Heart-Healthy Snacks That Can Satisfy Every Craving

Although snacking is satisfying, it can also be unhealthy. Salt and sugar cravings lead people to eat chips and cookies, but there are healthier alternatives that could benefit your heart. For instance, kale chips satisfy salt cravings while improving cholesterol, and watermelon quenches the thirst for sweetness. To decrease your risk of heart disease, check out these satisfying and science-backed snacks.

Kale Chips Can Replace Less Healthy Fried Chips

A chef dishes kale chips from a baking pan into a glass container.
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Like other fried foods, chips can be dangerous for your heart. Chinese researchers discovered that people who eat fried foods regularly have a 37% higher risk of heart failure. So how can you get a salty, crunchy snack? Replace it with kale chips.

Kale improves your cholesterol levels, which in turn helps your heart, according to a 2008 study in Biomedical and Environmental Sciences. Chop up kale, drizzle it with olive oil, and bake at 275°F for 20 minutes. Remove the chips and drizzle them with a little bit of salt, and you’ll have healthy chips!

Oatmeal Is Heartwarming

A bowl of oatmeal sits next to a mug and a pot of coffee.
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Aneta Pawlik/Unsplash

Oatmeal isn’t just for breakfast; it can also make a delicious, fiber-filled snack. According to the British Journal of Nutrition, people who eat oats throughout their life have better cholesterol levels. An occasional bowl of oatmeal may reduce your chances of cardiovascular disease.

Registered dietitian Lisa Valente advises against buying flavored oatmeal. These include added sugars that outweigh the oats’ benefits. Instead, flavor oatmeal yourself with cinnamon, vanilla extract, fruits, nuts, cocoa powder, mashed banana, or protein powder. You can enjoy any flavor during any time of day.

Trail Mix Fit Perfectly Into A Heart-Healthy Diet

A blue diagram shows the inside of a human heart.
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BSIP/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Trail mix isn’t just for hikes; it can also be a tasty, protein-filled snack. It provides a wide variety of nuts that can benefit your heart. In 2017, a study from the American College of Cardiology found that people who eat more nuts tend to have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Thank the heart-healthy fats in peanuts, walnuts, and tree nuts.

Dried fruit also improves your health. In 2020, researchers from Penn State discovered that people who eat dried fruit tend to have a healthier diet overall. Get a trail mix with dark chocolate instead of M&Ms.

Daily Almonds Could Prevent Heart Disease, Research Says

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Fiorella Bianchi/Pinterest

Out of all the nuts, almonds are perhaps the most heart-healthy. In 2020, research in The BMC examined participants who ate almonds every day. They ended up having a lower risk of heart disease, and the researchers called almonds “a cost-effective approach to prevent cardiovascular disease.”

While eating nuts, be careful not to have too many calories. Registered dietitian Laura Jeffers recommends eating a one-ounce serving; that’s about two dozen almonds or one handful. Avoid salted almonds, because sodium is a proven danger against heart health.

Frozen Bananas Are A Dessert For Your Heart

A glass bowl holds frozen banana slices.
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Poppi Rocketts/Pinterest

If you’re an ice cream fan, try this hack for a heart-healthy alternative. Freeze a banana and then mash it into a bowl. For more flavor, add cocoa powder, dark chocolate chips, or vanilla extract. Bananas boost heart health and are naturally sweet.

According to research in the Journal of American College of Cardiology, eating bananas regularly lowers heart disease and stroke risk. Thank its potassium. “When potassium is deficient, low levels can cause heart arrhythmias,” explains cardiologist Ragavendra Baliga. A banana can serve as a snack, dessert, and heart enhancer.

Chia Seed Pudding Is The Only Heart-Healthy Pudding

Chia seed pudding is topped with blueberries, almonds, and mango.
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Chia seed pudding is made by soaking chia seeds in milk, juice, jam, or water. These seeds are incredibly high in fiber and omega-3s, which benefits the heart. In 2007, research in Diabetes Care found that chia seeds reduce blood pressure. This lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Other studies, such as one in the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, concluded that chia seeds lower cholesterol. They reduce inflammation in the arteries to boost blood flow. Fortunately, chia seed pudding is easy to make, and you can flavor it however you want.

Watermelon With Feta Cheese Can Soothe The Heart

A bowl of watermelon is topped with feta cheese and mint.
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During warm weather, grab this sweet and salty snack to cool down: watermelon with feta cheese. Watermelon has proven benefits for the heart. In 2012, researchers from Purdue University found that watermelon can remove cholesterol from your arteries and boost weight loss.

Feta is also a heart-healthy cheese. According to the British Heart Association, feta is a low-fat cheese with less saturated fat than other types. This provides a moderate amount of fat that the heart needs with plenty of protein. Together, watermelon and feta can lower your cholesterol and enhance the heart.

Sweet Potato Fries Are Healthy Because They’re Orange

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Chop up some sweet potatoes, drizzle them with olive oil, and pop them into an oven or air fryer. This will create heart-healthy sweet potato fries. Sweet potatoes are filled with a disease-fighting nutrient called beta-carotene, which also makes their orange color, says Harvard School of Health.

Beta-carotene is a form of vitamin A that also functions as an antioxidant. According to research in Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, beta-carotene reduces the risk of heart disease. Along with this, sweet potatoes also provide a bit of protein and fiber, which makes them a fantastic snack.

A Glass Of Low-Fat Milk Might Protect Against Disease

A glass of Great Ocean Road milk is next to the carton.
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Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg via Getty Images

If you’re in need of some quick protein, nothing beats a glass of milk. Milk benefits the heart in many ways. During a 2019 study, participants who drank milk had lower levels of cholesterol and blood pressure. These significantly reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease.

But which type of milk should you get? In 2016, scientists examined several studies on milk in The American Journal of Nutrition. They determined that the less dairy fat you consume, the lower risk of cardiovascular disease you’ll have. Opt for skim milk or low-fat milk.

Unflavored Greek Yogurt Is Ideal For Blood Pressure

A person drizzles honey into Greek yogurt.
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Jeremy Papasso/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images

Yogurt not only provides probiotics and protein, but also benefits the heart. In 2018, researchers from Oxford University found that yogurt lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. When people with hypertension ate yogurt regularly, they had lower blood pressure.

However, you need the right yogurt. Registered dietitian Julia Zumpano advises against flavored yogurt, which is filled with sugar. “Plain, nonfat yogurt is best,” she told Cleveland Clinic. Opt for an unsweetened Greek yogurt and flavor it yourself with honey, fruit, nuts, jam, or even cocoa powder.

Air-Popped Popcorn Is Healthier Than Microwaved Varieties

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Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash

There is some evidence that microwaved popcorn–especially flavored ones–can harm the heart. But air-popped popcorn is the opposite. According to the American Heart Association, popcorn contains whole grains and fiber, both of which lower your blood sugar and increase heart health.

For people who might be struggling to eat adequate fruits or vegetables or other whole grains, it’s a low-risk snack to start,” says Maya Vadiveloo, an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of Rhode Island. Do not flavor it with cheese flavoring or salt. Instead, use garlic powder, chili spice, curry powder, raw cocoa, or minced lemon.

Avocado Toast Shrinks LDL Cholesterol

Avocado toast is topped with roasted tomato and basil.
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Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post via Getty Images

People who eat avocado regularly tend to have better heart health. In 2019, researchers analyzed people who ate an avocado every day. After two weeks, they had less LDL cholesterol; specifically, they had smaller LDL particles that increased healthy blood flow.

Avocados contain monounsaturated fatty acids that balance cholesterol levels. If you include these in your diet, you will have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and stroke. Registered dietitian and professor Penny Kris-Etherton recommends spreading avocado on wheat toast and flavoring it with spices, arugula, radishes, or cucumber.

Hummus With Olive Oil Makes A Nutritious Dip

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Instead of resorting to a sour cream dip, why not eat hummus? This delicious dip is made with chickpeas, a healthy type of bean. In 2008, the American Dietetic Association found that chickpeas lower cholesterol. They also improve insulin sensitivity, both of which enhance your heart health.

If you want a healthy hummus, get one with olive oil. According to a 2020 study in Circulation, people who eat olive oil daily have a 15% lower chance of getting cardiovascular disease. Grab an olive oil hummus and pair it with carrots, celery, or wheat crackers.

Cottage Cheese Delays Hypertension

A wooden bowl holds cottage cheese.
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Enotovyj/Pixabay

Many people prefer cottage cheese over other cheeses because it is low-fat and high-protein. The American Heart Association claims that low-fat cheeses are much healthier for the heart. By eating a few servings of cottage cheese per week, you’ll have a lower risk of hypertension and high cholesterol.

Alice Lichtenstein, the director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at Tufts University, says that cottage cheese provides many heart-healthy nutrients like protein, calcium, and fiber. “Choose low sodium options as regular versions can have around 400 mg for just have a cup,” she told The Healthy.

Apples And Peanut Butter Reduce Cholesterol

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If you want a filling snack that’s both sweet and salty, pair apple slices with peanut butter. Apples contain many heart-healthy nutrients. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, apples’ antioxidants clean out blood vessels by lowering harmful LDL cholesterol.

Peanut butter is a healthy form of protein as well. According to WebMD, peanut butter contains oleic acid, which stabilizes blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Together, apples and peanut butter become a protein-filled and cholesterol-lowering snack. Your heart will thank you for it!

Whey Protein Smoothies Strengthen Your Heart

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Said Zamani/Pinterest

Do you make protein smoothies for a snack or after a workout? If you do, use whey protein. According to the scientific journal Obesity Reviews, whey can improve blood sugar levels, heighten insulin response, reduce blood pressure, and relax artery stiffness. All of these lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

In 2010, a different study examined overweight people who ate whey smoothies for 12 weeks. They ended up having lower cholesterol levels afterward. Sweeten your protein shake with low-fat milk, berries, bananas, cinnamon, or raw cocoa powder.

Whole Wheat Crackers Will Revolutionize Your Snacks

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Mani Dahya/Pinterest

If you’re a fan of crackers, switch from white flour to whole wheat. Whole grains significantly lower your risk of heart disease, according to a 2016 study in The BMJ. In fact, people who eat whole wheat products have a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and overall mortality.

According to the New Zealand Heart Foundation, whole grains have more fiber and nutrients than white grains. Processed flour gets stripped of its nutrients, and it converts to sugar in the body. Brands like Triscuit offer whole wheat crackers with few added sugars.

Edamame Fills You With Protein And Lowers Cholesterol

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takedahrs/Pixabay

If you need a protein-filled snack, try edamame. This soybean provides a whopping 17 grams of protein per cup. It also improves heart health. According to a 2000 study in Circulation, soybeans stabilize and reduce your cholesterol levels.

More specifically, soy lowers LDL cholesterol, which gathers in your blood vessels. Meanwhile, it keeps healthy HDL cholesterol, which removes other forms of harmful cholesterol from your bloodstream. If this sounds like a win-win situation, heat up some edamame and flavor it with salt or chili powder.

Canned Tuna Provides Much-Needed Omega-3s

Cans of albacore tuna are stacked on grocery store shelves
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JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images

Canned tuna packs a ton of nutrients in a tiny container. It provides at least 20 grams of protein, low fat, and omega-3 fatty acids. In 2014, a study in Tanaffos determined that omega-3s reduce the chances of heart disease by removing LDL cholesterol and improving blood flow.

Although many people worry about mercury contamination, canned tuna rarely has it. Mercury often appears in bigeye tuna, while canned tuna is albacore. The American Heart Association recommends having two servings of fish per week, and tuna has the omega-3 fatty acids that your heart needs.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Make An Unexpectedly Great Snack

A woman holds pumpkin seeds that she's drying out.
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Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Instead of reserving pumpkin seeds for autumn, eat them year-round for a crunchy, protein-packed snack. During a 2012 animal study, pumpkin seeds showed promise against cardiovascular disease. They drastically lowered LDL cholesterol and increased blood flow.

According to 2014 research in Circulation, including more seeds in your diet–such as pumpkin seeds–dramatically reduces your risk of heart disease. If you don’t want to eat plain pumpkin seeds, add them to baked goods, oatmeal, cereal, or yogurt. Mix a handful of dried fruit with a handful of baked pumpkin seeds for a sweet and crunchy snack.