Eating the RIGHT healthy snacks throughout the day can improve your health!
Snacks. You see them; you love them. But, are they good for you? It turns out — eating the healthy snacks throughout the day is VERY good for you. So, break out the carrot sticks and start munching! Keep in mind: there is a VAST difference between GOOD snacks and bad snacks. Here are a few things to keep an eye out for when you choose YOUR snacks today.
So, what makes or breaks a snack? We’ve all been in that dilemma before: standing in the snack aisle wondering which bite to buy.
First step? READ the ingredients on the packaging. If you don’t know what the ingredients are, don’t put them in your body. In today’s wide world of processed food, this can be easier said than done. MSG, for example, can be labeled under an array of other synonymous names — making it harder to avoid. So, as a rule of thumb: if you don’t know it, don’t eat it.
When you’re perusing your snack options, a few familiar names raise red flags, as well. High-fructose corn syrup is EVERYWHERE and terrible for your health. “Partially-hydrogenated” is another keyword that should incite your knee-jerk reaction to return the snack-bomb to its original location (or the trash!).
With so many unacceptable ingredients in your snack options, it can be disheartening when searching for the right snacks for your healthy lifestyle. Rest assured, though, we now know the guidelines of good grazing habits. Biochemists have learned (and taught) that the three earmarks of a GOOD snack are:
- healthy protein
- healthy fats
- quality nutrients
Snacking on these three nutritional elements provides your body with constant fuel throughout the day. This is GREAT news for improving the health of your cells — which is great news for you! Good cell health will support your body’s ability to heal itself and fight off infections.
Healthy cells are INCREDIBLY important for maintaining a robust immune system. Your immune system relies on these cells to protect your body with their infection-fighting agents. Your immune cells have a bank of genes encoded in their DNA to keep you safe.
Healthy immune cells are able to assess their immediate environment and turn “on” the right genes to fight the threat. So, they’re ready to duel, no matter what comes their way. Depending on what type of infection is present, immune cells decide which genes to turn “on” or “off” — like little flexible ninjas!
The Best Snack Bar For You
“Snack bar” is a deliciously ubiquitous term. Peanuts? Blueberries? Dark chocolate? The possibilities are endless. With the vast range of flavors available to you, snack bars are an excellent snack to have on hand — as long as you choose the RIGHT bars.
One common core ingredient of snack bars is a particular legume: the peanut. (Think Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars — yum!) Peanuts are an INCREDIBLE source of plant-based protein. Plant-based proteins contain nutritional components that are absent in meat-based proteins — like fiber. Fiber is GREAT for digestive health and PERFECT for snack foods.
Peanuts (and peanut butter!) also help keep you feeling full for longer. So, you won’t be tempted to gorge on unhealthy sugar snacks when they cross your path. You’ll also frequently find dried fruit — apples, blueberries, etc. — in your snack bars. Apples and other fruit sources have naturally-occurring sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth.
When dried fruit and nuts/legumes are combined together, the result is a BALANCED snack. Whole food protein, fiber, healthy fats and small amounts of natural sugar in a single snack ensure a well-rounded approach to curbing hunger cravings. Keep a few of our Yonder bone broth collagen protein bars handy to keep your head in the game when hunger happens!
What is a Healthy Fat?
Healthy fats are a KEY part of a healthy diet but the question is which fats are healthy?
SATURATED fat has been known as one of the “bad” types of fat up until recently. Some saturated fats such as coconut oil, grass-fed meat, and whole eggs are so important for your brain and overall health. UNSATURATED fat is mostly healthy. Unsaturated fatty acids — like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — are good for you. (And trans fats are TERRIBLE.)
Other good sources of fat often come from seeds, nuts, and fish. Olive oil and avocados are PHENOMENAL sources of monounsaturated fats. Snacks (that are mostly raw) with monounsaturated fats reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by bringing bad cholesterol to lower levels.
Ever heard of the Mediterranean diet? It was the monounsaturated fat in olive oil that originally stemmed so much interest in the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet. The low-rate of heart disease in Greece, despite a high-fat diet, caught the world’s eye via the Seven Countries Study.
Almonds contain BOTH monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Our bodies require polyunsaturated fats for proper cell membrane maintenance and muscle building. We can ONLY get these fats through our food. So, polyunsaturated fats are not just good fats; they are absolutely ESSENTIAL.
Speaking of almonds, I ONLY snack on RAW sprouted nuts. Word to the wise: keep these nuts in the fridge to maintain freshness, or they can quickly become rancid. Whether it’s walnuts, sunflower seeds, macadamia or Brazilian nuts, opt for raw sprouted nuts for your on-the-go snacking.
Balancing Your Omegas
Recently, there has been a HUGE interest in Omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids are two types of polyunsaturated fats. A healthy diet ideally contains equal amounts of omega-3 and omega-6. The typical Western diet, however, largely eschews this 1:1 ratio.
BOTH of these polyunsaturated fats are important — but it is ALSO important that they are equally represented. Lack of omega-3s may result in an over-abundance of inflammation (which is produced by omega-6). Unfortunately, excess inflammation can lead to both physical and mental health problems. Not good.
One way to help balance YOUR omega ratio is to reach for pasture-raised/grass-fed meat and dairy products. Farm animals that eat grain (instead of grass) consume a MUCH higher proportion of omega-6s. The imbalanced ratio present in grain-feed then passes along to you. Experts say modern Western diets have a 15:1 to 25:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 — instead of 1:1.
Make sure your meat and dairy are providing you the omegas you need! A diet rich in omega-3s can reduce your risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as developmental disorders and cognitive aging. Get your O-3s — whether you’re eating organic turkey or greek yogurt — by snacking on grass-fed products.
Extra Expert Advice
We can’t mention omega-3s without mentioning fatty fish. Fatty fish are LOADED with quality nutrients — perfect for a quick midday munch. Nutrients like B-vitamins, magnesium, selenium, and potassium, AS WELL AS protein and omega-3, are found in salmon. Wild salmon has a better omega 3 to 6 ratio — so shoot for wild-caught instead of farmed, if you can. (In fact, it’s best to stay away from any farmed fish.)
Meanwhile, in the garden section, the superfood of all superfoods is the heroic KALE. Kale and other cruciferous vegetables have proven their super-hero anti-cancer properties through certain bioactive compounds (called isothiocyanates). Kale also packs plant-protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, AND antioxidants into its dark leafy-green waves. Whether a snack or to throw into a quick salad on the go, you can’t go wrong with this vegetable.
Get the Right Snacks for Your Health Lifestyle
Snacks can take you far in your healthy living lifestyle — as long as you’re choosing the RIGHT ones. Eating healthy snacks throughout the day should reduce the number of unhealthy foods and beverages you eat at main meals. This will help to shrink your stomach, so it takes less food to fill you up!