Cardiologist: Replace two types of snacks for better heart health


Snacks such as berries and almonds can be healthier alternatives to popular processed foods such as fries, chips, and sweets.
Courtesy of Monica Bertolazzi/Getty Images/HeartSafe

  • Fried foods and processed sweets should be avoided to reduce the risk of heart health, a cardiologist said.
  • Instead, choose more nutrient-rich options like almonds, pistachios, and berries as a healthy snack.
  • Enjoy your favorite snacks in moderation to create sustainable habits for long-term heart health.

You don't need to skip breakfast to improve your heart health, a cardiologist says.

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

According to Dr. Mustaali Dohadwala of HeartSafe, a Boston-based private practice, a few smart changes can help you avoid the biggest risks.

Dohadwala told Business Insider that nutritious options like berries can be satisfying choices. With more awareness and moderation, you can enjoy snacks without compromising your health.

“It's good to discuss what is the right thing to do, but it's more important to understand that most people have to make a conscious effort to do the right thing for their bodies,” the medical director said.

Eat almonds or pistachios instead of fried foods

Popular snack foods such as French fries and potato chips are also good snacks because they contain a couple of times the amount of fat and salt, which can increase dopamine levels.

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

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

Instead, opt for nuts like almonds and pistachios, which benefit from a crunchy texture and delicious flavor, as well as heart-healthy fats and fiber.

“Nuts are a better source of protein than fried snacks and are good for satisfying your hunger,” he said.

Eat fruits to satisfy your sweet cravings

Another big category of snack foods that can increase your risk of heart health problems is sweets. Cookies, candy, snack cakes and more contain added sugar, which in large amounts can lead to cravings and long-term health risks.

Fruits provide vitamins, micronutrients and fibre as well as some sweetness, making them a good option for health, Dohadawala said.

Unusual stuff

Her favorite fruits to snack on include bananas, watermelon, cherries, blueberries, and strawberries.

“Berries are well-known for containing natural compounds called polyphenols, which have tremendous antioxidant potential to keep cells healthy,” he said.

There are also plenty of low-sugar processed snacks available at the grocery store, but Dohadwala advises caution about relying too heavily on artificial sweeteners. Moderation is key when it comes to sweets, and sometimes, a little real sugar can be a healthier, more satisfying option.

Evidence suggests that artificial sweeteners may also increase the risk of heart attack.

“Ideally, you wouldn't want to eat sweets as a snack, but if you do, you should eat foods that contain real sugar,” he said.

She emphasized that you don't have to give up all of your favorite foods, even if they aren't nutritionally ideal, because even doctors eat Doritos sometimes.

According to Dohadwala, giving yourself the freedom to enjoy delicious treats in moderation is a more realistic strategy that can help you adopt healthier habits over the long term.

“What I like to do is give my body and mind a rest from time to time,” he said. “It's perfectly normal and appropriate to take such liberties from time to time. I always tell my patients: we have to take things one day at a time. Life is a marathon, not a sprint.”

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