The 7 Best Healthy Snacks

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Here are the seven best healthy snacks from the YMCA:

COTTAGE CHEESE WITH FLAX:  A great source of protein and calcium, and is also high in tryptophan, an amino acid that boosts serotonin. According to Keri Glassman, a registered dietician and author of “The O2 Diet,” serotonin helps your brain stay focused and happy. For a tasty power snack, combine ½ cup of low-fat cottage cheese with 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed - an excellent source of lignans, plant estrogens that may soothe mood swings and other menstrual symptoms in women, according to the Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology.

GRILLED GRAPEFRUIT:  According to a Scripps Clinic study published in Journal of Medicinal Food, people who ate half a grapefruit before each meal lost an average of 3.6 pounds. The researchers found that grapefruit may have specific properties that reduce insulin levels, which helps the body process foods more efficiently and store less fat. Plus, both the pink and red varieties contain lycopene, which is good for your heart. Glassman recommends sprinkling 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon on half a grapefruit, then broiling the combo for one minute. Research shows the omega-3 fatty acids found in walnuts can reduce inflammation and may help lower risk of heart disease, cancer and arthritis.

CUCUMBER AND AVOCADO SALSA:  Avocado is rich in glutathione, a substance that specifically blocks the intestinal absorption of certain fats that cause oxidative damage,” says Glassman. “This disrupts normal cellular functioning and can lead to cancerous tumors.” Also helpful: The monounsaturated fats in avocados helps slow down the emptying of the stomach, so you feel satisfied longer. Cucumber, meanwhile, is rich in potassium and magnesium, which combats high blood pressure and helps eliminate uric acid - which may prevent kidney stones. To make the salsa, cut into pieces one peeled sliced cucumber and ¼ avocado; then combine with lemon juice and salt to taste. Bonus points if you swap whole wheat crackers for chips.

SWEET POTATO FRIES:  “One medium sweet potato can contain more than 400 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance of vitamin A, which helps promote the growth of healthy skin cells, and more eye-healthy beta carotene than any other fruit or vegetable,” Glassman says. To make guilt-free sweet potato fries, cut 1/2 sweet potato into 1/8-inch strips. Place on a baking sheet lightly coated with olive oil and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

ARTICHOKE HEARTS:  “Artichokes contain phytochemicals that act as anti-inflammatory agents in the skin, making them the ultimate beauty food,” Glassman And with 10 grams of slow-burning fiber in just one artichoke, this super snack will stave off hunger pangs until dinner. Simply steam four canned artichoke hearts in water and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese.

WARM PINEAPPLE: “Pineapple is the only source of bromelain, an enzyme whose anti-inflammatory properties may ease joint pain,” says Glassman. Research also shows that pineapple may reduce the inflammation associated with asthma and slow the growth of some cancers. Grill or boil one cup of pineapple chunks for five minutes and serve with chopped hazelnuts - a healthy protein that helps keep hunger at bay.

TUNA WITH LEMON:  Packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. When eaten in moderation, those may protect you against heart disease, high cholesterol, blood pressure and stroke. “The high protein amount in tuna will help provide satiety, making this the perfect in-between-meal snack,” Glassman says. For some simple, heart-smart grub, mix a 3-ounce can of light tuna (drained) with lemon juice and pepper.