Heart health is an important consideration as we get older, and for good reason. One in four American deaths is the result of cardiovascular disease (heart attack or stroke). While certain aspects of heart health are certainly the result of genetics, most of us will derive our heart health (or lack thereof) from diet and lifestyle. Changing diet alone may be enough to stop cardiovascular damage in its tracks, possibly lengthening your life.
It should be obvious to anyone who knows anything about food and health that a diet primarily composed of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and nuts will form the foundation of a healthy life. However, there is often a question about what to eat between meals. How do we snack for heart health?
What Snacks Are Good For Heart Health?
Foods high in cholesterol are obviously not a good idea if you’re trying to improve your heart health. Cholesterol is a waxy substance within the food that is transported through the blood. It’s essential in limited quantities for life and energy, but when it is too plentiful in the blood, it tends to build up as plaque in the arteries. This plaque restricts blood flow, which can cause high blood pressure and arterial tension. If the blood is blocked completely all of a sudden, this causes a heart attack or stroke.
Foods like eggs (the yolks, specifically), butter, fatty meat (such as bacon, red meat, and skin-on chicken), shrimp, liver, fried food, and fast food are all high in cholesterol. Eating these will increase the cholesterol in your system, and thereby the cholesterol free-floating in your blood.
However, foods high in saturated fat but not high in cholesterol may also raise your blood cholesterol. Peanut butter, for example, has barely any cholesterol, but more saturated fats. Saturated fat adversely affects your liver’s ability to remove cholesterol from the blood, thus increasing the amount of cholesterol in your blood overall.
Therefore, a heart-healthy snack would be one that has low saturated fats and low cholesterol. What foods fit the bill?
Anything With Fiber
Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber. Cholesterol is expelled from the body through feces, and fiber forms the bulk of healthy poop. The more fiber you have in your system, the more surface area cholesterol has to “grab onto.” Fruits and veggies may have the secondary benefit of improving the health of your liver, and thereby its ability to efficiently remove cholesterol from the bloodstream.
Raw and lightly roasted nuts can be a satisfying treat, with healthy fats that don’t raise your unhealthy cholesterol. Be careful not to overindulge because nuts are also high in calories, at least by weight, but a handful here and there can definitely help you beat food cravings between meals.
Tuna or Salmon
Tuna and salmon are rich in the kind of fat that’s actually good for your cardiovascular system. Enjoy this savory protein with whole wheat crackers for some extra fiber.
Fat Free Cheese
Since saturated fats are the thing that makes most cheeses unfit for a heart healthy diet, fat free cheese is just fine. It might not be as decadent as your favorite pizza topping, but it’s better for your ticker in the long haul.
To further supplement your heart healthy snacking, sprinkle some Raw Organics Super Omega-3 Flax & Fruit from Garden of Life on your cereal, oatmeal, or salad. You may also consider Choleast-900 Red Yeast Rice from Thorne Research to add more dietary fiber and to your diet. Finally, Healthy Cholesterol with Amla from Terry Naturally may help you to maintain cholesterol levels within the normal range.
Altogether, these methods should dramatically move the needle at your next heart health checkup!