10 Heart-Healthy Snacks
To Improve Any Diet
It's never too early to start thinking about heart health. According to the CDC, heart disease has been the highest cause of death in America for many years. Eating healthy won't guarantee that you'll avoid heart disease (there are other contributing factors such as age and ethnicity) but replacing unhealthy portions of our daily diets with heart-healthy options can decrease risks and lead to an overall healthier lifestyle. We don't have to sacrifice flavor to make heart-healthy diet changes. Here are 10 heart-healthy snacks that will keep you healthy and satisfy food cravings.
Berries are superfoods. Each berry has its own set of unique superpowers. Perhaps the best and brightest of these berries is the blueberry, especially when it comes to heart health. Researchers are continually providing evidence that blueberries are one of the best health foods, such as this Florida State University study that linked one cup of blueberries per day to reducing high blood pressure.
It's surprising to find out that chocolate is actually healthy, but it's important to know why some chocolate is healthier than others. Really, the only chocolate recommended for heart health is dark chocolate, and only dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa. Although we can't eat a lot of it, it's comforting to know chocolate isn't completely out of the picture when we're trying to eat healthy.
If piles of sunflower seeds in MLB dugouts are any indication, baseball players must have some of the strongest hearts on the planet. As long as those seeds aren't salted. The humble, unsalted sunflower seed is packed with heart-healthy nutrition from massive amounts of Vitamin E to magnesium that's also good for the immune system. Just try not to swallow the pesky shells.
Like berries, nuts are considered to be superfoods. And there are so many to choose from! The simple almond helps cholesterol levels, pistachios can help lower blood pressure, and walnuts can even help keep arteries clear by reducing plaque buildup. Like sunflower seeds, you'll want to stay away from the salty versions. They might taste better, but they're much worse for your heart.
There are a variety of vegetables that help improve heart health, including leafy greens like kale and spinach. But if you're looking for a heart-healthy vegetable that's easy to snack on, you can't miss with carrots. Rich in vitamins that have a direct connection to heart health, carrots have also been known to help lower the risk of obesity and ward off kidney stones. Just make sure to avoid dipping them in fatty sauces like ranch dressing.
For most of us, coffee is as comforting to find on this list as dark chocolate. Many of us need that morning cup of coffee to wake us up or that afternoon cup to get us through the rest of the day. While it was once a common belief that coffee wasn't good for the heart because of the caffeine, researchers have concluded in recent years that coffee in moderation can help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Legumes in general are packed with health benefits. Specifically, because of its high fiber content and presence of omega fatty acids, edamame has been singled out as one of the best foods for heart health. In addition to being a fantastic source of fiber, edamame can also help build strong bones and strengthen the immune system while providing our bodies with a bunch of protein.
We've all heard the popular saying. "An apple a day keeps the doctors away." Scientific evidence probably didn't exist when this phrase started circulating, but it does now, and whoever started saying it was right on the money regarding the apple's health benefits. Specifically, apples were found to help lower bad cholesterol, living up to their highly esteemed reputation.
If you're looking for a warm, heart-healthy beverage and coffee just isn't for you, try green tea. Like coffee, green tea may potentially be linked to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease if incorporated into any diet over a long period of time. However, a Harvard study also reported that an overconsumption of green tea may lead to health issues like kidney stones, which offers an important lesson about moderation regarding any foods we consume, even healthy ones.
In recent years, raisins have been singled out as one of the best overall snacks to eat. In terms of heart health, replacing some of your daily snack cravings with a handful of raisins may help lower blood pressure, particularly in people with blood pressure levels that are higher than normal. It's also one of the easiest snacks to pack up and carry on the go, and tastes good in a variety of other dishes.
Working healthier snacks into our daily diets is one of the easiest ways to get our bodies back on the right track and prevent future health issues, but it's also important to realize that everyone's body and health situation is unique. If you're serious about making dietary changes, consult with your doctor or nutritionist to figure out a plan of action and determine if these heart-healthy snacks will directly benefit you.