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Try These Snacks to Keep your Heart Healthy

Raise your hand if you find yourself in a similar situation: You eat healthy foods regularly, but when it comes to snacks, it’s a whole different story.  Especially when you need to grab something quick or you’re rushing out the door and a bag of chips or a chocolate-covered granola bar is way easier than actually making something.

But whether you’re a stress-snacker or you reach for something at the same time every afternoon, snacks can have a direct influence on our health—namely our heart health. 

“Food choices impact your blood pressure, glycemic control, and cholesterol values,” explains Carlos Ince, MD, Chief of the Division of Cardiology at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD. “These are all significant risk factors for developing heart disease—both ischemic heart disease and heart failure. The choices that we make in food selection can have an immediate impact, but the long-term potential impact on the heart is huge.”

So what are some smart heart-healthy snack choices? Here are a few that Dr. Ince recommends:

  • Pears dipped in fat-free/low-fat cottage cheese
  • Vegetables like carrots, bell peppers, celery and cucumbers paired with hummus or tzatziki
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Popcorn, particularly if it’s air-popped or made with a nontropical vegetable oil
  • Whole-grain crackers with canned very low sodium tuna or low-sodium salmon
  • Baked or raw apples sprinkled with cinnamon
  • Raisins, dates, figs and other unsweetened dried fruits
  • Frozen bananas or frozen grapes; a fresh fruit salad flavored with fresh herbs, like mint, or fresh ginger root
  • Fruit and veggie smoothie

On the flip-side, like we mentioned, when you’re in a rush, tired, or craving something sweet, it can be easy to opt for something not-so-healthy. Dr. Ince advises steering clear of processed snacks like chips, pudding, toaster pastries, pudding, and the like.

As he explains, these foods to avoid are processed or ultra-processed options that tend to raise your blood pressure and blood sugar, for example. “This increases [the] risk of diabetes, hyperlipidemia, or hypertension,” he says. “The good foods are not processed, low in carbs, and low in sodium.”

His general advice for people who want to keep their heart health in top shape: “Try to eat a sensible balanced diet,” he recommends. He says the best diet from a cardiac perspective is the often-recommended Mediterranean diet—with its “cousin,” the Atlantic diet, gaining in popularity.

Ready to start making a heart-healthy snacking plan? Here are some tools to help you get started:

1. For making air-popped popcorn at home: 

2. For roasting chickpeas and other great-for-dipping veggies:

3. For making smoothies:

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