When it comes to fostering optimal cardiovascular functioning, several diets are notable for heart-promoting qualities. From plant-based to Mediterranean, these eating lifestyles place a tremendous emphasis on foods that can to help decrease heart disease risk and provide cardiovascular protection, among other benefits. According to Seattle-based registered dietitian, Ginger Hultin, M.S., RDN, author of Anti-Inflammatory Diet Meal Prep, "when you think about heart health, consider three things: high-fiber foods; unsaturated fatty acids, especially omega-3s; and antioxidants." Luckily, there are loads of good-for-you, heart-friendly snack options that fit this criteria.
Fresh & crunchy snacks.
"You can take a high-fiber fruit like a banana or an apple and add a little peanut or almond butter for heart-healthy, high-fiber, healthy-fat benefits packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants," says Hultin. In particular, apples are an excellent source of bioactive polyphenols and soluble fiber, linked to cardiovascular health. Need an apple breakfast idea? Give this nutrient-rich granola recipe a try!
This water-packed, fiber-rich veggie is a versatile, crunchy option rich in phenolic compounds and touted for its powerful antioxidant properties. Celery is not only simple to eat (and digest) but also easy to carry with you for a snack. You can eat it raw (after a thorough wash) or roasted (who knew?!).
3. Bell peppers
Sweet peppers, capsicums, or chile dulce all refer to the same glorious veggie. Especially rich in vitamin C, antioxidants, and vitamin A (beta carotene), bell peppers make for a great heart-fit option. Just like celery, you can eat peppers raw or roasted.
Nutty, tangy, lusciously smooth, and packed with heart-protective antioxidants, hummus is a beloved dip made from chickpeas, olive oil, and tahini. Here are eleven ways to incite your culinary creativity and reap the benefits of the mighty chickpea dip.
Are you looking for a crispy, nutrient-dense option to satisfy your crunchy cravings? Kale might be the answer! In fact, one study found that eating kale regularly significantly improved participants' coronary artery risk factors (likely in part due to its anti-inflammatory properties). This dark leafy green is a nutritional powerhouse with endless flavorful possibilities. From a spicy dip to a marinated slaw recipe, it's hard to go wrong.
A good source of fiber, popcorn is a whole grain food and famous snack worldwide. Opting for freshly-made popcorn topped with anti-inflammatory turmeric, or vitamin-rich nutritional yeast, is a great way to add these popped grains into your (incredibly delicious) snacking routine.
7. Rice cakes
Rice cakes are made by heating rice grains and puffing them together into cookie-shaped patties. By themselves, rice cakes aren't the most nutrient-rich option, but they be a versatile vehicle for heart-healthy toppings. Try putting a few avocado slices or a spoonful of almond butter on top for a nourishing treat.
"Foods like nuts and seeds contain fiber, omega-3s, and antioxidants, so snacking on a trail-mix or a handful of nuts can be very heart-healthy," says Huitlin—and we couldn't agree more. Reach for a handful of pistachios, almonds, walnuts, macadamia, cashews, or even a spoonful of nut butter—the options are endless for this simple snack packed with heart-healthy fats.
10. Roasted chickpeas
The magic of chickpeas is that besides being a fiber-rich bean, you can enjoy them in so many delicious, varied ways. Looking for a grab and go snack? Try roasted dill chickpeas for a quick healthy lift.
11. Roasted fava beans
Another crispy option that's worth a try. Eating beans has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, contributing to better heart health. For a zesty burst, try tossing them with some sea salt or smoked paprika.
Chock full of vitamins, fatty acids, and minerals, sardines are a convenient, pescatarian snack option to eat for an omega-3 rich boost. You can integrate sardines into your snacking plan by putting a couple on top of toast, rice cakes, or sourdough crackers for a quick bite.
13. Sweet potatoes
A delicious, antioxidant-rich root veggie, sweet potatoes are a great starchy option to nourish your body, support your digestion, and keep you satiated without spiking your blood sugar levels. The best part is that you can prepare them in so many ways—roasted, mashed, or even baked into healthier chips
An Andean, gluten-free rockstar, quinoa is one of the few plant-based sources that contains all nine essential amino acids. Although technically a seed, this antioxidant-rich grain is easy to prepare and readily available across most grocery stores globally. Try this pumpkin quinoa porridge for a potent anti-inflammatory snack.
15. Frozen bananas
Is there anything more delicious than a simple, sweet-tooth satisfying treat? Enter: frozen bananas. Not only are bananas a fiber-packed snack staple, but they come with a bunch of mood-boosting benefits, too. They also make for a great, creamy base for your smoothies, or some quick banana bites.
Raisins (or dehydrated grapes) are a lovely, naturally-sweetened addition to nuts, seeds, yogurt, and beyond! They also make for an excellent iron-packed, heart-friendly snack for your pre or post-workout needs.
The hydrated version of a raisin, grapes (black, red, or green) are an amalgam of polyphenols with potential cardiovascular benefits. Want a refreshing, easy bite sure to keep you satisfied? Give this apple, grape, and celery salad a try!
18. Energy balls
These versatile, protein-rich bites are ideal for heart-friendly snacking. Their mix of good-for-you ingredients (like seeds and nut-butter) is perfect for eating on-the-go. Try these three easy (vegan) energy ball recipes for all-day energy.
19. Chia pudding
Despite their tiny size, chia seeds are are bursting with nutrients, and make for an ultra-satisfying snack. Due to their ability to expand and gel, with just a bit of plant-based milk, chia seeds can transform into a yummy, pudding-like treat.
20. Dark chocolate
Full of heart-healthy flavonols, dark chocolate is an outstanding way to get more antioxidants and other bioactive compounds linked to lower heart disease risk. Opt for some easy, no-bake chocolatey treats.
21. Sparkling & plain water
Water can be another superb way to support your healthy-eating habits. Of course, you can't go wrong with water, but adding just a touch of citrus peel or crisp mint leaves might add a bit of bonus satisfaction to yourhydrating drink.
A blank canvas to supercharge your well-being, smoothies can offer a great combination of fiber, omega-3s, vitamins, and antioxidants, to name a few. Choosing wholesome ingredients for your go-to blend is vital to making the best of these heart-friendly snacks. Consider these healthy smoothie recipes for inspiration.
A blissful cup of café as a healthful snack option? Absolutely! In fact, research published in the American Heart Association (AHA) journal Circulation: Heart Failure suggests drinking coffee may have heart-health benefits. What's more, a cup of java may support brain function and give you a nice energy push when you need it most.
24. Hot cocoa
Cocoa's plethora of health-associated benefits range from from promoting brain health to supporting mood. Cocao flavanols can also help improve blood flow and support healthy blood pressure. As a mood-boosting treat, sipping on healthy hot cocoa might be your best belly-warming, chocolatey treat.
Mindfully snacking on heart-healthy foods is an important part of supporting your overall well-being. When it comes to cardiovascular health, other lifestyle factors such as physical exercise and proper rest can also play a role. So next time you reach for a snack, consider a healthy bite that will keep you (and your heart) beating strong.