Heart Disease and Diet

8 Snacks That Fight Heart Disease


Sure, genetics play a big role in heart health. But lifestyle choices, like diet and exercise, play an even bigger part in preventing and reversing [heart disease][1]. The eight snacks on this list are particularly powerful -- packed with nutrients that fight heart disease and the risk factors that cause it. And because they're portable, they're a cinch to fit into any busy schedule.

1. Apples


Maybe it's due to their ubiquitous nature, but apples don't get enough credit. Never mind it doesn't get the same health billing as exotic goji berries -- the humble apple is king, especially when it comes to fighting heart disease.

Apples frequently feature in heart health studies, and it's no wonder. When compared to the most commonly consumed fruit in the U.S., apples rank second only to cranberries (not the most snack-friendly food!) in antioxidant activity. They're also chock-full of pectin, a fiber that interacts with other phytonutrients found in apples to deliver a host of cardiovascular benefits.

How they help: Quercetin and other apple antioxidants combat oxidative stress that can lead to atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular problems, while pectin helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, a precursor and contributor to heart disease. Apples are also anti-inflammatory, which helps support overall vascular health.

Snack smart: All apple varieties deliver these heart-protective nutrients, but red apples boast the most antioxidant power.

2. Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas)


In his book The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Jonny Bowden cites a study of 10,000 men and women that associated regular consumption of legumes with a 22 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease.

How they help: All beans are a good bet for heart health, but garbanzo beans are the winner when it comes to reducing your risk of coronary heart disease. They're packed with soluble fiber -- which helps [lower cholesterol][2] -- in addition to heart-protective antioxidants, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Snack smart: Aim for four servings a week. Grab hummus and whole-wheat pita on the go, or snack on whole chickpeas right from the can (look for brands that list only these three ingredients: garbanzo beans, water, sea salt).

3. Almonds


Researchers comparing evidence from four large epidemiological studies found that regular consumption of nuts was associated with a 37 percent reduced risk of coronary heart disease. Why choose almonds over other nuts? It's simple: Calorie for calorie, they're packed with more cardioprotective nutrients than just about any other nut (walnuts are a close second).

How they help: Almonds house a slew of heart-healthy nutrients, including fiber, vitamin E, potassium, and magnesium. Magnesium contributes to healthy blood pressure, and potassium is essential for helping your heart pump blood. Almonds are also rich in monounsaturated fat -- the healthy kind -- which has been associated with lower levels of heart disease in countless studies.

Snack smart: Reach for plain raw almonds or top an apple with a tablespoon of unsweetened almond butter. Work four servings a week into your routine to give your heart health a boost.

4. Blueberries


Studies show that high blueberry consumption (one to two cups per day) can improve cholesterol levels, lower triglycerides, and protect against oxidative damage that could lead to clogged blood vessels, a sign of heart disease.

How they help: Blueberries are powerful pellets of antioxidants (especially manganese and vitamins C and E) that provide protection on a cellular level. In addition to lowering LDL ("bad") cholesterol and raising HDL ("good") cholesterol, the phytonutrients in blueberries also prevent plaque buildup in the arteries, protect blood vessels, and [support healthy blood pressure levels][3].

Snack smart: A number of recent studies have shown that organic blueberries may have a higher antioxidant capacity than their conventionally grown cousins. Opt for organic, and eat them as often as possible; daily is best. Out of season, dip into a bag of frozen blueberries -- they retain virtually all of their antioxidant power.

5. Dark chocolate


In 2004, Columbian scientist Oscar Franco and his team of researchers published an article, in the British Medical Journal, that proposed a natural dietary means to reduce [heart disease][1]. It was dubbed the "polymeal" and researchers asserted that, if eaten daily, the seven proposed food groups could cut risk of heart disease by more than 75 percent. One of those seven foods was dark chocolate, which, as an individual component, was found to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease by an incredible 21 percent.

How it helps: Dark chocolate has a high percentage of cocoa. Cocoa is incredibly rich in compounds known as flavanols (a type of flavonoid), which help prevent clogged arteries, thereby reducing the risk of [heart attack][2] and [stroke][3]. Dark chocolate has also been shown to decrease blood pressure.

Snack smart: A small amount of dark chocolate is healthy for most people. Stick to small portions (about a two-inch square, or no more than an ounce) of chocolate with a high cocoa content -- 70 percent or higher.

6. Grapes


Grapes are high in various heart-protective nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, and flavonoids.

How they help: Grapes support cardiovascular health primarily thanks to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Together, these nutrients promote healthy blood pressure, reduce LDL cholesterol, and help your heart pump blood. B6 is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent that helps minimize the risk of inflammation, atherosclerosis, and [hypertension][4].

Snack smart: Fresh grapes are tops for the whole nutritional package, and grapes retain these components when frozen. Eat the seeds, too -- they're loaded with healthful nutrients.

7. Figs


Figs deliver a high dose of fiber, which is necessary for any healthy diet plan, but it's because they're so high in potassium that they made this list.

How they help: Time and again, studies have linked potassium-rich diets with healthy blood pressure levels and significantly lower rates of heart disease and [stroke][5]. It's interesting to note that high dietary sodium intake (common in today's modern diet of processed food) has been closely associated with a higher rate of hypertension -- and potassium helps combat that.

Snack smart: Nothing beats a sweet, juicy fresh fig, typically available June through September. But dried figs are nothing to shake a nutritional stick at, and they're available all year round. Dip a few (fresh or dried) in an ounce of dark chocolate for a heart-healthy, decadent dessert.

8. Walnuts


Like almonds, walnuts are rich in heart-healthy antioxidant vitamin E, potassium, and magnesium, but they really shine thanks to a good dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Just one quarter-cup serving contains nearly 95 percent of your daily dose.

How they help: Walnuts lower LDL cholesterol, help regulate blood pressure, and protect against excessive clotting and inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids are antiatherosclerotic, meaning they help prevent (and may even reverse) atherosclerosis, the progressive thickening and hardening of the artery walls created by fatty deposits. In other words, omega-3 fats are the "good fat" you've heard about, and they're fantastic at fighting deadly atherosclerotic heart disease.

Snack smart: A good portion of the nutrients in a walnut is found in its skin, so go for whole, raw nuts with the skins on. Jessica K. Black, author of The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book, recommends consuming omega-3 fatty acids three to four times a week -- so just grab a handful and munch.


11 months ago, said...

I have been checked by a heart dr and I have leaky heart valves 2 of them and the blood is flowing in the let side of the heart and causing it to inlarge but they said it wasn't real bad have to go back in 6months to check things out again


11 months ago, said...

hope this works


about 1 year ago, said...

In 2012 I had 2 strong and 4 heart attacks back to back i and I what to start eating more heathy now I need some help


about 1 year ago, said...

is eating home made apple sauce the same.Will i get the same results or do i need to eat the peeling also?


over 1 year ago, said...

what can someone be eating or drinking to kill it or prevent it


over 1 year ago, said...

Very Informative Heart Health Information


over 1 year ago, said...

It's great to know that most of my favorite snacks are actually the best thing I can be munching with my heart conditions!


over 1 year ago, said...

This articles was very helpful.Do you have a special website?


over 1 year ago, said...

Great information! Everything on the list are things I like.


over 1 year ago, said...

Include Exercise which also generates the flow of blood from the Heart to parts of the body and rids Toxins by sweat through the skin pores as well as inhaling deeply fresh air "oxygen". Yoga is also great to stretch the veins, arteries and muscles to circulate blood flow and release tension. Eating right is Great, combine with Exercise is Awesome!


almost 2 years ago, said...

Knowing beneficial snacks to eat. Thank you


almost 2 years ago, said...

This article was helpful. I was prescribed cholesterol medicine a few months ago. I'm inspired to be more consistent with my eating habits.


almost 2 years ago, said...

at 92 yrs. doing my Ru-Chi my form of Tai Chi for seniors health plus your recommendations on natural foods. I have AF so I'm very careful .


over 2 years ago, said...

Awesome!! I have apples nearly daily, and use apple cider vinegar, I also eat blueberries nearly daily (organic!!) I make hummus (with chickpeas), and have chickpea stew in the refrigerator even now.. the only thing I lack is almonds, and that will be an easy fix, I will add almonds to my daily routine.


over 2 years ago, said...

they are not only healthy for you, they are great tasting snacks!!!


over 2 years ago, said...

Just reminding me to me healthy!


over 2 years ago, said...

How essential it is to take some spices which act against heart problems and cancer.


over 2 years ago, said...

I had a widow maker 3 months ago today, at the age of 39. Yes 39 years old. I have lost 50 lbs since then, i now take 5 medications daily. I am struggling to find correct information on eating heart healthy. There are so many items out there that say there heart healthy that are truly not, you cannot go wrong with natural non processed foods. Today my blood pressure was 106/75 really good considering i almost died three months ago. I now eat all natural with no SALT. It is very tough to eat healthy, but to live I have to.


over 2 years ago, said...

The article has a bounty of information about heart healthy foods that I can (and will) include in my diet ---- written in a concise and easy to understand manner. Thank you so much.


over 2 years ago, said...

The article was very helpful! Can't think of anthing to improve it - Thanks!


over 2 years ago, said...

Hi, it's very important to learn all you can.Having heart disease means you have to learn to eat a healthier life. Should Lean exercise and which one will help you benefit.


over 2 years ago, said...

very helpfull


over 2 years ago, said...

Finding out that some of the things listed are things I love, like Dark Chocolate :) yea....Love it. The fruits and also the nuts.


over 2 years ago, said...

Precise.


over 2 years ago, said...

I eat all three. Apple's everyday


over 2 years ago, said...

This was great information for me to learn more . I'm 40 years old and I have high blood pressure and high cholesterol its been very hard for me to learn how to train my brain to eat healthy foods .


over 2 years ago, said...

Great information !!!


over 2 years ago, said...

They are attention getters - that's good.


over 2 years ago, said...

Thank you


over 2 years ago, said...

Very helpful. Glad to find the info. So hard to diet and eat certain foods due to health issues like being diabetic, high blood pressure, retaining fluid, on Coumadin, arithritis in whole body, neuropathy, obesity. Remember me in prayer.


over 2 years ago, said...

was very good info. thank you


over 2 years ago, said...

very helpfull,thankyou.


almost 3 years ago, said...

Very good info... Everything in moderation.


almost 3 years ago, said...

The article HEART DISEASE&DIET was Really Helpful for me.For YOU have giving ME SOME WISDOM! I am a women with HEART DISEASE(Blocked Arteries&More).I am BLESSED to have recieved THIS ARTICULE.I can use it PREVENTION&MAYBE REVERSE TOO?I HOPE!I was shocked at some of the items(Especially The Dark Chocolate)IN WHICH I ENJOY!THANKS!I


almost 3 years ago, said...

Great Article at 66 years old I feel a little more concerned about my "Pumper."


almost 3 years ago, said...

Very helpful.


almost 3 years ago, said...

Specific allowed or recommended snacks to help rule some thiongs "in"!


almost 3 years ago, said...

Thank u I will go an get me some garbanzo beans for my salads ive been hearing how good they are for us and yes this was very helpful


almost 3 years ago, said...

Thank you for the excellent Information


about 3 years ago, said...

yes it was Ive had 2 heart attacks at 48 yrs old so I want to eat as many foods that are healthy for me


about 3 years ago, said...

this was a great article short and to the point. very informative.


about 3 years ago, said...

Dark chocolate is generally not available in market in pure form. It is mixed with some vegetable oils. In that form, it could further harm the heart in place of benefiting it. So while buying dark chocolate, it is important to see the label and know the contents.


about 3 years ago, said...

This was helpful because it gave me healthy ideas and I will know what to eat to help me avoid or reverse heart disease. Very good information. Thank you.


about 3 years ago, said...

Thank you for this wonderfull list. All will be included in my next grocery shopping list. Smiles :)


about 3 years ago, said...

Great article especially I love Apple ;)


about 3 years ago, said...

I'm always wondering whether the steps I take to enhance my health are sufficient to the task. I welcome all the assistance I can get and have learned to trust Caring Dot Com for the best available advice. I've made a list of the 8 marvelous snack foods described in the article. I will do better to incorporate them into my daily routines. I confess that I eat copious quantities of figs when my trees are laden with fruit in late June and July. I've promised (myself) to buy a dehydrator to preserve them until I can eat more of them. Freezing changes the consistency of the fruit in ways that I don't appreciate, but I haven't tried dried figs... yet. I have to confess that I don't follow any of the other recommendations consistently, but I'll do better. Robert C. Visconti