Heart-y Snack Attack

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In honor of American Heart Month AND National Snack Foods Month, I thought it would be a great opportunity to talk about some of the best snack foods that also support heart health. So get ready to snack your heart out!

Nuts: Nuts are chock full of healthy fats such as mono-and polyunsaturated fats. Research suggests that eating 1.5 ounces of most nuts per day as part of a low saturated fat diet may reduce the risk of heart disease. There are also a ton of options to meet your taste preferences- peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews and walnuts are just a few common nuts. Nuts also pack in protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, have a long shelf life, and are portable, making them a great on the go snack option.

Dairy: Including fat-free and low-fat dairy products in your diet is recommended for an overall healthy dietary pattern that also supports heart health. Just keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you should avoid fat altogether, especially healthy unsaturated fats like those found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and fatty fish. Besides milk, dairy products include yogurt, cheese, and fortified soymilk, which are sources of protein and micronutrients like calcium, potassium and vitamin D. Some go-to snacks include yogurt cups, string cheese or snack-sized milk or soymilk.

Whole Grains: Whole grains have been shown to promote heart health in a variety of ways, including lowering cholesterol, blood lipid levels, and blood pressure. Studies show that individuals with three or more servings of whole grain foods per day have a 20 to 30 percent lower risk for cardiovascular disease compared to those with lower intakes of whole grains. Whole grains include oatmeal, whole rye, popcorn, cornmeal, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, sorghum, wheat flour, and brown rice. Heart healthy snacks include whole grain cereal, popcorn, and granola made with oats or other whole grains.

Cocoa/Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate and cocoa contain potent antioxidants called flavonoids. These cocoa-derived flavonoids have been shown to help promote the cardiovascular system and decrease overt inflammation. Opt for 55 percent or higher cocoa content when eating dark chocolate or add a teaspoon or two to a smoothie to boost the heart healthy effects of an afternoon smoothie snack.

Once Heart Month and Snack Month is over, I hope you’ll still be inspired by these heart healthy snacks. Just try to prioritize macronutrients like healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates as well as micronutrients and functional foods and keep your snack calorie limits to about 200 calories. Happy snacking!