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Heart Healthy Trail Mix

Trail mix is not just for taking while you walk the trails or as a healthy snack for kids. You may find it difficult to find snacks that fill you up, provide you with good nutrition and are good for your heart. Fortunately, when you make a trail mix with the right combination of ingredients, trail mix can benefit your heart's health.

Nuts

Nuts do have a substantial amount of fats and calories per ounce, but using nuts in your trail mix is a good way to help your heart. The fats in nuts are unsaturated fatty acids, which the University of Maryland Medical Center indicates are good for your heart because the fatty acids have a positive effect on unhealthy low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Eating small amounts of nuts regularly also reduces the likelihood that you will develop dangerous blood clots. Include one or more types of nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews pistachios or peanuts, in your trail mix.

Dark Chocolate

Eating small amounts of chocolate may be good for your blood pressure and may reduce your risk of stroke, according to a March 2010 study published in the "European Heart Journal." Add bits of dark chocolate to your trail mix to reap the benefits. If you are using your trail mix for an outdoor event in warm weather, keep your trail mix with the chocolate in a cooler to keep the chocolate from melting.

Dried Fruits and Whole Grains

Other common additions to trail mix are good for your heart. The American Dietetic Association indicates that the antioxidants in dried fruits, such as pineapple, apple slices, apricots, raisins and berries, help prevent some types of cancer and coronary heart disease. In addition to dried fruit, add whole-grain cereals, pretzels or popcorn to your trail mix for heart healthy grains. Scientists presented a study at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in 2009 that found that the polyphenols present in grains may have a protective effect on the heart. Choose durable cereals such as bite-size shredded wheat or thicker bran flakes.

Calorie Awareness

While the ingredients in trail mix are heart healthy, the chocolate, nuts and dried fruits are relatively calorie dense. An ounce of almonds, just 24 nuts, has 164 calories, 1 ounce of hazelnuts has 178 calories and 14 halves of English walnuts have 185 calories. Chocolate chip pieces contain about 100 calories per 1/8 cup. Raisins have about 109 calories per 1/4 cup and dried apricots have 84 calories per 10 apricot halves. Use your calculator to determine the number of calories in your customized trail mix. If eating the mix as a daily snack, measure about 1/8 cup to avoid adding too many calories to your day, and thus gaining weight.

Photo Credits:

  • dried fruit and nuts image by Alison Bowden from Fotolia.com

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.