You can protect your heart by taking preventative measures that include quitting smoking, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight. Eating a heart-healthy diet, which involves limiting saturated and trans fats and piling more heart-friendly foods on your plate, is also important. Read on to discover heart-healthy snacking options.
Oatmeal, air-popped popcorn, dried wasabi peas and roasted garbanzo beans all contain soluble fiber. Not only does it help to sweep bad LDL cholesterol from the body, but it also helps to boost good HDL cholesterol and protect the heart. It also keeps blood sugar stable, helping you to avoid those unexpected hunger pangs in between meals.
The body needs Omega-3 fatty acids to maintain heart health. Like the soluble fiber, it helps to raise HDL cholesterol -- the "good" cholesterol that helps to protect you from heart attacks and strokes. Omega-3s also help to regulate heart rate, lower blood pressure and improve blood flow through arteries. Snack on walnuts, almonds, an individual serving of albacore tuna or salmon. Or add flax to your oatmeal, yogurt or smoothie for an added omega boost.
Strawberries, citrus fruits, bananas and blueberries are just a few of the many fresh-snack options for optimal heart health. Instead of the unhealthy fats and calories found in more conventional sweet snacks, these treats are packed with potassium, antioxidants and B vitamins and help to lower blood pressure and reduce homocysteine levels, a compound in the blood that is associated with the underlying cause of heart disease. Not in the mood for fruit? Dark chocolate is a great source of flavonoids -- compounds that work as antioxidants in the body and help to lower blood pressure and improve the ability of insulin to lower blood sugar.
Snacking on veggies is a great way to get the vitamins and nutrients you need in a day, while controlling your hunger. Eat leafy-greens for folate, or folic acid -- one of the B vitamins that works especially hard for your heart. Try kale chips as a heart-healthy snack, or experiment with new veggie and dip combinations like lemon-dill dip with asparagus and broccoli.
Instead of heavier options like ice cream or cheese, try snacking on low-fat yogurt or fat-free cottage cheese with your favorite fruit topping. These satisfying options are low in saturated fat, but still provide a good balance of carbohydrates and protein.
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