  • 1 tsp. acceptable margarine (no more than 2 g saturated fat per tablespoon)
  • 1 tsp. acceptable vegetable oil (no more than 2 g saturated fat per tablespoon, such as corn, canola, olive, safflower, sunflower, soybean, walnut or almond)
  • 1 lb. carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 12 oz. fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced (3 1/2 to 4 cups)
  • 2 to 3 medium green onions, thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 2 Tbs. dry sherry
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme, crumbled
  • pepper to taste

Separate broccoli florets so they are of small, uniform size. Peel tough stems; cut stems into 2-inch pieces. In large skillet or wok, heat margarine and oil over medium heat, swirling to coat bottom. Stir-fry broccoli, carrots, mushrooms and green onions for 5 minutes, or until vegetables are tender-crisp, stirring constantly. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Nutritional information: calories 65, protein 3 g, carbohydrates 11 g, cholesterol 0 mg, total fat 2 g (saturated 0 g, polyunsaturated 1 g, monounsaturated 0 g), fiber 4 g, sodium 57 mg

Chicken Philippine style

The sour tang of this easy-to-make dish is similar to the Philippine adobo seasoning.Makes 4 servings.


  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup white wine vinegar, to taste
  • 1/3 cup pineapple juice
  • 2 Tbs. light soy sauce
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced, or 1/2 tsp. bottled minced garlic
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 4 oz. each) or 2 1/2- to 3-pound chicken, cut into pieces, skinned, all visible fat removed

Combine marinade ingredients in a large skillet. Add chicken to skillet. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, turning once. Put skillet over medium-high heat; heat until marinade comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer breast halves, covered, for 20 minutes, chicken pieces for 40 minutes, or until chicken is tender, turning once.

Nutritional information: calories 150, protein 24 g, carbohydrates 4 g, cholesterol 63 mg, total fat 3 g (saturated 1 g, polyunsaturated 0 g, monounsaturated 1 g) fiber 0 g, sodium 309 mg

Recipe reproduced with permission from The New American Heart Association Cookbook, 25th Anniversary Edition, ©2001 Clarkson Potter/Publishers.