The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet was created in recent decades to counteract the rise of deadly high blood pressure (hypertension)—a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Research shows that adhering to this whole-foods-rich diet can significantly reduce excessively high blood pressure and lower one’s risk of succumbing to heart disease.
Snacks are an important component—and potential pitfall—of any successful diet. Snacking can be helpful, when done judiciously. It can keep appetite at bay, and help prevent you from overeating later. But the right kinds of snacks are crucial. It’s all too easy to indulge in diet-wrecking snacks in America. Ultra-high-calories foods are available on virtually every street corner.
The average American reaches for nutritionally empty, calorie-laden snacks like candy bars, potato chips and french fries, almost reflexively. But there are far healthier choices available for relatively little effort. These snacks tend to be whole foods with plenty of fiber, to help you feel full until your next meal.
Tree nuts are among the most strategic snacks you can eat. They may lower blood cholesterol levels, and research suggests that fatty acids in nuts positively impact the brain’s “satiety circuit,” a set of signals, hormones and brain cells involved in telling you when you are hungry and when you’ve had enough. Although relatively high in calories, nuts feature heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber, and beneficial minerals, such as magnesium and potassium. The latter may counteract the effects of too much sodium in the diet, helping keep blood pressure in check.
Try hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, or Brazil nuts. The latter should be eaten in moderation; they contain the essential micro-nutrient, selenium, which is essential for optimum immune system function. But too much selenium can be counter-productive. To be safe, eat no more than 3-4 Brazil nuts daily.
Cut up celery stalks, peeled carrot sticks, and sliced red/yellow/orange bell peppers. Or snack on broccoli or cauliflower pieces.
Apples, pears, and bananas can all be transported as is, and eaten conveniently, out of hand. Or try fresh berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, black berries) sprinkled over plain Greek yogurt. The latter is high in protein, and should be acceptable for the lactose-intolerant.
Any whole grain makes an excellent snack that will suppress hunger by stabilizing blood sugar levels. Try whole brown rice, whole cooked oats, or more exotic grains like kamut, teff, or quinoa.
Hard-boiled egg. Eggs are an excellent source of complete protein (containing all eight essential amino acids) and they’re handy to eat right out of hand. Old advice to limit your consumption of eggs to less than one per day has been revised in light of recent findings that they do not contribute significantly to blood cholesterol levels.
Although estimates vary, recent research suggests that eating from 6-12 eggs per week is not associated with any increase in the risk of heart disease among people with type 2 diabetes, or people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Presumably, healthy people can also consume eggs with no fear of increasing their cardiovascular risk profiles.
Choose pretzels, or smear a Tbsp. of peanut or other nut butter slices of apple, or purchased rice cakes. Try prunes, dates, or dried apricots.