(NaturalNews) Snacking is almost universally viewed as bad for health, primarily because snacks are associated with convenience foods like chips, popcorn and soda. The last thing many of us imagine is that snacks can not only be healthy, but also supportive of weight loss regimes. In fact, some scientists now believe that healthy snacking may actually help dieters regulate their eating habits by learning to consume lighter meals.
Shed pounds by snacking
A study published in the December 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggests that there's a less renowned, but definitely positive side to snacking. Healthy snacks consisting of fresh raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, as well as unsweetened beverages, can actually help dieters in their efforts to shed those extra pounds.
The study was led by Dr. Anne McTiernan, a member of the Hutchinson Center's Public Health Sciences Division and the director of its Prevention Center. Her team discovered that individuals who eat mid-morning snacks can lose about 7 percent of their weight during the course of one year. Individuals who consume a healthful breakfast and lunch, but refrain from consuming unhealthy snacks, are able to lose about 11 percent of their total body weight in one year. Dr. McTiernan explained that snacking does not have to be bad for us, provided that we are careful with when and how we snack. She revealed that while snacking too soon after a meal will lead to weight gain, staying hungry for too long is just as bad, for it can sabotage dieting attempts. She also recommends replacing processed snacks with light, healthful foods that will actually support weight loss.
Dr. McTiernan further clarified that snacking which leads to weight gain is not a response to a genuine sensation of hunger, but rather a poor eating habit. Snacks that are eaten in response to a feeling of true hunger can help dieters stay confident, make careful food choices for their next meal and avoid binge eating. Moreover, the same study shows that women who consume about two snacks per day have a higher fiber intake when compared to women who don't regularly snack. Dietary fiber is vital to gut health and will help lower blood cholesterol.
Proteins - Top choice when snacking
So what is the secret formula to a healthy snack for weight loss? "Since women on a weight-loss program only have a limited number of calories to spend each day, it is important for them to incorporate nutrient-dense foods that are no more than 200 calories per serving," explains Dr. McTiernan. Some of the best snacks for a weight-loss program are proteins such as a small handful of nuts; non-starchy vegetables; fresh fruits; and non-calorie beverages, according to Dr. McTiernan.
But how exactly do these foods help? Omega-3 rich foods, such as nuts and seeds, can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and elevate HDL (good) cholesterol levels in the blood. Precious phytochemicals found in green leafy vegetables neutralize free radicals, protect cell membranes, detoxify the liver for more efficient nutrient absorption, strengthen immunity and help regulate metabolic rates. Fiber-rich grains and fruits that are low in sugar give bulk to our stool, ensure gastrointestinal health, and provide satiation that keeps hunger away for longer.
Statistical data consistently shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans report snacking, and that this behavior occurs across both genders, as well as all age groups and cultural backgrounds. "Many people think that a weight-loss program has to mean always feeling hungry. Our study suggests that snacking may actually help with weight loss if not done too close to another meal, particularly if the snacks are healthy foods that can help you feel full without adding too many calories," concluded Dr. McTiernan.
About the author: Raw Michelle is a natural health blogger and researcher, sharing her passions with others, using the Internet as her medium. She discusses topics in a straight forward way in hopes to help people from all walks of life achieve optimal health and well-being. She has authored and published hundreds of articles on topics such as the raw food diet and green living in general.