When it comes to the average American's battle with weight and the waistline, one front where many of us are losing ground is the snack department. Our appetite for soft drinks, chips, cookies, candies and French fries is a major source of our seeming incessant weight gain. For anyone who wants to lose weight, developing healthy snack habits is of primary importance.
Why Chips, Fries and Cookies Are Making You Fat and Unhealthy
To understand why healthy snacking is so important, it first helps to gain a rudimentary understanding of what high-carb, fatty and sugary snacks are doing to your body.
Typical American snack foods are almost all complex carbohydrates and refined sugars. When these are ingested, your body transforms them into glucose. There's nothing wrong with glucose in and of itself; glucose is the gasoline that your body uses to power its engine. However, too much glucose in your bloodstream quickly becomes toxic.
That's where insulin comes into play. The job of insulin is to take glucose out of your bloodstream and store it somewhere else. When insulin runs out of room in the liver and the muscles, it transforms extra glucose into fat.
What's more, when your body is constantly flooding your bloodstream with insulin, two other consequences occur. First, your body gradually becomes more and more insulin resistant, which eventually leads to diabetes. Second, by quickly removing all that glucose from your bloodstream, you experience the famous "sugar crash" or "post-lunch drowsiness." These symptoms are a direct result of the unhealthy snack foods you've eaten.
Turn to Nuts and Dried Fruits Instead
The next time you start jonesing for a snack, reach for nuts or fruit instead of a bag of chips or a pack of cookies.
Many dieters avoid nuts because they have a high fat content. However, as you can see from the explanation above, "low-fat" chips or cookies that have a high concentration of carbohydrates and refined sugars will eventually be transformed into fat by the body anyway!
By contrast, the proteins and fats that make up nuts do not trigger the flood of insulin that a bag of chips or cookies cause. Proteins and fats burn more slowly in the body and are less likely to lead to the production of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Furthermore, because they do not lead to a sugar rush in the body, nuts don't result in insulin resistance or the subsequent "sugar crash."
Fruit is another healthy snack option. Although fruits do have carbohydrates and sugars, they are packed with nutrients and are generally considered to be easier to break down within the body than the chemically altered sugars that come in most unhealthy snack foods, such as candy bars and packs of cookies. For someone who is mostly avoiding processed carbs, fruit doesn't overload the body with unneeded carbs and sugars.
Dried fruit is an excellent option for eating enough fruit when fresh fruit isn't available. Unlike fresh fruit, dried fruit can be stored in a drawer or a cabinet for even months before going bad.
In conclusion, if you're watching your weight, check how you're snacking. If you're consuming calorie-dense, sugar-dense or carb-dense snacks, you can trade out unhealthy snacks for natural nuts and fruits. This one change to your eating habits will make a big difference in the long-run.