According to our 2022 Food and Health Survey, 73% of consumers report snacking at least once a day, an increase from the 58% who said the same in 2021. The same survey found that 28% are seeking out heart and cardiovascular health benefits from their food choices. Let’s bridge the gap and share a few heart-healthy snacks.
Nuts are full of healthy fats, including mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Research suggests that eating 1.5 ounces of most nuts per day as part of a low-saturated-fat diet may reduce the risk of heart disease. And with nuts, there are also a ton of options to meet your taste preferences: Peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, and walnuts are just a few common varieties of nuts. Nuts also pack in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals; have a long shelf life; and are portable, making them a great on-the-go snack option.
Including fat-free and low-fat dairy products in your diet is recommended for an overall healthy dietary pattern that also supports heart health. Just keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you should avoid fat altogether, especially healthy unsaturated fats like those found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and fatty fish. Besides milk, dairy products include yogurt, cheese, and fortified soymilk, which are sources of protein and micronutrients like calcium, potassium and vitamin D. Some go-to dairy snacks include yogurt cups, string cheese, or snack-sized milk or soymilk.
Whole grains have been shown to promote heart health in a variety of ways, including by lowering cholesterol, blood lipid levels, and blood pressure. Studies show that individuals with three or more servings of whole-grain foods per day have a 20 to 30 percent lower risk for cardiovascular disease compared with those who have lower intakes of whole grains. Whole grains include oatmeal, whole rye, popcorn, cornmeal, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, sorghum, wheat flour, and brown rice. Heart-healthy whole-grain snacks include whole-grain cereal, popcorn, and granola made with oats or other whole grains.
Cocoa and Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate and cocoa contain potent antioxidants called flavonoids. Cocoa-derived flavonoids have been shown to help promote the cardiovascular system and decrease inflammation. When choosing a dark chocolate, opt for 55 percent or higher cocoa content; or, add a teaspoon or two of cocoa to a protein smoothie to boost the heart-healthy effects of your afternoon snack.
Snack smart with these additional tips:
- Utilize mindful snacking by checking in with your hunger cues before you reach for a snack. Use our Eat-Mojis hunger scale to help assess your hunger.
- It’s not necessary to meticulously count calories in order to follow a nutritious eating pattern, but estimating your snacks to be about 200–300 calories each can help you maintain healthy portion sizes.
- Practice food safety by keeping perishable foods refrigerated; or, if you’re traveling, in a cooler with ice packs to reduce the risk of food poisoning.
- Combine a variety of food groups to make snacks satisfying and tasty! For example, combine whole-grain crackers with raw veggies and cheese or nuts.