More than 90 percent of Americans snack daily. Nutritionists have gone back and forth on the healthiness of snacking. Some say it’s important to empty your stomach between meals and that snacking leads to unhealthy choices. Others say snacks help maintain stable blood sugar.
Our team has historically been on the “no snack” train because of how snacks can derail weight management goals. However, we are always willing to learn and change our views with new discoveries.
“Surprisingly little has been published on snacking, despite the fact that it accounts for 20-25 percent of energy intake,” Kate Bermingham, a researcher in Nutritional Sciences at King’s College London.
She led a team analyzing the behavior of 1,001 people. They could see the relationship between snack quality, quantity, timing, blood fat and sugar levels.
Ninety-five percent of the participants had at least one snack a day. On average, people ate 2.28 snacks a day, and 22 percent of their calories came from snacks.
People who snacked after nine at night had poorer blood sugar and fat markers. People who chose healthy snacks like fruits, veggies or nuts had better blood sugar and fat levels. The number of snacks didn’t appear to impact the results.
“Our study showed that the quality of snacking is more important than the quantity or frequency of snacking; thus choosing high-quality snacks over highly processed snacks is likely beneficial,” Ms. Bermingham said. “Timing is also important, with late-night snacking being unfavorable for health. This may mean that, universally, snacking late in the evening and interrupting the overnight fasting window is detrimental to health.”
Eating high-quality snacks earlier in the day seems more important than swearing off snacks. Fruit and protein-rich yogurt can be a wonderful option if you want something sweet. If you want something savory with crunch, go for vegetables with hummus. You’ll get the crunchiness of chips without the huge carb count. Air-popped popcorn is low in calories and high in fiber. And nuts and seeds are rich in protein, fiber and healthy fats.
By picking the right snacks, you may not need to limit your snacks to maintain healthy blood sugar and fat levels. This study did not look at how snacking impacted weight. If you are on a calorie-controlled plan, you still need to be aware of your snack intake. But, as far as your heart health and metabolism go, as long as you are eating healthily and early in the day, snacks don’t matter!