Heart-Healthy Snacks & Treats
Chances are that you, or someone you know, is affected by heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. According to the American Heart Association as of 2019, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading global cause for approximately 18.6 million deaths. In 2018, Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) was the leading cause (42.1%) of deaths attributable to CVD in the US, followed by stroke (17.0%), high blood pressure (11.0%), heart failure (9.6%), diseases of the arteries (2.9%), and other CVD (17.4%) (1)
Though a variety of factors contribute to heart disease, dietary choices are one piece of the puzzle. Finding ways to improve diet can help improve heart health. There has been a popular, yet confusing message being relayed over the past five years that there isn’t a causal relationship between eating saturated fats and heart disease. Scientist aren’t saying that saturated fat is good for you, but perhaps neutral for those that are healthy and active with no disease risk. If you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure or are at high risk for heart disease, you may want to take note of these two key points from the research:
- If you replace saturated fats in your diet (examples: butter, cheese, coconut oil, palm oil) with unsaturated fats (examples: nuts, seeds, fatty fish like tuna and salmon, olive oil, avocados), you may reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. (2)
- If you replace the saturated fats in your diet with low-fiber, fast-digesting carbohydrates (examples: fruit juice, pop, candy, pasta, rice, energy bars), you will likely increase your risk for a heart attack or stroke. (2)
So, don’t be deceived by this message being relayed that saturated fat is good for you; it’s still not “good” for you and when eaten in excess can increase your risk for heart disease leading to a heart attack or stroke. (2)
A heart-healthy diet focuses on several key nutrients. Unsaturated fats, primarily omega-3 fats, should be included daily to promote heart health. Omega-3 fats help unclog arteries and decrease inflammation, both beneficial to heart health. Limiting sodium intake is crucial as well. Reducing sodium can help lower blood pressure and decrease fluid retention. Getting enough fiber is needed, as fiber can help decrease cholesterol levels as well as promote feelings of fullness, which helps decrease overall calorie intake. Monitoring appropriate calorie intake and maintaining a healthy weight is also important, as excess weight can promote inflammation and other physiological processes that are detrimental to heart health.
Snacking is an opportunity to help boost overall daily nutrition intake. Many common snack food choices, however, are a source of “empty” calories. Snack items such as chips and candy are typically high in calories, fat, sugar and sodium, all of which are crucial for those with heart disease to monitor. Snacking in itself is not a “bad” habit to avoid, but making nutrient dense snack choices should be the norm in order to promote heart health. Though there are many dietary factors to consider, heart-healthy snacking does not have to be difficult. The following are examples of heart-healthy snacks that fit our heart-healthy diet criteria:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables: low in calories, source of fiber and antioxidants, which can help decrease inflammation.
- Nuts and seeds: sources of both fiber and unsaturated fats.
- Edamame: can be found both frozen and dried; a good source of both fiber and omega-3s.
- Tuna or salmon packs: low in calories and a good source of omega-3s.
- Low-fat Greek yogurt: lower in saturated fat; also contains minerals that can help lower blood pressure, and probiotics, which promote gut health.
Snackety, snack, snack! All of these options can help you put your snack options together. Throw in this delicious Maple Cinnamon Trail Mix to an afternoon or after-dinner snack to satisfy your hunger, keep you full, and protect your heart, all at the same time!
A Heart-Healthy Treat You Can Make at Home
All you need:
1/3 c. Hy-Vee yellow popcorn kernels
2 tbsp. Hy-Vee Select 100%-pure maple syrup
½ tbsp.. Hy-Vee salted butter, melted
1 tsp. apple pie spice
¼ c. Hy-Vee dried apples, chopped
All you do:
- Heat a heavy 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat; add walnuts. Cook and stir 2 to 3 minutes or until toasted; transfer to a large bowl.
- Add pepitas and pistachios; set aside. Heat avocado oil in same saucepan. Add popcorn kernels and maple syrup; stir to coat. Cover and shake constantly until popping stops. Immediately transfer to bowl with nuts.
- Drizzle with melted butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon and apple pie spice; toss to coat.
- Add raisins and dried apples. Toss to combine.
Do you love to snack as much as we do? Check in with our Hy-Vee Dietitian for more heart-health snack ideas, on-the-go snacks, low-carb snacks, whatever fits your fancy! Sign up for a free, 30-minute discovery session with our Hy-Vee Dietitians here.
*The blog articles, recipes and recommendations found on this site are not intended as medical advice and should not replace consulting with your medical provider. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.
- Alonso, Aparicio, Benjamin, et al.; on behalf of the American Heart Association Council on Epidemiology and Prevention Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2021 update: a report from the American Heart Association [published online ahead of print January 27, 2021]. Circulation. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000950
- Clifton PM, Keogh JB. A systematic review of the effect of dietary saturated and polyunsaturated fat on heart disease. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2017 Dec;27(12):1060-1080. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2017.10.010. Epub 2017 Oct 18. PMID: 29174025. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29174025/