Heart Healthy Snacks
Healthy Eating That's Grab and Go
Even a 105 pound woman can have high blood pressure. Mine is on the high side. I have other minor cardiovascular issues, and, like many people, I am aware of the need for heart healthy eating. At the same time, I am conscious of my own limitations -- the times when I'll need to grab food on the go, or for one reason or another, won't feel inspired to cook for myself.
Dietary resolutions are only as good as our willingness to follow them consistently over time. An ambitious plan is great, but a workable plan is better. Fortunately a little foresight can make heart healthy eating feasible.
While I didn't inherit my mother's low blood pressure, I did inherit her ability to research. There a tremendous amount of information on the web about heart healthy eating. This web page showcases my own tips for hearty healthy snacks and quick meals as well as information I have found around the web.
Trans Fats and the Importance of Reading Labels
Gone are the days when folks thought margarine was the heart healthy choice. Trans fats -- fats that have been artificially hydrogenated or solidified -- are considered the least healthy form of fat. One has to be 'label savvy' to avoid them, though. A product can list 0 grams of trans fat per serving if it has less than half a gram. A trace amount of trans fat is probably okay, but those servings can really add up.
Sometimes there is a big difference between the stated serving size and the amount people actually consume. A serving of cheese-filled pretzels, for instance, is listed as one ounce, but cheese-filled pretzels are dense and people often eat several ounces at a sitting without realizing it.
From my KitchenClick thumbnail to view full-size
Video: Heart Healthy Eating - What to include in your diet
Heart healthy eating is not just about avoiding unhealthy fats. In fact, it's not just about avoidance. The editor-in-chief of a popular health magazine lists five important ingredients to include in a heart healthy diet: antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, and soluble fiber.
Healthier Chips and Snacks - Fiber, Monounsaturated Fats...
Snack food labels give the percentage of a variety of nutrients, some of which Americans tend to get too much of (sodium and saturated fat) and others which we may consume in less than ideal amounts. I like snack foods that show a higher DV percentage for fiber than for sodium and fat. (I figure if most of my snack foods fall in this category, I'm less likely to have imbalances.)
Corazonas may be my favorite chips. Baja Bean Corazonas lists 12% daily value of fiber, 11% of fat, and 7% of sodium; moreover, it is enriched with plant sterols which may help reduce cholesterol levels. The main fat source is high oleic sunflower or sunflower oil. (High oleic oils are higher in monounsaturated fat, while high linoleic oils are higher in polyunsaturated omega-6 -- an essential oil, but one that is out of balance in many Western diets.) The flavor? A bit like Doritos.
Baja Bean Corazonas are pleasantly seasoned. Taste-wise, they bear a slight resemblance to Doritos. They are, however, healthier for the heart. They have high fiber levels, slightly reduced sodium, and are enriched with plant sterols.
Super Quick Healthy Heart Snacks - Beyond salad
- Peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole grain bread
- Vegetables dipped in reduced sodium hummus
- Flax seed enriched blueberry oatmeal
- Flax seed enriched tortilla chips with guacamole
- Popcorn or potato chips with olive oil, lightly salted (Popcorn is probably the healthier choice -- polyphenols and fiber -- but some potato chips are made with olive oil and relatively low sodium.)
- Dark chocolate
- Seaweed snacks (Can seem high in sodium... but they're paper thin -- one of those things people tend not to eat a lot of. A 2-serving package of Trader Joe's seaweed snacks as 6% of the recommended daily allowance.)
- Kale with miso-tahini sauce (I recently read that miso doesn't seem to have the negative health effects that foods with table salt do.)
- Chocolate-covered soy nuts or pomegranate
- Oat bran porridge with frozen blueberries
- Sweet potato chips
Web Resources - For Healthy Heart Eating
Just as our bodies differ, our nutritional needs do. As we prioritize our dietary changes and determine which of them we can and must maintain over time for heart health, we'll come to different conclusions. Some people's greatest priority may be reducing total fat and calories, while others' priorities include changing the balance of fats, reducing sodium, or supplementing the diet with essential nutrients. I tend to be underweight despite getting a percentage of fat in my despite that's higher than what's generally recommended. I am more concerned with getting healthier fats than with avoiding. Since blood pressure is an issue but cholesterol isn't, I think it's probably more important for me to limit sodium than fat.
Here are some web links to help in your quest for a heart healthy lifestyle.
- Healthy and Unhealthy Fats
From About.com -- a discussion of health benefits and risks associated with different types of fats.
- Low Sodium Diets
Advice on limiting sodium -- from the American Heart Association.
- Homocysteine and Heart Health
From the American Heart Association
- Six Heart Healthy Snacks
From popcorn to dark chocolate to apples, find out why these snack foods are heart-healthy stars.
- Lifestyle Interventions
Lifestyle interventions and simple tips for staying heart healthy.
A Good Source of Potassium?
As a Dip
Lately I've been using Spectrum vegetarian DHA-enriched flaxseed oil on frozen artichokes. An added bonus: it's another way to go low-sodium. There's a stronger flavor than salt-free butter... so I don't miss the salt.
Be Wary of Soups... and V-8?
You may be getting more sodium from your liquids than your chips. The original version of V-8 is surprisingly high in sodium, as are most commercial soups. Compare the labels on your potato chips and your soup, and you might get quite a surprise. (Of course, the serving size for chips is for one ounce, and most people eat more than that -- still, you may find you can have several ounces of chips and consume less sodium than in one serving of soup.)
So what are some sodium-free flavor enhancers for soup? They include mushrooms, garlic, dill and other herbs. Some sodium-free foods taste funny to me, but if my taste buds get used to low sodium foods, they don't taste low sodium to me.
I like to use a bit of smoked seasoning on in low sodium vegetable juice.
Why Flax Seeds?
The Western diet tends to be too high in omega 6 fatty acids and too low in Omega 3 fatty acids. Good sources are fish and (for vegetarians like me) the flax seed. I like to get my omega 3 in the form of flax seed enriched chips and oatmeal.
This spicy tortilla chip is flax seed enriched and also high in protein.
- Physalis fruit
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Tips to share, perhaps?