5 Heart Healthy Snacks
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
Snacking, however, gets a bad rap, mostly due to the prepackaged snack foods out there that are teeming with preservatives, sugar, salt, and trans fats. Worst of all, most of these snacks lack any real nutritional value and can be incredibly unhealthy for your heart. They take the place of nutrients in your diet that can help your body thrive and, instead, place a heavier burden on your body to eliminate the waste. These ingredients can lead to conditions that support chronic illness, like cardiovascular disease.
Heart health is important for everyone, whether or not you carry a higher risk of developing heart disease. Keeping your heart healthy is an easy task when you understand what heart health is, what you can do to keep your heart healthy, and what can happen if your heart becomes unhealthy.
Thankfully, snacks don’t have to be bad for your heart. We’ve got 7 heart-healthy snack ideas to satisfy your cravings (even your sweet tooth), keep you full, and protect your ticker.
First, let’s talk about what makes our heart healthy.
What Is Heart Health?
Heart health is a combination of understanding what the heart does, and taking steps to ensure it can continue to work properly.
The heart muscle pumps blood to every other part of your body. The blood supply carries with it oxygen, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to ensure every organ gets the nourishment it needs to function properly. To accomplish this massive task, your heart beats about 2.5 billion times in your lifetime.
What Goes Wrong?
Without our interference, and barring any genetic disorder or congenital defect, our heart functions quite well. The problem is… us.
Through poor diets, bad lifestyle habits, and lack of movement, we reap negative health conditions on our bodies that burden our hearts and cause them to become sick and diseased. The standard American diet is packed with trans fats, added sugar, and excess salt. These three ingredients are all bad for our hearts and bodies, and consuming them can also lead to unhealthy weight gain.
The most common form of heart disease is coronary artery disease. This disease, characterized by the buildup of plaque in the arteries, starts as atherosclerosis. As unhealthy LDLcholesterol molecules build in our bloodstream, they stick to the walls of our arteries, causing blood vessels to narrow. This causes a partial or full block of the blood flow the heart would normally pump to the body through these vessels.
Heart disease has been the number one cause of death in the United States for more than 80 years. Although dietary guidelines changed in the 1970s recommending we decrease our intake of fats, especially saturated fats, to help support healthier hearts, the guidelines failed us. Now, it’s up to us to reclaim our health, support our bodies, and support better heart health. It’s time to learn how to fight back, one snack at a time.
Promoting Heart Health
Keeping our hearts healthy involves understanding our risk of heart disease as well as making good decisions that will benefit our cardiovascular health.
Understanding Our Risk
Every person’s risk of developing heart disease and heart-related illnesses varies. If you are born with a congenital heart defect, for instance, the way you approach your heart health will be different from someone who does not have that defect.
However, underlying medical conditions that, in many cases, are preventable can also increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease.
- Type 2 diabetes. High blood sugar levels degrade the blood vessels and heart. Having high blood sugar can also be accompanied by other unhealthy conditions that make it more likely you’ll develop heart disease.
- High blood pressure. Your blood pressure refers to the pressure of the blood inside your veins. When your veins are constricted, your blood pressure rises, which places an undue burden on the heart as it attempts to pump blood.Lower blood pressure levels are desirable for reducing your risk factors for heart disease. Aim for blood pressure readings of lower than 120/80 mmHg to keep yourself within a healthy range.
- Unhealthy cholesterol. High LDLcholesterol can increase your chance of atherosclerosis, which can lead to cardiovascular disease. Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is crucial for your heart health. Choosing healthier snacks and incorporating regular exercise can help you lower cholesterol levels.
In addition to these health concerns, maintaining a healthy weight is important for keeping your heart healthy and strong. The snacks you pick can help you establish a healthy baseline weight and hold it steady.
Making Better Choices
Once you understand your risk, you can make decisions that will effectively lower your risk.
Eating a healthy diet packed with vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and whole grainswill benefit your heart and help you maintain a healthy weight.
Getting enough movement each day is also important. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week in addition to resistance exercises.
Last but certainly not least, getting regular check-ups with your healthcare provider is key to ensuring your heart is healthy and noticing any changes that need addressing.
Making better choices starts with one decision at a time. Opting for heart-healthy snacks is one way to support your heart and fuel your body. Healthy eating can be a challenge, but these snacks make it easy (and delicious) to adopt a heart-healthy diet.
7 Snacks That Your Heart Will Love
Heart-healthy snacks can be wholesome, nutritious, and packed with flavor. These five snacks will keep you full and will help keep your blood sugar steady so you don’t have an energy crash after you eat.
1. Veggies and Hummus
Raw vegetables may not sound that appealing at first, but they’re packed with heart-healthy nutrients and fiber to keep you full. Cherry tomatoes, cucumber, baby carrots, and snap peas are all portable, easy-to-prepare veggies that go great with your favorite chickpea spread, aka hummus!
You can easily change this snack by experimenting with different flavors of hummus. (Be aware that some hummus flavors can hide added sugar and sodium!)
Bonus points for using edamame, which is full of heart-loving magnesium and potassium.
Want to try your hand at making your own hummus? This easy recipe combines chickpeas, olive oil, tahini, and spices to make an easy hummus that also includes variations with heart-healthy foods (like roasted red pepper and garlic).
2. Fruit and Nut Butter
Fruit is delicious on its own, chock full of protective antioxidants and vitamins. Adding your favorite nut butter like almond butter or peanut butter adds protein, healthy fat, and keeps you full. Just be mindful of how much nut butter you add — 2 tbsp of peanut butter is close to 200 calories on its own!
Apple slices, bananas, and even pears work well for this wholesome snack. Not much of a fruit dipper? That’s okay. A divided container of berries and nut butter also makes a great sweet and protein-packed snack.
3. Nuts and Seeds
It can be tricky to eat nuts and seeds as a snack. They have plenty of protein and healthy fat, but if they’re roasted they may hide a lot of extra salt. It’s also really easy to overeat nuts and seeds. Remember that about a palm-full of nuts and seeds is already one serving. Many options are available without salt, or in lightly salted versions to help you keep your low-sodium dietary goals.
Cashews, peanuts, almonds, and walnuts all contain vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber, which are known to have heart health benefits.
Consider adding pumpkin seeds, almonds, chia seeds, and sunflower seeds to the top of a salad, or on top of Greek yogurt. You can even make your own granola by combining them all and adding in dark chocolate pieces and/or raisins. This is a much better option than buying a pre-packaged trail mix, which usually contains a lot of added sugar.
4. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate has antioxidants that are beneficial for protecting the cells of your heart against oxidative stress. As with most everything, you only need a little. One ounce of dark chocolate (or approximately two small squares) is considered a serving.
The darker your chocolate, the better it is for your heart health. Have it alongside your matcha or coffee for the perfect bit of sweetness.
5. Whole-Grain Toast
A single slice of whole-grain toast and peanut butter can be a filling and hearty snack that packs in fiber, heart-healthy grains, and protein. If you’re really craving something sweet, top with a few banana slices. Whole wheat toast is also the perfect canvas for smashed avocado, a drizzle of olive oil, and red pepper flakes, which makes for a delicious, heart-healthy snack.
Don’t have access to a toaster at work? Opt for whole-grain crackers instead. The childhood combination you love is still a delicious snack that is healthy for your heart.
6. Fresh Fruit
When you have a sweet tooth, it feels like nothing will suffice but a comforting, sugary indulgence. Thankfully, you don’t have to eat pastries and donuts to satisfy your cravings, which could mean a hefty uptake of the unhealthy, even-chain saturated fats and trans fats.
Instead, opt for the sweet goodness of fresh fruit. Blueberries and strawberries, for instance, have been studied for their potential positive effects on blood vessels. They offer antioxidant protection that can help support blood vessel health and reduce your risk of heart attack and other heart-related illnesses.
If you don’t like fresh fruit by itself, consider mixing it into a smoothie, topping off your morning yogurt with a handful of berries, or adding them to your lunchtime salad. Bonus points if your salad contains kale, a leafy green veggie that contains plenty of heart-healthy, plant-based fiber.
7. Roasted Chickpeas
If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to potato chips that will still give you that same delicious crunch and flavor, roasted chickpeas are a solid option. They’re gluten-free, packed with fiber and plant-based protein, and can be eaten alone as a snack or used on top of salads.
You can buy roasted chickpeas at your favorite health food store, but you can also easily make them at home. This recipe offers basic instructions on how to roast them, and also a few variations for different flavors. Be aware that some of the variations contain added sugar. You can avoid this by adding stevia leaf extract or by choosing a different seasoning blend.
Leveling up your snack time routine can help you fill in gaps in your diet, protect your heart, and even maintain a healthy weight.
When you’re ready to take another step towards optimizing your heart health, consider a supplement. We’d recommend C15:0, which has been shown to promote your heart health, and be better, safer, and broader than the purest omega-3 fatty acid supplements available.
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that have led the heart-healthy supplement market for decades. However, research into their efficacy compared to another essential fatty acid, C15:0, shows that there are some concerns to be aware of.
First, only one omega-3 is actually essential, and that is ALA. However, the benefits that come with popular omega-3 supplements (like fish oil) are usually from EPA, an omega-3 that is not considered essential. When stacked against C15:0, it simply wasn’t as safe or effective. A peer-reviewed study published in the Public Library of Science in 2022 found:
- C15:0 was safer for 12 cell types studied, while omega-3 was toxic to four of them (including lung and blood vessel cells).
- C15:0 helped safely repair 10 of 12 cell types. Omega-3 could only safely repair four.
- C15:0 had 26 more clinically relevant benefits than omega-3, making it broader and better for your body.
In addition, fish oil capsules can become rancid on store shelves, just like cooking oil that stays on a shelf too long. Too much omega-3 can also lead to unhealthy conditions like excessive bleeding if an injury were to occur, bruising easily, thinning of the blood, and unhealthy low blood pressure.
Instead, C15:0 supports your heart health without the negative side effects.
C15:0: The Basics
C15:0, aka pentadecanoic acid, is an odd-chain, saturated fatty acid that science supports is the first essential fatty acid to have been discovered since the omega-3 fatty acids over 90 years ago.
Further, higher levels of C15:0 has been repeatedly associated with healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as improved heart health.
C15:0 helps support your health by nourishing your cells, the very foundation of every organ, tissue, and system in our bodies.* When our cells are healthy and functioning properly, our bodies are healthy and properly functioning.
Supporting our cellular health is important, especially as we get older. When our cells age, they begin to lose function, which translates into age-related illnesses, including those that affect the heart.
C15:0 supports your cells in three important ways:*
- Stronger cell membranes. As our cells age, their protective membranes become weak and flimsy. Weaker cell membranes can mean a higher risk of oxidative stress, which can lead to faster declines in health sooner. C15:0 is a sturdy fatty acid that integrates into our cell membranes, keeping them fortified and strong.
- Improved cardiometabolic health. C15:0 naturally binds to receptors found throughout our bodies, called PPARs, that help to regulate our metabolism, including our cholesterol and glucose levels. Fatty15 supplementation can help to promote healthy cholesterol, triglyceride homeostasis, and heart health.
- Better mitochondrial function. Aging cells have sluggish mitochondria. When our mitochondria are sluggish, our cells can’t carry out their processes as efficiently because they’re not getting the fuel they need to thrive. C15:0 increases mitochondrial function by up to 45%.
Increasing Cellular Energy. In a peer-reviewed study looking at hair follicles, C15:0 increased ATP levels (the energy molecule) by 350%, making it possible for your cells to carry out more cellular functions more efficiently, which translates into more energy for your entire body.
Clearing Damaged Cells. By activating AMPK, a molecule that clears away damaged cells and helps restore balance, C15:0 helps ensure your cells are free from garbage.
Restoring Balance. When AMPK is activated, blood glucose levels are supported and recalibrated, our immune systems calm down, and our entire body goes back to homeostasis.
Regulating Inflammatory Response. C15:0 calms and lowers pro-inflammatory cytokines, which drive our cells to age faster than they should.
All these benefits add up to helping reverse the aging process in your cells, which translates into you feeling more like you did a decade ago. Adding C15:0 to your health stack is one of the smartest things you can do for your heart health and the health of your entire body.
C15:0 is an essential fatty acid, but since it’s found mostly in whole-fat dairy products, getting the amount you need can be tricky. After all, if you add in more whole-fat dairy, you're also adding more calories, more sugar, and unhealthy fats. That’s where a C15:0 supplement could come into play.
You see, C15:0 attaches to branches of lipids or triacylglycerides. Our gut goes to work, breaking down these triacylglycerides to release C15:0 as a free fatty acid, ready for absorption. If that sounds like a lot of trouble (and not so efficient), it is.
So, we include the pure, unattached version of C15:0 as FA15™ in fatty15, the pure-powder, vegan-friendly, sustainably-produced, award-winning supplement.
It’s a simple way to get the good fat, without the bad fat, sugars (aka lactose), or extra calories of whole-fat dairy products. Fatty15 is easier for your body to use and a great way to decrease cow and cattle reliance (and the general methane production issues surrounding them).
Best of all, fatty15 is a vegan-friendly choice to get C15:0, with just one calorie per dose. We do have to mention that there is one known side effect of taking fatty15 daily: decreased snacking between meals. Taking fatty15 everyday could help you eliminate your between-meal cravings, or make it possible for you to make heart-healthier choices, like the ones above, when you do need a midday pick-me-up.
Fatty15 is the smart, once-a-day capsule that contains just one simple ingredient: the pure, vegan-friendly version of C15:0.
Sustainably sourced, just one capsule per day is enough to restore your levels of C15:0 and give your cells a chance to thrive as you age.*
Snacking is back on the menu, and so is fat. Grab your favorite heart-healthy snack and add fatty15 to your health stack as the smart way to feel healthier and age smarter.*
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.
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