The World of Snacking

What is Snacking?

The word “snack” refers to any food and drink consumed between regular meals and provides up to 10% of energy. Most widely consumed snack foods include chips, chocolate, and other highly processed foods. Luckily, there are
numerous healthy snack options available.

Why People Snack

Some common reasons people snack are because they are hungry, or to provide energy, or even because they encounter a visually appetizing snack. When people are stressed out or emotionally drained, they may turn to emotional eating. Emotional eating refers to snacking to soothe negative emotions and cope with stress. When we are emotionally stressed, we are more likely to eat unhealthy, comfort foods and binge-eat uncontrollably. Snack foods which are loaded with refined sugars provide a quick boost of dopamine and also serve as an easy distraction. When preparing for an important presentation, our brain loves to relax and focus on snacking to avoid or overpower the stress. Our mind tells the body to snack when we are bored. According to psychologists, when we are bored, we are
inclined to open our pantry or our refrigerator to find something to nibble on. Although emotional eating may feel great, it is important to try and eat healthy snacks when we eat and take steps to control cravings.

Health Effects of Snacking

Effects of Snacking on weight

Snacking can negatively impact your weight and curb any efforts. According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, American adults get about 24% of their daily calories from snacks. This report indicated overweight individuals have much greater snacking tendencies, consuming 40% of their daily calories from these mini-meals. Consuming high-calorie food and beverages in large servings and frequent snacking have led Americans to take in an average of almost 600 additional calories per day. This is also a primary reason why there is a high obesity rate in the United States. However, eating healthy snacks can ensure that your body will receive abundant nutrients and prevent any adverse health effects. Keep reading to find out what constitutes as a healthy snack and what doesn’t. The first option is to avoid snacking completely and this is possible if you are strong willed and make an effort to stick to 3 meals with an active lifestyle.

Effects of Snacking on teeth

Snacking can affect your oral (mouth) health. A study involving teens in Brazil found that snacking, combined with other health factors, including high intake of processed carbohydrates and low intake of fruits and vegetables, was associated with harmful health outcomes. Many unhealthy and sugary snacks can slowly deteriorate the enamel of the tooth and increase the risk for cavities. A model of tooth cavity incidence based on another study’s subject data found that consuming more than one snack a day was associated with a 64% increased risk for cavities. After eating snacks that contain refined sugars, these molecules combine saliva and bacteria in the mouth and lead to plaque. If plaque is left on teeth, then it can dissolve enamel and cause tooth decay gradually.

Late-Night snacking

One common problem many people including teens are guilty of is “late-night snacking”. Our body produces insulin until about 4-5 PM in the evening, and when we consume meals late in the evening, our digestive system doesn’t digest it because it is taking a much-needed break. Researchers have discovered that increasing levels of the sleep hormone melatonin reduces the ability of insulin-producing cells to release insulin. Also, they found the effect is stronger in people who carry a particular gene variant that is linked to higher risk for type 2 diabetes. The food that isn’t digested in a timely fashion rots in our intestines and this can head to a variety of chronic health conditions. Also, most people aren’t very active after 5 PM, making food harder to digest. However, it is essential to consider that what you eat is more important than when you eat it. The best time of day to eat snacks is at 2-4 PM in the afternoon. Melatonin(sleep hormone) doesn’t regulate sleep alone. It sends messages to other parts of the body in preparation for sleep, including the pancreas, where it binds to receptors and signals the temporary (overnight) suppression of insulin production. This wasn’t a problem in our pre-industrial past, but in today’s environment of 24-hour food availability, it can have far-reaching effects on health. When food consumption regularly occurs outside normal daylight hours, the risk of hyperglycemia – higher than optimal blood glucose levels – increases. Chronic exposure to elevated glucose increases our risk of developing diabetes and other metabolic disorders. But it might also cause reduction in our brain volume. Studies have shown an association of even high normal fasting blood glucose associated with losses in the hippocampus and the amygdala, areas involved in memory and cognition. In other words, healthy people without diabetes will be affected by late night meals, snacking etc. Humans are the only species that disobey their biological clocks, uncoupling the natural rhythms of light and dark around us.

Is Snacking Healthy?

Based on our research, snacking per se does not have much of an impact on our overall health; instead, it is the type of snacks we commonly consume that seriously affects our health. Eating unhealthy snacks can have a variety of negative
effects on our health, and making sure to eat nutrient-dense snacks can have a variety of benefits for our body. Eating proper snacks can be an excellent way to get extra vitamins and minerals into your diet. Snacks can provide energy in the middle of the day, and they can also decrease hunger and prevent overeating at meals—some other benefits of snacking include improved mood and increased ability to control cravings. The best advice to follow is to choose healthy snacks that can provide energy without excessive calorie consumption or toxic chemicals, additives, dyes, stimulants, refined sugars, etc.

The Supermarket

According to one study, the availability of snack food displays may trigger an unwanted craving and impulse purchases in supermarkets. Basically, when we are waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store, and we see all these delicious
snacks, our brain sends signals to our body to buy these foods, and we often tend to spend money on these unhealthy treats. When our brain sees food, it triggers a physiological need for food, and we end up making purchases which we regret later. Numerous food companies pay handsomely for having their food placed at the checkout area. When food researchers interviewed shoppers, 60 percent of shoppers said that they had bought candy, gum, or candy at the checkout line while waiting. Additionally, these treats are placed at the kid’s eye-level to tempt children into purchasing their treats.

Healthy and Unhealthy Snacks

As we have mentioned before, what you eat is as important as when you eat. But what exactly is the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy snack? How can you tell? When choosing a snack, there are some factors to take into consideration.
● The size of the snack should be the right size, a fine balance between enough calories to satisfy your hunger, but still avoid causing weight gain.
● Pick foods that are low in added fat and sugar and high in fiber, water, and other nutrients. This means an apple is a healthier snack than a bag of chips.
● Aim for fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts.
● Limit foods and drinks that contain added sugar.
● Fresh fruit is a healthier choice than a fruit-flavored drink. Foods and drinks that list sugar or corn syrup as one of the first 3 ingredients are not healthy snack choices.
● Pairing proteins and carbohydrates will help the snack to keep you fullest for the longest. An example of this is organic carrots and hummus.
● Avoid refined foods
● Take your snack on the road. Think ahead and carry a small bag of healthful snacks in your pocket or purse so you won’t turn in desperation to the cookies at the coffee counter or the candy bars in the office vending machine The challenge for the next couple of weeks for you is to monitor the snacks you eat, and try to consume as many healthy snacks as possible. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. You could even try making a quick new healthy snack from
scratch at home and see how it goes. Good Luck! See you next time.

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