July 18, 2024

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Cardiologist: Swap Out 2 Types of Snacks for Better Heart Health

3 min read

You don’t have to give up snacking to improve your heart health, one cardiologist said.

It’s no surprise that ultra-processed foods like fried snacks and sugary treats are linked to a higher risk of heart disease.

A few smart swaps can help you cut back on some of the biggest culprits, according to Dr. Mustali Dohadwala of Heartsafe, a private practice in Boston.

Dohadwala told Business Insider that nutritious options like berries can be a satisfying alternative. More awareness paired with moderation can also help you enjoy snacks without compromising your health.

“It’s good to be able to discuss what the right thing to do is, but it’s more important to understand it takes a conscious effort for most people to do the right thing for their body,” the medical director said.

Snack on almonds or pistachios instead of fried foods

Popular snack foods like french fries and potato chips are compellingly snackable because they offer a one-two punch of fat and salt that can trigger a hit of dopamine.

However, excess salt and saturated fat can contribute to health risks such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

“To me, any form of fried food as a snack is probably not a good choice,” Dohadwala said.

Instead, opt for nuts like almonds and pistachios, which offer a crunchy texture and savory flavors as well as benefits from heart-healthy fats and fiber.

“Nuts rather than fried snacks are a great source of protein and good for satiating your appetite,” he added.

Reach for fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth

The other big category of snack food that can raise your risk of heart health issues is sweets. Cookies, candy, snack cakes, and more are loaded with added sugars, too much of which can prompt cravings and long-term health risks.

Fruit can offer some sweetness alongside vitamins, micronutrients, and fiber for a healthier choice, Dohadwala said.


A fruit bowl with a hanging hook for bananas over a closed glass bowl.

Uncommon Goods



Some of his favorite fruits for snacking include bananas, watermelon, cherries, blueberries, and strawberries.

“Berries are famous for natural compounds polyphenols that have tremendous antioxidant power to keep the cells healthy,” he said.

Plenty of lower-sugar processed snacks are also available at the grocery store, but Dohadwala advised caution about relying too much on artificial sweeteners. Moderation is key when it comes to sweets, and sometimes, a little bit of real sugar may be a healthier, more satisfying choice.

Evidence suggests artificial sweeteners may also be linked to a higher risk of heart attack.

“Ideally, you don’t want to consume sweets as a snack, but if you do, you should be consuming food items that have real sugar,” he said.

He emphasized that you don’t have to cut out all foods you enjoy, even if they’re not nutritionally ideal since doctors sometimes eat Doritos too.

According to Dohadwala, allowing yourself the freedom to enjoy treats in moderation is a more realistic strategy that can help you stick to healthy habits long-term.

“What I like to do is give my body and mind a vacation every now and then,” he said. “Taking those liberties from time to time is perfectly normal and reasonable. I say this to my patients all the time: We have to take things one day at a time. Life is a marathon, not a sprint.”


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