Heart-Healthy Snack Options
In celebration of American Heart Month, I'm posting some EASY and TASTY ways you can get your snack on that also support heart health. Heart disease is still the leading cause of death for both men and women world-wide. National trends are showing death rates from heart disease are actually increasing in younger adults, age 35-64 years old. That's reason enough for me to continue making a few small changes that will benefit my heart.
Nuts are a great heart-healthy food because they contain unsaturated fat, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, vitamin E, plant sterols (a substance that can help lower cholesterol) and L-arginine, a conditionally essential amino acid which may help improve the flexibility of arterial walls. (Read more HERE). Although all nuts are beneficial, walnuts top the heart-health list because of their high omega-3 fatty acid content. All nuts are also nutrient-dense ~ sticking to a 1.5-ounce portion (one small handful) will ensure your heart-healthy plan stays on track.
Lightly toasting nuts is an excellent way to intensify the FLAVOR and add some extra CRUNCH. Pop them in a 300 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until fragrant. Cool and store in an airtight container. Because of their high oil content, nuts will stay fresh longer stored in the freezer.
Salsas, Dips & Spreads ~
Salsas are an excellent way to get in extra servings of fruits and/or vegetables. Why not switch-up your usual salsa and make one full of watermelon, wild blueberries, and cucumbers for a change of pace?
To try my Watermelon Blueberry Salsa recipe, click HERE.
If you prefer a RED salsa, you can still change things up a bit from the usual tomato-based salsas by using cranberries, cherries and both sweet and spicy peppers. This one also includes lime juice, cilantro and fresh ginger for a FANTASTIC pop of flavor. Salsas make excellent toppers for baked potatoes (sweet potatoes too!), winter squash, beans, or scrambled tofu.
To try my Ruby Red Cherry Cranberry Salsa recipe, click HERE.
Who can resist a big bowl of perfectly-made guacamole?? Not me! Especially when I also make a few sheet pans or baked corn tortillas. I use lime juice to flavor the chips ~ it holds on the seasonings without the need for ANY oil! Which, of course, means I can eat more guac! 🤣
To try my Rockin' Guacamole with Baked Tortilla Chips recipe, click HERE.
Bean dips also make a fantastic heart-healthy snack or condiment. Beans have been shown to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypoglycemia, obesity, certain cancers, and digestive issues as diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and constipation. Their folic acid also helps to promote cardiovascular health. Cannellini beans (sometimes called white kidney beans) contain more iron than most other varieties of beans, dark red kidney beans contain more fiber, and black beans contain more folate. All beans are an excellent part of a heart-healthy diet.
To try my Mediterranean White Bean Dip ~ Oil-Free recipe, click HERE.
Hummus is also a great way to enjoy legumes, especially as a dip for fresh veggies or a protein-packed spread for wraps or sandwiches. If you're like me, sometimes the usual favorite can get ho-hum after a while. Also, some commercial varieties add a lot of unnecessary oil. With a good blender, however, it's a SNAP to make your own ~ and much more economical too! If you like roasted beets, try making beet hummus (you can use red beets too for a brilliant pink or crimson color - depending on the beet:bean ratio). Add a few edible flowers and herbs for a touch of elegance (coriander flowers and bachelor buttons used here).
To try my Golden Beet Hummus recipe, click HERE.
Not a fan of beets? Try adding baked pumpkin! ~ canned or fresh works beautifully. Here, I've paired crispy baked potatoes with creamy pumpkin hummus. Flavorful fried sage takes it over the top! Pumpkin is an excellent source of Vitamins A, K, fiber, and a good source of iron and manganese. This is also the SAME RECIPE that was featured on The Chew's Thanksgiving Appetizers episode.
To try my Crispy Potatoes with Pumpkin Hummus recipe, click HERE.
Wanna class it up a notch? Cut a hole in the corner of a zip-lock bag (unless you have a piping bag handy), poke a large star-tip in the hole, add your favorite bean dip, and pipe onto crispy slabs of roasted potatoes ~ sweet potatoes, Yukon golds, Purple Peruvian or Russets all work well. Top each with a spoonful of Ruby Red Cherry Cranberry Salsa and you've just made a gorgeous appetizer that your friends and family will be drooling over!
There are certainly a number of other foods that contribute to maintaining a healthy heart and well-functioning cardiovascular system. These are just some ideas you might like to try.
What are some ways you are looking after your heart-health? Drop me a comment below, and be sure to let me know what you think if you try any of my recipes ~ I love getting your feedback!
Stay tuned for Heart-Healthy Mains, Sides & Desserts coming up next!
your favorite plant-based chef & culinary nutritionist 💕