Posted on Sep 15, 2023, 5 p.m.
Many people are undoing the benefits of healthy meals with unhealthy snacks, which increases the risk of strokes and cardiovascular disease. A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition describes the snacking habits of 854 people enrolled in the ZOE PREDICT Study, finding that the participants were not matching their healthy meals with healthful snack options.
The researchers from the School of Life Course & Population Sciences and ZOE report that half of the participants were undoing positive benefits by not matching healthful snacking with healthy meals and vice versa, this has negative effects on health measures such as fat levels, and blood sugar levels.
"Considering 95% of us snack, and that nearly a quarter of our calories come from snacks, swapping unhealthy snacks such as cookies, crisps, and cakes to healthy snacks like fruit and nuts is a really simple way to improve your health,” said Dr. Sarah Berry from King's College London and chief scientist at ZOE.
The study revealed that the participants were getting 24% of their daily energy intake from snacks like fruit, pastries, and cereal bars. 95% of the participants were snackers enjoying a quick munch 2.28 times a day, 47% snacked twice a day, and 29% ate more than two snacks a day. Timing is also important, snacking after 9 PM was associated with poorer blood markers. Those snacking at this time tended to select energy-dense options that are high in fats and sugar.
The act of snacking itself is not necessarily unhealthy, what you choose to snack on is what makes it unhealthy. The analysis showed that those who munched on high-quality snacks like fresh fruits and nuts most frequently were more likely to have a healthy weight compared to those who never snack and those who most often snacked on junk. Additionally, good-quality snacks were found to help promote better metabolic health and decreased hunger.
26% of the participants reported consuming healthy main meals and poor snack choices such as sugary treats and highly processed foods that are associated with poorer health markers and left the participants still feeling hungry. Unhealthy snacks were linked to higher visceral fat mass, higher postprandial, increased triglyceride concentrations, and a higher BMI which are all associated with metabolic diseases such as obesity, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.
Findings revealed that the most popular snacks were cookies, fruits, nuts, seeds, cheese, cakes, pies, granola, and cereal/cereal bars. Snacks with the greatest contribution to caloric intake were cakes and pies at 14%, breakfast cereals at 13%, ice cream/frozen dairy desserts at 12%, pastries and donuts at 12%, candy at 11%, brownies and cookies at 11%, and seeds/nuts at 11%.
“This study contributes to the existing literature that food quality is the driving factor in positive health outcomes from food. Making sure we eat a balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, protein, and legumes is the best way to improve your health,” said Dr. Kate Bermingham, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow from the Department of Nutritional Sciences.
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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