Little-Known Snacking Habits That Can Increase Your Heart Disease Risk
Heart disease can be a terrifying thing to be mindful of as you age, whether it runs in your family or not. And even though heart disease used to only be thought of as something that happens to older adults, the CDC says that younger adults are also experiencing heart complications more frequently now because of things like high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.
Your genetics, age, sex, and environment all play a role in your risk of having heart disease, but your diet and lifestyle play a significant role as well. According to the CDC, your consistent eating patterns are incredibly impactful when it comes to your heart health because of risk factors like blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, and weight, all of which are related to your diet in some capacity.
When it comes to adopting heart-healthy eating habits, the way that you snack throughout the day can be a great place to start. To learn more, we talked with a few expert dietitians about some sneaky snacking habits that may be increasing your risk of heart disease. Read on, and for more healthy eating tips check out 6 Foods That Heal Your Body.
Eating too many sugary treats.
Snacking on something sweet and delicious like candy can be awfully tempting, but dietitians warn that too much added sugar can contribute to negative health outcomes.
"Added sugar has been identified as increasing your risk for heart disease, and too much added sugar coming from things like soda and candy can increase heart disease risk," says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and member of our medical expert advisory board.
Snacking on foods high in added sugar and very low in fiber or protein (like candy or soda) can also cause spikes in your blood sugar levels, and having a lot of these spikes over time may lead to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is a risk factor for heart disease.
Eating too many salty snacks.
Similar to snacks with added sugar, it's also helpful to limit your consumption of highly-salted snack foods when you're trying to monitor your heart disease risk.
According to Dr. Young, "a diet high in sodium increases your risk for hypertension and heart disease, so eating too many salty snacks like potato chips on a regular basis may contribute to an increase in heart disease risk over time."
Eating large portions of ultra-processed foods.
Ultra-processed foods are defined as foods made mostly from fats, added sugars, refined carbs, and hydrogenated oils. And according to Dr. Young, snacking on these foods consistently can contribute to heart disease risk because these foods are "very high in calories and can easily contribute to weight gain, which can lead to obesity." And as we mentioned previously, obesity is unfortunately a major risk factor for heart disease.
One recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that a diet high in ultra-processed foods increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, and this risk increases with each additional serving of processed food daily.
Eating healthy foods and providing your body with plenty of nutrients is just as important as avoiding the "unhealthy" stuff. According to Rachel Fine, RDN, registered dietitian and founder of To The Pointe Nutrition, not snacking or not eating enough food throughout the day can also have a negative impact on your health.
"Not snacking because of rules set forth by a restrictive diet can contribute to unhealthy outcomes," says Fine. "Going long hours without a snack between meals can leave you with cycling between energy dips and surges, and make it difficult to remain more mindful and present at your meal times." In other words, restriction may lead to binging on unhealthy snacks later on.
Reaching for the baked goods.
Baked goods and pastries aren't bad, and treating yourself to your favorite snacks once in a while is still important. But according to Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements, snacking consistently on baked goods can have potentially negative health outcomes.
"The added sugars and saturated/trans fats used to create these snacks are connected with an increase in cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides," says Best, "and excess added sugar in the diet can increase your risk of heart disease regardless of weight status. They can also raise blood sugar and chronic inflammation, both of which put you at risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke."
Not only that, sugary treats without fiber or protein are not filling and will most likely leave you still feeling hungry even after you're done snacking.