When it comes to fostering optimal cardiovascular functioning, several diets are notable for heart-promoting qualities. From plant-based1 to Mediterranean, these eating lifestyles place a tremendous emphasis on foods that can help decrease heart disease risk2 and provide cardiovascular protection3, 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 these 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 polyphenols4 and soluble fiber, linked to cardiovascular health5. Need an apple breakfast idea? Give this nutrient-rich granola recipe a try, which also has bonus protein.
This water-packed, fiber-rich veggie is a versatile, crunchy option rich in phenolic compounds6 and touted for its powerful antioxidant properties7. Celery is not only simple to eat (and digest), but it's also easy to carry with you for a snack. You can eat it raw (after a thorough wash) or roasted (who knew?). Also, consider adding some nut butter to round out this snack.
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 factors10 (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.
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 are 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 Hultin—and we couldn't agree more. Reach for a handful of pistachios, almonds, walnuts, macadamias, cashews, or even a spoonful of nut butter—the options are endless for this simple snack packed with heart-healthy fats.
Roasted fava beans
A delicious, antioxidant-rich13 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 or fries.
An Andean, gluten-free rock star, quinoa is one of the few plant-based sources that contains all nine essential amino acids. Although technically a seed, this antioxidant-rich14 grain is easy to prepare and readily available across most grocery stores globally. Try this pumpkin quinoa porridge for a potent anti-inflammatory snack.
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.
Sparkling and plain water
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 function18 and give you a nice energy push when you need it most.
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.
Ximena Araya-Fischel, M.A, is a journalist, IIN graduate integrative health coach, E-RYT 500 lead yoga teacher, and 500-Hour certified Pilates instructor from San José, Costa Rica. She received her master's degree in communication and journalism from The University of New Mexico, emphasizing well-being, sustainable fashion, health communication research, and graduating Summa Cum Laude. A former professional dancer, she's earned multiple academic and accredited certifications in performance design, positive psychology, doula training, entrepreneurship, digital marketing, mindfulness, innovation leadership, and integrative health. Her work has appeared at top consulting brands and organizations across Latin American and the US, including Byrdie and Albuquerque The Magazine. She currently lives between Costa Rica and New Mexico.