Posted on Jul 25, 2023, 4 p.m.
Everyone loves a snack, research suggests that 20-25% of total energy intake can come from snacks, and over 70% of snack lovers have at least two snacks per day. Research presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition: NUTRITION 2023 indicates that snacking is more about quality than quantity.
“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,” says Kate Bermingham, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at King’s College London. “Timing is also important, with late night snacking being unfavorable for health.”
“Surprisingly little has been published on snacking, despite the fact that it accounts for 20-25% of energy intake,” said Bermingham. “PREDICT followed a large number of people and captured detailed information on their snacking behaviors, allowing this in-depth exploration of snacking on health.”
This study involved data from over 1,000 people living in the U.K. with an average age of 46.1 years old (∓11.9 years), who were enrolled in the ZOE PREDICT 1 Study, which is a group of large in-depth nutritional studies investigating why and how people respond differently to the same foods. The researchers examined the relationships between snack quantity, timing, and quality with insulin levels and blood fats which are indicators of cardiometabolic health.
According to the researchers, their analysis revealed that snacking on more healthful, higher-quality foods that contain significant levels of nutrients relative to their calories was associated with better insulin and blood fat responses, poor quality and late evening snacking was associated with unfavorable blood glucose and lipid levels, and no association was found between snacking frequency, calories consumed, and food quantity with any of the health measures analyzed.
“We observed only weak relationships between snack quality and the remainder of the diet, which highlights snacking as an independent modifiable dietary feature that could be targeted to improve health,” said Bermingham.
While many people may tell you to avoid snacking because it is bad for you, this study suggests that snacking isn’t always bad when more healthful food choices are made. Next time that you are reaching for a snack why not grab a chilled crisp apple rather than a bag of chips, and perhaps rather than eating ice cream at midnight try drinking a glass of water and wait a few minutes before eating because other research suggests that people (at least 37%) are more likely to be thirsty and confuse it with hunger, especially late at night.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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