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, on the contrary, as a new study suggests. It really depends on the snacks chosen, and the time at which they are consumed.
The French are snacking more and more, at any time of the day. This is what a study carried out by Crédoc for Mondelez International revealed in 2018, revealed by Le Parisien. Nearly four out of ten respondents (38%) admitted to consuming at least one snack (break, aperitif, snack, snack, or others) every day or almost, and 35% admitted to succumbing to these cravings two to three times a day. week. A gap which did not constitute a source of guilt (86%), and which respondents indulged in for pleasure, out of the need to curb hunger, or the need to unwind. Good or bad thing ? A team of researchers from King’s College London has just decided.
Beneficial for health…
Snacking can be harmful – or beneficial – to your health, depending on how it is viewed by ordinary people. This is what emerges from recent work carried out with 854 people from a larger study, the Zoe Predict program, 95% of whom said they regularly resorted to snacks. Published in the European Journal of Nutrition, this research first shows that almost half of people who snack (47%) eat two snacks per day, while 29% eat more than two. But the surprise comes from the fact that snacking is not necessarily bad for your health. It could actually improve certain aspects of it.
“Contrary to popular belief, analysis has shown that snacking is not bad for your health, as long as 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“, we can read in a press release.
… provided you don’t 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.
“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 snacks healthy foods like fruits and nuts is a very simple way to improve your health“, advises Dr Sarah Berry of King’s College London, who participated in this research.
NO to diets, YES to WW!
Time is just as important
Another factor may prove determining: the schedule at which men and women engage in snacking. 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 with poorer blood markers than all other times of snacking“. Something which could be due, this time again, to the nature of snacks taken in the evening – often in front of the television – and richer in fats and sugars.
“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.
In its recommendations for sustainably adopting a healthy diet, the World Health Organization (WHO) advises, if there is snacking, to turn to “fresh fruits and raw vegetables rather than sugary snacks”.