8 Heart Healthy Snacks for Low Cholesterol
Satisfying cholesterol-friendly snacks that support heart health
Are you feeling confused over which foods to eat to support heart health? There is often lots of mixed messages out there about which foods are best to support health heart, which can leave many of us confused on what to limit or what to eat more of. In this post, we’ll discuss some simple tips to best support your heart and lower your cholesterol as well as provide 8 tasty and satisfying snacks for low cholesterol.
What foods are best to help lower cholesterol?
One common myth about lowering cholesterol in your blood is to eliminate cholesterol in your diet by avoiding foods like shrimp, eggs, or other animal products. There is no Canadian recommendation to limit dietary cholesterol nor does the Dietary Reference Intakes by the Institute of Medicine specify a target for dietary cholesterol. Most people can eat an egg a day without impacting their blood cholesterol levels. It is far more impactful to focus on the below suggestions:
Choose unsaturated fats most of the time
Heart-healthy fats such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat can improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels and reduce your risk for heart disease. These fats are found in foods like vegetable oils (olive, canola, avocado, flaxseed, safflower, sunflower, and walnut oil), nuts, seeds, avocados, and olives.
Omega-3 fats, a type of polyunsaturated fat, can lower blood triglycerides and reduce the stickiness of the blood. These are found in foods like canola oil, ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, omega-3 eggs, soy foods, fish, seafood, and fish oils.
Reduce trans fats and be mindful of saturated fats
too much trans fat can increase the bad LDL cholesterol and lower the good HDL cholesterol in the blood, therefore increasing the risk of heart disease. Trans fats are banned in Canada but some countries still have them in packaged and processed foods like deep fried items, commercial baked goods, or hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Traditionally, saturated fats were thought to be harmful for heart health, but newer research has found it may or may not increase the bad LDL cholesterol in the body. Part of the reason there may be conflicting evidence depends on what foods are replacing saturated fat. When monounsaturated and omega-3 fats replace saturated fat in the diet, there is a beneficial effect on heart health, where if sugar and refined carbohydrates are replacing saturated fat, there is a negative effect on heart health. Saturated fats are found in heavily marbled meats, the skin of poultry, butter, margarine, tropical oils, and high fat dairy products.
Pump up your soluble fibre intake
Soluble fibre is known to help lower LDL cholesterol levels. Research suggests an intake of at least 10 grams of soluble fibre per day is beneficial. Examples of foods rich in soluble fibre are whole grains (like oats, rye, barley, wheat), psyllium husk (found in Kellogg’s All Bran Buds), fruits and vegetables, and beans and legumes.
Power up with plants
Fruits and vegetables contain important phytonutrients and are a great source of fibre, which can help protect our heart and arteries. Research on soy foods, like edamame, tofu, or soy nuts, shows that an intake of 20-25 grams of soy protein per day can lower LDL cholesterol levels and improve heart health. Plant sterols, found in foods like nuts, seeds, vegetable oil, legumes, whole grains, vegetables and fruit, and fortified foods, have also been shown to assist in lowering LDL cholesterol.
Keep in mind nutrition is complicated and food is a mix of many nutrients. Health depends on the quality of your whole diet, not just the type of fat or another single ingredient. Instead of counting specific grams of fat, focus on eating balanced meals made with wholesome foods that contain simple ingredients.
8 Easy Snacks for Low Cholesterol
This is not an exhaustive list but rather some ideas to get you started! Here are some of our best snacks for cholesterol:
1. Guacamole and whole grain or black bean chips
Avocado is a great source of fibre and unsaturated fats and choosing a whole grain or black bean chip provides additional fibre. If possible, choose a lower sodium baked chip (read labels to compare different products).
2. Oatmeal energy bites
Typically created with rolled oats and a type of nut or seed butter, energy bites can be a great source of fibre and healthy fats. Not to mention, they’re super easy for on-the-go!
Try out some delicious energy ball recipes!
3. Roasted chickpeas
Delicious and fun! And packed with fibre and protein.
A great source of soy protein. Try them as a snack or add them to a stir fry, on salads, or in soups.
5. Trail mix
A classic snack for on-the-go or outdoor activities. Packed with healthy fats in nuts and seeds and fibre from dried fruit.
6. Apple slices with peanut butter (or peanut butter/yogurt dip)
Have you tried “yo-nut” dip before? Mix peanut butter and yogurt together to make a delicious dip for fresh fruit.
7. Raw vegetables and hummus
A fibre-rich snack that can easily be prepped to take to work or school. Tip: look for individually portioned hummus packs at the grocery for extra ease.
8. Avocado toast with sesame seeds
Another avocado focused snack because they’re so delicious! Spread sliced or mashed avocado on a piece of whole-grain toast and sprinkle with a little salt and sesame seeds.
If you’re looking to make healthier choices to support your heart health, remember that small steps can add up to big change. Rather than focusing on calculating exact grams of fat, focus on eating a balanced diet with wholesome foods. Add variety where you can and have fun with it! Hopefully, these snack ideas can be a great starting point!
Have high cholesterol and interested in nutrition counselling to help lower it? We can help!
If you are looking for heart health advice and high cholesterol diet support our Calgary Dietitian / Online Nutritionist team can help support you with more education on what to eat for high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, weight concerns, meal planning and building a sustainable plan you can live with for life.
PS. Many health/work benefits cover registered dietitian services!
Connect with us to see one of our cholesterol and heart health dietitians:
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Carlin has a natural knack for connecting with people and making them feel at ease. She is known for her bright smile, sincere care, and infectious enthusiasm when working with clients. Carlin is passionate about supporting clients in their health journey, goals, and making peace with food and their body. She believes strongly in empowering people to make lasting change that suits their needs and lifestyle.