By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
Looking for heart snacks to help improve heart health? Look no further than this heart healthy snacks list. Chocolate is even on this list of the best heart healthy snacks!
What better time to focus on the best heart snacks for heart-disease awareness? Give these healthy heart recipes a try, and learn some healthy heart facts while you're at it!
I have a heart-health family history so complex that my cousin, David, outlined it in an Excel chart a couple of years back. Included are the two heart attacks my paternal grandfather, Harry, suffered—the latter of which resulted in his too-young death at age 70.
My maternal grandfather, also named Harry (but “Papa Toys” to my sister and I), was even younger: A day shy of 65, he passed away from complications from a heart attack. This family history served as a warning to the next generation.
My two uncles on my dad’s side who have suffered heart attacks are still with us, thankfully, and carefully monitor their heart health.
I don’t take this family history lightly and have seen a cardiologist multiple times, simply to map a baseline and keep tabs on my own heart health. I also help my ticker by incorporating heart-healthy foods into my daily diet.
Following a heart-healthy diet helps more than your risk factors for heart disease. It also helps your cholesterol level and is likely to decrease your bad cholesterol level. Note that risk of blood clots is different than a risk of heart disease, per the American Heart Association.
When it comes to all the ways you can keep your heart healthy, you probably think of hitting the pavement for a jog or going for a walk in the middle of a workday at your eight-hour desk job. But exercise is only one part of the equation. The second? Your diet.
That's right, what you eat can have a serious impact on your ticker. Thus, this blog post is all about eating for a strong and fit heart, including the best foods to add to your plate and a good-for-you recipe that you can make in your own kitchen. Ready to get started?
Heart-Healthy Snacks for Your Ticker
Newsflash: You can have a bad case of the munchies and still boost your heart health. How do you do it? Start by choosing my favorite nutritious and delicious healthy snacks for the heart, featured in this U.S. News and World Report article.
From almond butter to berries, most of these eats are plant based, which can help decrease inflammation—a major contributor to heart disease. Want more heart snacks? Here you go!
Grab a handful of blueberries or strawberries as a snack or dessert—or add them to a salad. Eating three or more servings a week may lower your risk of heart attack, according to research out of Harvard University. Berries even make the list of healthy snacks for heart patients! Try a blueberry peanut butter smoothie.
2. Dark Chocolate
Dip those berries in dark chocolate! Having a daily nibble may help lower blood pressure and increase levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol. Have a bite of avocado chocolate brownie.
Fatty fish—such as albacore tuna, anchovies, herring, salmon and sardines—could lower your risk of heart-disease-related death. Bake, broil, grill or steam; just don’t fry, which may increase bad-for-your-heart trans fats.
Aim for two 3.5-ounce servings a week, and vary the type of fish you eat. And yes, you can absolutely eat fish as a snack. Try salmon bacon, for instance! Also learn about the top vegetarian sources of omega-3s and how to have a healthy plant-based pregnancy.
Adding almonds, peanuts or other nuts to your oatmeal, yogurt parfait, or other daily dish may have multiple heart benefits. Nuts could lower your risk of heart disease and heart attack, per several studies.
And eating almonds may result in better blood flow, lower blood pressure, and more antioxidants in the bloodstream, according to a study by British researchers, in which volunteers ate about 2 ounces daily. If you prefer your nuts in nut-butter form, that's helpful for your heart, too.
Stick with a small 1-ounce serving, the equivalent of 1/4 cup nuts or 1/8 cup nut butter. Whip up some candied pistachio trail mix!
5. Whole Grains
Eating foods rich in whole grains—such as brown rice, oatmeal and whole-grain bread—is linked with a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, according to a study in JAMA Internal Medicine.
In fact, every 1-ounce daily serving may result in a 9% reduced risk of mortality related to heart disease. Enjoy open-faced hummus toast on whole-grain bread.
Want to know about more foods that can help your health?
Foods to Protect Your Heart and Improve Heart Health
DYK that eating more whole foods (think fruits, heart-healthy fats like nuts, black beans, and whole grains) while cutting back on processed foods can lower risk of heart disease by more than 30%? It's a pretty noteworthy statistic.
But if you're not used to eating these foods, getting started can feel overwhelming. That's why I wrote this Runner's World article featuring the heart-healthy foods, from the best healthy snacks for heart disease to the top heart-healthy lunch ideas, that you should stock up on.
Even runners need to eat the right foods to keep their tickers strong! By the way, running is a fantastic exercise for boosting cardiovascular strength, but it's not the only way to keep your heart healthy. I'm not a big runner myself, but years ago, I had the opportunity to train with my friends, including Olympic athletes, over at Runner's World.
So yes, you can get started with those heart-healthy meal plans right away! The best part: They're super easy to find in your neighborhood supermarket and make great additions to snack time.
What's more, heart-healthy foods are the basis of the Mediterranean diet style of eating—and have been linked in a study with potentially helping your heart and lowering your risk of abdominal obesity if you're at high risk for cardiovascular disease.
A traditional Mediterranean Diet consists of eating a lot of vegetables, fruit, nuts, olive oil and cereal grains (such as rice, millet and bulgur); a moderate intake of fish and wine; and a little dairy, meat and dessert.
In the study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers looked into just how beneficial this style of eating is for those who have metabolic syndrome—a condition that makes you more likely to develop heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
The criterion for diagnosis of metabolic syndrome is having at least three of the following symptoms: high blood
pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol and obesity.
At the study’s start, 64% of the 5,801 participants had metabolic syndrome. One set of study subjects ate a Mediterranean-style diet—either supplemented with additional extra-virgin olive oil or a mixture of walnuts, hazelnuts and almond—for about five years.
Of the people who had metabolic syndrome at the study's start, 28% were able to reverse the condition. That's great
Amy's Heart-Healthy Recipe to Try
Here's a recipe you'll love: Orange Strawberry Smoothie!