Are you one of those people who Google “healthy snacks” or “low calorie snacks?” I want you to just say no to snacking. As my friend Rita Madden wrote in the Self Control chapter of my book The Holistic Christian Woman, “Moving away from snacking benefits us both in a physical and spiritual way.”
Snacking can be one of the biggest roadblocks to health. Your body needs time to rest and digest. According to a US Department of Agriculture study, 2/3 of Americans snack 2 or more times a day. This means that their bodies are constantly working to keep up rather than allowing their organs to perform other important functions.
Let’s take your small intestine for instance. Your small intestine needs to function without food for an extended period of time in order to cut down on bacteria. If it isn’t able to do this, you are more likely to develop SIBO, or Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth. The results are symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, acid reflux, and gas. And if you are taking acid blockers, you are even more susceptible to SIBO!
Also, a snack is often eaten “on the go.” This means that you are moving about as you eat and drink. This also includes driving! Eating this way means that you are most likely eating in a sympathetic nervous system state which actually shuts down your digestion. It is also known as being in “fight or flight” mode. When you eat your meals at a table, chewing thoroughly, and without distraction, you engage your para-sympathetic nervous system which allows you to digest your food. By eating in fight or flight mode, you are encouraging intestinal permeability (aka Leaky Gut) which leads to inflammation, food sensitivities, autoimmune disorders and disease.
The confusion comes from two schools of thought.
Blood sugar balance. Making sure your blood sugar is balanced during the day is hugely important for good health! However, eating the correct food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is the key…not snacking. The correct food is high in protein and healthy fats, and lower in simple carbohydrates. Need a mid-morning snack? Take a look at what you had for breakfast. Was it toast and juice? You just had a blood sugar crash. Eggs scrambled in olive oil with veggies and a side of avocado would have been a better choice to satiate you for an extended time and provide the nourishment you need.
Increasing metabolism for weight loss. Recent endocrine studies have shown that frequent snacking actually lowers fat burning and may even create premature ageing based on higher endotoxin levels. Celebrity health coach, Kelly LeVeque, wrote a great article that goes into more detail for Mind, Body, Green.
If you are looking to lose weight this year, balance your hormones, improve your mood, have more energy, heal your gut, or even reduce stress…start by curbing your snacking habit, and get mindful about the quality of your meals.