It’s no secret that your diet plays a major role in your cardiovascular health. For starters, limiting your intake of things like red meat, fatty fried foods, and high-sugar snacks is a must if you want to keep your heart in tip-top shape. But luckily, there are tons of heart-healthy alternatives that are delicious and great for your overall health. You don’t have to give up snacking for good!
To discover some of the best snacks you can eat daily to give your cardiovascular health a boost, we spoke to Joanna Wen, certified health coach and founder of Spices & Greens. She gave us four of her go-to options: apples, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and (our favorite) dark chocolate. Delicious!
One of the best nutrients to keep mind when it comes to heart health is fiber, and luckily, Wen says snacking on a crisp apple is a fantastic way to get more of it in your diet. "Apples are a great source of fiber, which can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease," she explains. But the heart-healthy benefits don't stop there; Wen points out that this crunchy fruit is also packed with antioxidants, which can protect your body from cellular damage and reduce the risk of certain diseases, including cardiovascular disease. We can't confirm or deny that an apple a day will keep the doctor away, but it can definitely help your health!
Nuts are another fantastic option when it comes to heart-healthy snacks that are both delicious and nutritious. Wen tells us that walnuts, in particular, pack in a great amount of omega-3 fatty acids, "which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease." And just like apples, these crunchy treats "are also a good source of antioxidants and plant-based proteins." You can eat them on their own by the handful or add them to a range of recipes. Try topping your oatmeal with walnuts or baking them into a banana bread for an added bonus that can do wonders for your heart.
3. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkins are healthy for so many reasons thanks to all the incredible nutrients they offer—and as it turns out, their seeds are great for you as well, especially when it comes to heart health! "Pumpkins are a good source of magnesium, which helps to relax blood vessels and reduce blood pressure," Wen explains. In addition to magnesium, these seeds also offer high amounts of iron and zinc, which she tells are "essential for maintaining a healthy heart." You can buy pumpkin seeds at the store or, even better, use the whole fruit by cooking up some pumpkin and roasting the seeds with some salt. Yum!
4. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate is more than just a sweet treat; luckily, it also has its fair share of health benefits, especially when it comes to your heart! "Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, which have been shown to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow," Wen explains. Of course, you shouldn't overdo it on chocolate, but a bit of dark chocolate every now and then can help give your heart health a boost and please your sweet tooth. However, Wen says you should "choose dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa for the most health benefits." Got it!
Ultimately, the best way to help your heart thrive is to maintain a healthy diet, exercise daily, and check in with your doctor regularly to address any issues that may arise. But of course, it doesn't hurt to step up your snack game, and adding these options to the mix is a great idea.