Why snacking is not so good for you after all

Despite long standing advice to eat little and often, research is now showing that snacking can increase weight gain, fatigue and inflammation.

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Snacking didn’t exist in our grandparents time. They had 3 square meals a day and didn’t need anything in between.

Then some time in the 1970’s food companies saw an opportunity to copy the US and introduce snack foods for kids (remember the ad ‘a finger of fudge is just enough to give your kids a treat’?). 

This trend exploded in the 80’s and now snacking is a HUGE industry, and it's become totally normal.

Not helped by the fact that we’re all so busy and rely so much on convenience foods to save time.  

And we thought it was OK. In fact we’ve been told for years that eating little and often is a good way to eat – to boost your metabolism, lose weight and balance your blood sugar!

And I’ve always gone along with that. I’ve been a very happy snacker. I love food so having 5-6 mini meals a day was heaven for me! 

Turns out, health wise, snacking is not the best idea…..

This research showed that regular snacking is not good for us. It actually promotes weight gain, fatigue, inflammation and faster ageing! 

Health Effects of Snacking

1/ Promotes sugar/carb cravings

Not only is it hard to feel full and satiated after a snack, but most snacks are also pretty carb heavy (even the ‘healthy ones). You’re unlikely to be snacking on veggies! That just means that your blood sugar will be raised more often and require high insulin levels to clear the sugar from the blood. 

Next thing you know you’re craving another snack/sugar hit 2 hours later and now you’re on the blood sugar roller coaster!

2/ Weight gain

As well as increased insulin (your fat storing hormone), if you’re constantly eating, you’re re-filling your sugar stores all the time. So when your body needs energy, it will burn the sugar stores all day long (and leave your fat stores where they are!).

If you rest between meals, your sugar stores will deplete and when you need energy, guess what? The body will get it from burning your fat stores instead.

3/ Lower energy

Digesting food takes time & energy – it takes at least 6 hrs to properly digest your food. When you constantly eat, your gut has to constantly work. You might get a short term sugar hit, but all that digesting can reduce your energy reserves and make you feel sluggish and lethargic.

4/ Gut issues

If you’re constantly switching on your digestion, it can actually impair the process overall, and cause a host of gut issues including constipation and malabsorption of nutrients.

5/ Hormone imbalance

What do we know about insulin? It’s a fat storing hormone, energy drainer, mood swinger and hormone destabiliser!

And if you’re going through menopause, insulin can be a key factor in how you’re feeling. We are generally more insulin resistant at this time of our lives, which means we have to be careful to manage our blood sugar.

As well as increasing your risk of Type 2 Diabetes, too much insulin can promote excess oestrogen and inflammation.

This trial conducted in Prague in 2014 compared the health effects of eating 2 larger meals a day vs 6 smaller meals in patients with Type 2 Diabetes. The results in the group eating 2 meals a day (just breakfast and lunch) were reduced body weight, lower fasting glucose, and increased insulin sensitivity.

6/ Promotes emotional eating

Are you reaching for a snack because you’re sad, angry, frustrated or BORED? It’s easy to snack to feed your emotions, fill a gap or feel comforted. This can lead to addictive behaviours and a disconnected relationship with food.  

What's a better way of eating?

Firstly, make it hard to snack on the wrong things. Make sure you don't buy the snacks you'd normally go for, and most of the time the inconvenience of having to go out will be enough to put you off.

A more healthy way to eat is to have 2 or 3 larger meals with 4-6 hours in between. A substantial meal with a good source of protein, healthy fats, lots of veggies and slow carbs should easily keep you full for 4-6 hours.

This will help to turn off hunger hormones, give the body (and digestion) a rest, and reduce your insulin activity, allowing your body to burn fat between meals.

This trial conducted in Prague in 2014 compared the health effects of eating 2 larger meals a day vs 6 smaller meals in patients with Type 2 Diabetes. The results by eating just breakfast and lunch were reduced body weight, lower fasting glucose levels and increased insulin sensitivity.

Intermittent Fasting is another way to extend time between meals. It has shown huge health benefits in recent studies. I have talked about Time Restricted Eating before; essentially overnight fasting of 12-16 hours, which is often easier to do for women over 40.

If you need to snack (if you have blood sugar issues, or you feel dizzy or ‘hangry'), then go for low carb options like veggies (carrot sticks, celery, cucumber etc), nuts, seeds, hummus, boiled eggs, avocado on oat cakes, etc. That way at least you’ll keep your blood sugar nice and stable.

If you'd like help with your hormones or health, do contact us to set up a chat to see if we can help.

Nicki Williams

Hormone Nutritionist, speaker & author - helping women to rebalance their hormones, reclaim their health and feel better than ever, www.happyhormonesforlife.com

After failing to find any medical help for her symptoms of exhaustion, weight gain & hormone issues in her early 40’s, Nicki discovered that she could turn things around using diet, lifestyle and natural supplements. She is now an award-winning nutritionist, author, speaker and founder of Happy Hormones For Life, helping women all over the world with her hormone and health testing, online programmes, workshops & individual & group coaching.

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