Top Heart Healthy Snacks
When you hear the word “snack”, what do you think of? Probably candy, chips or something kind of junky. But there are also many nutrient-packed snacks that can actually help reduce risk of disease. Since February is Heart Month, I’m focusing on snacks that help lower cholesterol, blood pressure and overall risk of heart disease. I tried to pick a variety of snacks to help meet your cravings – salty, crunchy, nutty and sweet. Keep in mind that some snacks will be healthier than others. Read on to get over 25 ideas for heart healthy snacks.
Guidelines for choosing heart healthy snacks
- High in fiber. Fiber, especially soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol. It also promotes a healthy gut. Studies are suggesting that a healthy gut microbiome has a positive impact on heart health.
- Low in added sugar. Studies have shown that getting too much added sugar in your diet could significantly increase your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. In addition, it contain empty calories.
- Good sources of potassium, calcium and magnesium. Research has shown that foods rich in these nutrients, found in the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), can lower blood pressure.
- Rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are found in many fruits, vegetables and whole grains. They have numerous health benefits, including keeping blood vessels healthy.
- Low in trans fats. Trans fats are formed during food processing when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil (a process called hydrogenation) to make it more solid.Trans fats are found in some processed snack foods, coffee creamers and stick margarine. This chemically altered fat raises LDL and lowers HDL. So read food labels for “partially hydrogenated fats” and steer clear! The FDA has banned trans fats from foods so you should not be seeing them anymore!
- Low in saturated fat. Saturated fats have been shown to raise LDL “bad” cholesterol in some people. Instead, choose foods containing heart healthy fats including monounsaturated fats (found in olive oil, nuts and avocado) and polyunsaturated fats (found in nuts, seeds and flaxseeds).
- Low in sodium. Sodium can raise blood pressure.
- Contain soy protein. Some studies have suggested that soy protein may play a role in lowering risk of heart disease when substituted for foods high in saturated fat
- Calorie controlled. 66% of the population is overweight or obese. Excess body weight can increase risk of heart disease. I often suggest snacks be kept under 200 calories if your are trying to watch your weight.
Top heart healthy snacks for 175 calories or less
*Fruits are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants to promote heart health.
Nutrition facts: A serving of fruit (an average size piece of fruit or cup of fruit) contains approximately 80 calories, 20 gm carbs, 3 gm fiber, negligible sodium and fat.
*Similar benefits of fruit, but they are even lower in calories and carbs
- Medium apple and peanut butter (or almond butter), 2 teaspoons
*The soluble fiber in apples and heart healthy fat in peanut butter may help lower cholesterol.
Nutrition facts: 150 calories, 6 gm fat, 3 gm fiber, 0 – 50 mg sodium, 18 gm carbohydrate
- 15 almonds and 8 dried apricots
*Almonds contain heart healthy unsaturated fats and are a good source of fiber, magnesium and potassium. The dried apricots are also a good source of fiber, potassium. But keep your portions in check as the calories from nuts and dried fruit add up quickly!
Nutrition facts: 175 cal, 9 gm fat, 5 gm fiber, 2 mg sodium, 19 gm carbohydrates
- 49 pistachio nuts, 1 oz (or 1 oz of any nut, 1/4 cup unshelled)
*Pistachios contain fiber and heart healthy fats. You also get to eat 49 of them for one portion! Buy the ones in the shell as they take longer to eat! Look for unsalted nuts.
Nutrition facts: 160 calories, 13 gm fat, 3 gm fiber, 0 mg sodium, 8 gm carbohydrate
- Edemame, 1 ½ cups in the pod
*The potassium and magnesium will lower blood pressure, where the soy protein and fiber may help lower cholesterol.
Nutrition facts: 155 calories, 3 gm fat, 6 gm fiber, 18 mg sodium, 14 gm carbohydrate
- 4 T. hummus and 1 ½ cups baby carrots
* Hummus contains soluble fiber, monounsaturated fat and fiber which may lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Carrots contain fiber and antioxidants.
Nutrition facts: 190 calories, 5 gm fat, 11 gm fiber, 260 mg sodium (depends on the brand of hummus), 29 gm carbohydratesCRUNCHY
- Healthy chips, crackers, tortillas
Chips and crackers have come a long way. You can find many healthy options made from lentils, beans, whole grains, and seeds. Look for whole grains on the label, no hydrogenated fats, at least 3 grams of fiber and maybe some other heart healthy ingredients thrown in like nuts, seeds (including chia, hemp or flax). Ideally sodium content would be less than 200 mg.
*Good sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Nutrition facts will very depending on the chip. On average: 140 calories, 2-7 gm fiber, sodium varies, 12-20 gm carbohydrates. Some of my favorite products are:
– Way Better Tortilla Chips: Multigrain + Black Bean (80 mg sodium)
– Beanfields Black Bean chips (110 mg sodium)
– Popcorners Veggie Crisps, made from chickpea flour (190 mg sodium)
– Siete Grain Free Tortilla Chips ( 0 mg sodium)
– Siete chick pea flour tortilla (120 mg sodium)
– Ryvita, Wasa, GG crackers
– Flackers (110 gm sodium)
– Crunchmasters (90 mg sodium)
– Forager Organic Vegetable Chips, Greens (95 mg sodium)
– Beanitos Pinto Sea Salt Chips. (115 mg sodium)
– Rhythm Naked Beet Chips (130 mg sodium)
Forgot about the artery clogging dips and spreads made from sour cream or cream cheese. The dips and spreads below actually have heart health benefits. Pair them with veggies (best choice) or your favorite healthy cracker or chip to make a filling snack.
- Salsa. Very low in calories, Read food labels as some brands can be high in sodium. Nutrition facts: 2 Tablespoons: 10 cal, 0 gm fat, 1 gm fiber, 1 gm carbs, 100 mg sodium – or less
- Hummus. Hummus contains soluble fiber, monounsaturated fat and protein which may lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Nutrition facts: 2 Tablespoons: 70 cal, 5 gm fat, 4 gm carbs, 2 gm fiber, 95 mg sodium – or less
- Guacamole. Avocados contain heart healthy unsaturated fats, fiber and potassium which may cholesterol and blood pressure.
Nutrition facts: 2 Tablespoons: 50 cal, 4 gm fat, 3 gm carbs, 2 gm fiber, 100 mg sodium or less
- Bean Dip. Contains protein and fiber to help keep you feeling full. The soluble fiber helps to lower cholesterol.
Nutrition facts: 2 T. 35 cal, 1 gm fat, 2 gm fiber, sodium 190 mg
- Nut Butters. Look for all natural nut butters with only one ingredients. Avoid those with added sugar, hydrogenated fats or salt. The heart healthy fats and protein help keep you feeling full longer.
Nutrition facts: 2 Tablespoons: 190 cal, 16 gm fat, 7 gm carbs, 3 gm fiber, 100 mg sodium – or less if no added salt)
- Tortilla chips (3/4 oz) with guacamole, 3 T.
*Avocados contain heart healthy unsaturated fats, fiber and potassium which may cholesterol and blood pressure. Pick a healthy chip (see guidelines above).
Nutrition facts (approximate): 165 calories, 10 gm fat, 4 gm fiber, 266 mg sodium, 16 gm carbohydrates
- Tortilla chips and bean dip, 4 T.
*Beans contains protein and fiber to help keep you feeling full. The soluble fiber helps to lower cholesterol.
9 Siete Grain Free Tortilla Chips (no salt) with ¼ cup of betterbeanco
Nutrition facts: 230 calories, 4 gm fiber, 130 mg sodium, 29 gm carbohydrates
- Roasted chickpeas (1/3 cup)
Looking for a crunchy snack with health benefits? Make your own
or buy a commercial brand (check label for sodium)
*Chick peas contain fiber, folate, protein and disease fighting phytochemicals. (photo credit)
Nutrition facts: 140 calories, 4 gm fat, 5 gm fiber, 200 mg sodium (or less), 19 gm carbs
- 1/2 cup nonfat cottage cheese and 1 cup strawberries
*The berries have vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, and the fat-free cottage cheese provides protein and calcium.
Nutrition facts: 80 calories, 3 gm fiber, 211 mg sodium, 14 gm carbohydrates, 0 gm fiber
- Nonfat yogurt, 6 oz, 1 T. ground flaxseed and ½ cup blueberries
*The calcium in the yogurt, fiber and heart healthy fat in the flaxseeds and fiber and antioxidants in the blueberries make this a “triple heart smart” snack! (photo credit)
Nutrition facts: 190 calories, 4 gm fiber, 122 mg sodium, 24 gm carbohydrate
- Dark chocolate, one ounce
*The antioxidants in dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Choose dark chocolate consisting of at least 70percent cocoa – and be careful to watch your portion size as the calories add up quickly!
Nutrition facts: 150 calories, 9 gm fat, 1 gm fiber, 22 mg sodium, 17 gm carbohydrate
- Homemade trail mix
Mix 1 T. of dark chocolate chips, 10 almonds and 2 T. of raisins. *The dark chocolate in this sweet and savory snack contains antioxidants, while the almonds contain heart healthy unsaturated fat, fiber, magnesium and potassium. Nutrition facts: 195 calories, 11 gm fat, 2.2 gm fiber, 2 mg sodium, 22 gm carbohydrates (photo credit
- Homemade dark chocolate mousse
Not your typical fat and calorie laden dessert! 6 oz non-fat Greek yogurt, 2 tsp. dark chocolate baking powder, 2 tsp cacoa nibs and a dash of your favorite sweetener (if desired). *In addition to protein, Greek yogurt contains calcium important for heart health, dark chocolate baking powder and cacao nibs contain magnesium and antioxidants for a healthy blood pressure and blood vessels.
Nutrition facts: 160 calories, 2.5 gm fiber, 108 mg sodium, 20 gm carbohydrates
- Cinnamon oat peanut butter bliss balls (ingredients below)
*Peanut butter contains protein and heart healthy fats to keep you fuller for longer. The fiber in the seeds help to lower cholesterol and the omega-3 fatty acids promote heart health. The oats help to lower cholesterol.
Step 1: Mix everything in a food processor: 1 cup of dry oats, ½ cup of peanut butter (opt for 1 ingredient peanut butters, many have added processed ingredients or salt), ½ cup dates (place in boiling water for 5-10 minutes to soften them if they are too hard), 1 tbsp. of ground flaxseed, ½ tbsp. of chia seeds, 1 tsp. of vanilla extract, 1/2 tbsp. of cinnamon.
Step 2: Take mixture and form 10 balls, store in refrigerator!
Nutrition fact for 1 ball: 145 calories, 3 gm fiber, 60 mg sodium, 15 gm carbohydrates. SHAKES/SMOOTHIES/GREEN JUICE
(using soy, almond, hemp, nonfat or 1% fat milk) and 1 ½ cups strawberries
*The soy milk contains soy protein and calcium (assuming it is fortified) and the strawberries contain fiber and antioxidants.
Nutrition facts (depend on the milk) for soy milk: 120-160 calories, 4 gm fat, 6 gm fiber, 118 mg sodium, 31 gm carbohydrates
- Protein smoothie
½ frozen banana, ½ cup of almond milk, 1 handful of spinach, ¼ cup of blueberries or strawberries, ½ scoop of protein powder. Pro tip: if you like your smoothies extra thick, add a few frozen cauliflower florets, you can’t even taste it!
*Bananas are rich in potassium to help regulate blood pressure, spinach contains many nutrients including fiber, potassium, folic acid, Vit K, calcium and antioxidants. Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants.
Nutrition facts: 200 calories, 3 gm fiber, 50 mg sodium, 20 gm carbohydrates.
- Green Juice
*Contain vitamins and minerals important for heart health including potassium, Vit K, folic acid and antioxidants. Make your own or buy a commercial juice. My favorite commercial drink is Pure Greens.
While fruit, veggies and nuts are my favorite heart healthy snack, there are numerous other options to choose from. And they’re good for your whole family (or the guests when you are entertaining)!
What are your favorite heart healthy snacks?
I especially love problem-solving, whether it’s helping women defeat issues plaguing them for years, helping a busy executive find practical ways to get heart healthy, or providing tips to help you reverse diabetes. That’s why I’m on a constant quest to expand my knowledge by staying on top of the latest research.