Have you ever found yourself with panging cravings between meals, reached for a convenient snack to curb your hunger, then less than an hour later you’re already hungry again? This issue comes down to the snack foods you’re choosing. The perfect snack should be nutritious while allowing you to burn energy slowly to avoid crashing and finding yourself with yet another craving.
Not sure what you should and shouldn’t be reaching for between meals? Here are 5 common snack food ingredients to avoid at all costs.
- Refined sugars
Firstly, and arguably most importantly, sugar is addictive. If you’re eating a sugary snack to curb a craving, only to find yourself craving it even more, it’s likely due to the addictive nature of sugary snacks.
When you eat sugar, your brain releases dopamine which is known as the “feel good” chemical. This triggers us to crave more sugar, leading to a vicious binging cycle. Refined sugar can cause everything from tooth decay and diabetes through to depression and even cancer, so it’s best to avoid the refined varieties wherever possible.
- Artificial sweeteners
Before you replace all those refined sugar packed snacks with artificially sweetened alternatives, read this. Because artificial sweeteners are often even sweeter than regular sugar, they can actually lead to even more sugar cravings!
Aside from being just as linked to diabetes as regular sugar is, artificial sweeteners can physically change the way your body responds to carbohydrates. Insulin works to trigger fat storage in your body, so if your insulin levels are high you’ll be more likely to gain weight. When your blood sugar rises (as it does when you consume artificial sweeteners like sucralose) so do your insulin levels. Artificial sweeteners, even those touted as a healthy alternative to sugar, may actually cause you to gain weight!
- Trans fats
Once considered a “heart healthy” alternative to saturated fats, trans fats have since been shown to be twice as dangerous for your heart! Why? Because trans fats boost your levels of “bad” cholesterol AND decrease “good” cholesterol, so it’s bad news all round for your arteries.
Trans fats are also particularly bad for your metabolism because your body doesn’t actually know how to process them. This can lead to weight gain, as well as feeling hungry sooner than necessary. When we eat the right amount of food and healthy ingredients, our body turns that food into energy that we can then burn off. Because our body doesn’t know how to metabolise trans fats, they’re much more difficult to burn off.
- High fructose corn syrup
Yet another form of sweetener, high fructose corn syrup is even more processed than your regular refined table sugar. What makes high fructose corn syrup even worse for you is that fact that is actually contains chemical toxins such as mercury. The amount of mercury found in HFCS isn’t enough to harm you after one snack, but if you continue to binge on these rich, sugary foods, you’ll wind up with traces of heavy metals in your body.
The big reason you should avoid HFCS though is that it’s essentially a red flag for processed foods- you’d be hard pressed to find a snack containing high fructose corn syrup that isn’t junk food, so if you’re taking conscious steps towards healthier snacking then anything with HFCS is best avoided.
- Additives and preservatives
Food additives and preservatives are usually synthetic, so they’re best left on the shelf. Additives are included in many snack foods to give them bright colours, sweeter flavours and even fruity scents, while preservatives are often added to packaged foods to give them a longer shelf life.
Additives and preservatives are often listed on package ingredients with three digit number codes, so chances are you’re consuming them regularly without even knowing their names. Artificial colouring has been widely linked to hyperactivity, particularly in children, and because these ingredients are usually synthetic (which means man made as opposed to naturally derived), they too fall under the umbrella of ingredients that our body isn’t really sure how to metabolise.
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