Healthy Snacks

By Angelika Hanna

We all like to snack once in a while. Some people love sweets, others prefer rather salty; and many of us – like myself – like a combination of sweet and salty.

Unfortunately, both sugar and salt have gained a rather bad reputation based on scientific evidence – least not last because we usually consume more than what is within the acceptable limit for our health.

Fortunately, there are snacks which are tasty and healthy and can satisfy our sweet as well as salty tooth.

I am not a scientist and, therefore, rely on the public information available to us through the media. In this post, I share some research I have done from reputable sources.

DRIED vs FRESH FRUIT:

Dried fruit is a delicious, fruity and sweet snack that is easy to take out. Since I love figs and mangoes, and they are not always available fresh all year around, I buy them dried. Lets see what health experts say about dried fruit.

Registered Nutritionist Adda Bjarnadottir writes in her article on Healthline.com that dried fruit can be a handy snack when refrigeration is not available because it can be preserved for much longer than fresh fruit. Dried fruit is highly nutritious and contains about the same amount of nutrients as the fresh fruit, but condensed in a smaller package. Dried fruit is rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, albeit the vitamin C content is significantly reduced when the fruit is dried. However, dried fruit is relatively high in calories and sugar (higher than fresh fruit) and should therefore be consumed in moderation. Bjarnadottir suggests to avoid dried fruit with added sugar which is also known as candied fruit because those type of fruit increase the risk of obesity and other health risks that are linked to sugar. The consumer is asked to read the ingredients and nutrition information found on the package. Preservatives should be avoided too. Common preservatives in dried fruit are sulfites to preserve color. If dried fruit is improperly stored and handled, it may be contaminated with fungi and toxins. The consumer should buy their dried fruit at stores they can trust (Healthline, June 2017).

Nutritionist and Dietitian Swati Kapoor recommends to eat dried fruit in the morning so that the energy released by them can be burnt in the day. She also suggests that people with diabetes should consult their doctor first before incorporating dried fruit to their diet.

Dried Figs:

  • Are high in calcium, iron, fiber and potassium
  • Are high in Vitamin A, B1 and B2
  • Are low in fat
  • Are low in sodium
  • May help remove harmful oestrogen from the body
  • May act as a digestive aid

Dried Mango:

Is an excellent source of:

  • Dietary Fiber: May help reduce blood sugar levels, and is therefore beneficial against diabetes and for metabolic health.
  • Vitamin C: May help boost the immune system. May have positive effects on skin health, tissues, bones, teeth. Helps iron absorption.
  • Vitamin A: May help boost the immune system and fight infections.
  • Vitamin B: May help the body obtain energy. It is involved in hormone and good cholesterol production.
  • Vitamin K: An important nutrient that is involved in blood clotting and binding calcium. It may help prevent osteoporosis.
  • Vitamin E: Anti-inflammatory. May help support the immune system, cell function, and skin health.
  • Potassium: A mineral that has been linked to reduced blood pressure and may therefore help to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure.
  • Magnesium: Important mineral that may be protective against type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
  • Other Antioxidants: May help counter free radical damage linked to cancers, diabetes and other illnesses.

Coconut chips:

Made out of coconut meat. Cholesterol-free. High in saturated fat and calories, and should therefore be consumed in moderation. However, a moderate amount of plant-based fat is said to be healthy by nutrition experts, as it is used by the body to produce energy.

Are an excellent source of:

  • Dietary Fiber: May help move food through the digestive system and aids bowel health.
  • Iron: Has an important function to carry oxygen throughout the body and to make red blood cells. Deficiency may cause anemia and lead to symptoms like fatigue.
  • Copper: The body uses copper to form red blood cells, bone, connective tissue.
  • Potassium: A mineral that has been linked to reduced blood pressure and may therefore help to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure.

NUTS:

Thankfully, there is a wide choice of nuts out there. I can imagine that you will find at least one or two type of nuts you will like. I, personally, am a nut-lover. I like all kinds of nuts available in our grocery stores. On my snack plate in this post, I have cashews and almonds. Overall, nuts are low in carbs but high in healthy fats, protein, and fiber.

Cashews:

Cashew nuts have a buttery taste, and are an excellent source of several vitamins and minerals that may help support healthy blood and immune system function. Cashews are high in fat, but it is the ‘good’ fat, which is believed to help prevent heart disease and may help reduce the risk of stroke. The fat may help you feel full and satisfied, and therefore, may help in managing your appetite and craving for food (Healthline, December 2018).

  • One of the lowest fiber content and highest in carbs among all nuts
  • Packed with Vitamin E, K, + B6, Copper, Phosphorus, Zinc, Magnesium, Iron, and Selenium
  • The Copper and Iron work together and may help the body form and use red blood cells. This may keep blood vessels, nerves, bones, and the immune system healthy and functioning properly.
  • Contain high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, which act as antioxidants that may help protect the eyes and may help decrease the risk of cataracts.
  • May help prevent type 2 diabetes according to research.

Almonds:

Are excellent antioxidants: May help protect against oxidative stress, which can damage cells and contribute to inflammation, and diseases like cancer. The powerful antioxidants in almonds are largely concentrated in the brown layer of the skin. For this reason, blanched almonds – those with the skin removed – are not the best choice from a health perspective. A clinical trial found that 3 ounces of almonds per day reduced oxidative stress biomarkers over a four-week period (Healthline, September 2018).

  • Are low in carbs and high in protein and fiber.
  • Both protein and fiber are known to increase the feelings of fullness. This can help you eat fewer calories and reduce hunger and cravings.
  • Are an excellent source of Vitamin E. (Several studies have linked higher Vitamin E intake with lower rates of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • High in Magnesium which may help lower blood pressure levels.
  • High in calories but they are ‘good’ fats. May help reduce ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, potentially reducing the risk of heart disease.

HOMEMADE VEGETABLE CHIPS:

When you make your own chips out of fresh vegetables, you can choose the quality of your ingredients. You can make sure that the oils you use are high quality and not re-used multiple times; the vegetables you use are well cleaned and fresh from the grocery store or even organic.

I baked my kale chips in sesame oil. Sesame oil and kale is a fantastic match. I sprinkled some sea salt on top before my kale went in the oven to enhance the crunchiness of my chips and, of course, for some salty taste.

Kale:

Is an excellent source of:

  • Betacarotene and carotenoid antioxidants: May help to support eye health.
  • Vitamin K: An important nutrient that is involved in blood clotting and binding calcium. It may help prevent osteoporosis.
  • Vitamin C: Kale is much higher in Vitamin C than most other vegetables. May help boost the immune system. May have positive effects on skin health, tissues, bones, teeth.
  • Potassium: A mineral that has been linked to reduced blood pressure and may therefore help to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure.
  • Calcium: Plant-based source of calcium, a nutrient that is important for bone health and other cellular functions.
  • Magnesium: Important mineral that may be protective against type 2 diabetes and heart disease. May be helpful against insomnia.
  • Manganese: Supports enzyme function and fat metabolism.
  • Copper: The body uses copper to form red blood cells, bone, connective tissue.
  • Other Antioxidants:
    • Substances that may help counteract oxidative damage by free radicals in the body. Oxidative damage is believed to be among the leading drivers of aging and many diseases, including cancer.
    • May have heart-protective, blood pressure-lowering, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-depressant effects.

GREEN TEA:

Of course, one needs a beverage with a snack. During the summer season a cold beverage is preferred. I steeped my green tea hot and then let cool off to enjoy with my healthy snacks. Green tea can be consumed hot and cold with the same potential health benefits but should be steeped hot first to release the antioxidants. However, experts recommend not to let the cooled green tea sit long, but to drink it immediately after it has cooled off. You can also speed the cooling process by refrigerating it or serving it over ice. If it sits for a period of time in an open container, the oxygen will slowly deplete the tea’s antioxidant supply. One minor difference is that hot tea retains more caffeine than cold green tea. Health experts recommend to consume no more than 2-3 cups a day (MedicalNewsToday, Jan. 2018).

Green tea is an excellent source of:

  • B Vitamins
  • Folate
  • Magnesium
  • Several antioxidants

Potential health benefits of green tea (when consumed in moderation):

  • May help reduce bad cholesterol
  • May help improve heart functioning
  • May help reduce Alzheimer’s disease risk
  • May help manage type 2 diabetes
  • Has been associated with anti-cancer properties

(This information is taken from MedicalNewsToday, Online version, Jan. 2018).

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