Boredom, stress, frustration, or habit: snacking can be triggered by different factors, and have a harmful impact on body mass index and certain metabolic diseases. But contrary to popular belief, these daytime or nighttime cravings are not necessarily bad for your health. It really depends on the snacks chosen, and the time at which they are consumed according to the work of a team of researchers from King’s College London published in the European Journal of Nutrition.
The study focused on a panel of 854 people: 95% admitted to snacking at least one snack per day, almost half two, and a third at least three. And surprise: “contrary to popular belief, the study showed that snacking is not bad for your health, provided that they are healthy snacks. People who frequently eat good-quality snacks, like nuts and fresh fruit, are more likely to have a healthy weight than those who don’t snack at all or who snack on unhealthy foods. The analysis also showed that good quality snacks can also improve metabolic health and reduce feelings of hunger,” reads a press release.
Do not eat fatty or sweet foods
Be careful though, the nature of the snack can change the situation, and transform these benefits into harms. The consequences may even be greater, since the study tells us that snacking could cancel out the benefits of healthy meals.
A detail which is not without importance if we consider that biscuits, cakes, pies, cereals, and even cheese are among the most consumed snacks. The study also indicates that more than a quarter of participants (26%) said they consumed healthy meals – those eaten at traditional times – but also snacks considered much less healthy, namely highly processed foods or sweet products.
And this is where the problem lies, since snacks of this type have been associated with a higher body mass index (BMI) and a greater volume of visceral fat, among other things, inducing an increased risk of metabolic diseases such as stroke, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.
A problem if we consider that half of the panel strives to eat healthy meals, while snacking on fatty or sugary products, or the opposite, reducing to nothing the efforts made at breakfast, lunch, and at dinner.
Fruits and nuts welcome
“Considering that 95% of us snack and almost a quarter of our calories come from snacks, replacing unhealthy snacks such as biscuits, chips and cakes with healthy ones “Healthy foods like fruit and nuts are a really easy way to improve your health,” advises Dr Sarah Berry of King’s College London, who was involved in the research.
Do not eat at any time
Another factor can be determining: the time at which you snack. While the Crédoc study showed in 2018 that the French snacked throughout the day, we learn here that snacks taken after 9 p.m. are “associated [s] to worse blood markers than all other hours of snacking.”
“This study contributes to the existing literature that diet quality is the key determinant of the positive effects of diet on health. Ensuring a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, proteins and legumes is the best way to improve your health,” concludes Dr Kate Bermingham, co-author of this work.
Along the same lines, the World Health Organization (WHO) advises, if there is snacking, to turn to “fresh fruits and raw vegetables rather than sugary snacks”.
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