The One Snack You Should Eat Every Day if You Want to Combat Metabolic Syndrome

Healthy snacks to combat metabolic syndrome

If you’ve been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, a health condition that increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, you may think that snacks are off-limits. After all, there is a link between unhealthy dietary habits and metabolic syndrome—and snacks often get a bad rap.

Ready for some good news? You can absolutely still have snacks if you have metabolic syndrome. In fact, you should! The key is choosing a snack that can help fight it. Fortunately, there are plenty of options to choose from, including one that registered dietitians say is a great one to go for. 

Related: From Blood Sugar to BMI, Here Are the Top Health Facts You Should Know so You Can Be Your Own Health Advocate

What Is Metabolic Syndrome?

Dr. Amy Lee, MD, an obesity medicine doctor and the Chief Medical Officer at Aaptiv, explains that metabolic syndrome, which is also referred to as “insulin resistance syndrome,” is several conditions that occur together that increase one’s risk for heart disease.

“When you have metabolic syndrome, you have the following conditions: elevated fasting sugar, elevated triglycerides, low levels of HDL cholesterol, elevated waist circumference and elevated blood pressure,” she says. "Typically, you have to have three of these five conditions to qualify for a metabolic syndrome diagnosis." 

Virginia-based registered dietitian Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDCES, CHWC, FAND, says that each of the five conditions raises health risks, but having three of the five—which means you have metabolic syndrome—is an even greater risk. 

The good news, Dr. Lee explains, is that metabolic syndrome is reversible through diet and lifestyle changes. Sometimes, she adds, medications can be beneficial too.

Related: Looking to Lose Weight? Get Started With These 40 Expert- and Science-Backed Foods and Drinks

How to Reverse Metabolic Syndrome Through Diet and Lifestyle Habits

If you want to reverse metabolic syndrome, registered dietitian Lauren Manaker, MS, RD, LD, CLEC, CPT, says the key is to focus on centering your diet around whole, nutrient-dense foods while reducing intake of added sugars, fried foods and trans fats.

“Incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats into daily meals can help regulate blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels,” she explains. 

According to Manaker, diets rich in fiber, specifically, such as the Mediterranean diet, have been shown to offer significant benefits. “Additionally, minimizing the consumption of sugary beverages and alcohol can also contribute to maintaining a healthy weight and reducing waist circumference,” she adds.

Dr. Lee says that regular exercise is also important for reversing metabolic syndrome, explaining, “Movement is medicine. Consistent, recurrent movement can make a big impact on overall health and is essential for managing metabolic syndrome effectively. It helps improve insulin sensitivity, lowers blood pressure, reduces abdominal fat and improves cholesterol levels." 

Related: What Is the Mediterranean Diet and What Can You Eat On It?

The Best Snack to Combat Metabolic Syndrome

What does all this helpful advice mean for your snack habits? It means snacks can help reverse metabolic syndrome as long as it’s in line with the recommended dietary advice. (A recap: It should be a nutrient-rich food instead of one with empty calories.)

Manaker recommends snacking on a handful of walnuts as a way to fight metabolic syndrome. “In one scientific study published in the journal Nutrients, researchers found that tree nuts, like walnuts, are a great snack that boosts metabolic health in young adults. The study revealed that tree nuts might improve metabolic health, reducing waist circumference and lipid biomarkers in females and insulin sensitivity in men,” she says.

Manaker also points to another scientific study showing that consuming walnuts as part of an overall healthy diet and lifestyle intervention may improve obesity and lessen the severity of metabolic syndrome in adults who have it.

Related: 10 Healthiest Nuts, According to Registered Dietitians

Other Snacks to Help Combat Metabolic Syndrome

Not into walnuts? Weisenberger recommends roasted chickpeas as another snack that can help fight metabolic syndrome, explaining that you can either buy them or roast them at home by draining, rinsing and drying canned chickpeas and roasting them in the oven at 450°F for 20 minutes. To make them even healthier, she says to sprinkle olive oil and spices—like paprika or cayenne—on top.

If you’re in the mood for something sweet, Dr. Lee recommends snacking on plain Greek yogurt with berries. “It’s pure protein, includes probiotics and has no added sugar,” she says.

As you can see, having metabolic syndrome doesn’t mean giving up snacking—far from it! The key is choosing nutrient-rich foods that help fuel and nourish your body. Make a habit of snacking on these types of foods and you’ll not only be healing your body, you’ll feel more energized and satiated too.

Next up, check out these 25 foods that are good for your heart.