by Violet Smith, Staff Writer, BlackDoctor.org
A healthy snack can be an important part of a healthful diet. But research also suggests that snacks can help you lose weight by curbing hunger and stabilizing blood sugar.
So what should you be snacking on?
Fruits and vegetables are a great place to start. Most people don’t get enough fruits and vegetables in their diet, so chomping on them during snacktime is a good way to help you meet your daily quota. But if you have some specific health goals–such as slimming down or beating that afternoon energy slump–here are some snacks that can help you meet them:
Great Snacks To Try
Spicy nuts: In one Harvard study, women who ate nuts two or more times a week gained less weight than women who rarely noshed on them. Although nuts are high in calories, researchers think that the combination of protein, fiber and healthy fats help keep you feeling full. And going for nuts with a little zing may even help boost your metabolism. Studies suggest that capsaicin, an antioxidant in chile peppers (and also what makes them hot), increases the body’s metabolic rate–slightly–and may stimulate brain chemicals in a way that helps you feel satisfied.
Popcorn: Air-popped popcorn (without butter) is healthy and satisfying. That’s because popcorn is technically a whole grain and, as such, delivers 4 grams of fiber and just under 100 calories for 3 cups. Fiber, which helps you to feel full on fewer calories, can help jump-start your weight loss. In one two-year study in the Journal of Nutrition, boosting fiber by 8 grams for every 1,000 calories resulted in losing about 4 1/2 pounds.
Smoothie: Snacks are a good place to fill in nutritional gaps from the rest of our day. Two nutrients most Americans fall short on are fiber and calcium. Instead of buying a smoothie (store-bought smoothies can pack a ton of calories–in part because they often come in large sizes and may also add extra sugar), try a homemade smoothie. Use skim or low-fat yogurt and/or milk for the calcium and fruit for the fiber; berries are particularly high in fiber and lowish in calories.
Whole-grain cereal-based snack mix: A snack mix that delivers whole grains in the form of whole-grain cereal and protein via nuts provides staying power. You can also sweeten it up with a tablespoon or two of raisins or dried cherries.
Dark chocolate: I love it when research gives me more reasons to eat my favorite foods. Researchers have found that eating moderate amounts of flavanol-rich dark chocolate has a blood-thinning effect, which can benefit your heart. Some research also suggests cocoa may help lower blood pressure. Just keep in mind that chocolate is pretty high in calories, so watch your portions.
Yogurt: Eating yogurt may protect against gum disease. And people with gum disease–which affects up to 50 percent of American adults–are twice as likely to suffer from heart problems. Researchers from Japan analyzed dietary intakes from nearly 1,000 adults and found those who consumed the highest levels of dairy–specifically yogurt and yogurt-type drinks–had the healthiest gums. They credit probiotics (a.k.a. “good bacteria”) as one possible champion of gum health, possibly countering the growth of the “unfriendly” bacteria in the mouth.
A slice of whole-grain toast with peanut butter: If weight loss and a good night’s sleep are what you’re trying to achieve, there may be a food combination to help. Specialists recommend a pre-slumber snack that’s rich in carbohydrates and contains a bit of protein; this combination is said to increase the tryptophan levels in the brain, causing you to sleep more soundly. Toast and peanut butter deliver the magic combo.