Updated: Mar 3, 2019
When you search the internet for “healthy snacks,” you might be surprised by the results you get. The majority of sources of course reveal companies trying to sell their own products. Just saying their snacks are healthy obviously works for them, but few if any made my list of healthy snacks. Fact is, most sources are extremely confused about health and snacks. Most dwell on the low fat choices. It would seem we still do not yet fully comprehend the concept of healthy versus low calorie or low fat. So, before we begin, let’s understand that while conventional medical and layperson "wisdom" continue to tell us that the consumption of saturated animal fats is bad for you and causes heart disease, it does not.
A study from Harvard University was unable to make any connection between saturated fat and heart disease. In numerous studies, findings in both women and men show that no link between the overall percentage of calories from fat and any important health outcome, including cancer, heart disease, and weight gain exists.
Why is it then that most medical and nutritional "experts" still believe that weight loss is a consequence of calories in versus calories out and low fat? They continue to advise their clients and patients alike to avoid fat and lower their calories to lose weight, advice that time and time again appears poorly construed, although well intentioned. A hundred years ago, fewer than one in one hundred Americans were obese, and coronary heart disease was unknown. During that time we ate drippings and lard, full cream milk and meat with all the trimmings. So where is the confusion? If we look at the CDC numbers for obesity we find that they have risen at a steady rate since the 1960’s, and the question begs as to why.
This idea that fat was bad began in the late 1940’s with Dr. Ancel Keys. Keys was most famous for his invention of the K-ration, named after him for his discovery. Keys also went on to publish several papers comparing saturated fat intake and heart disease mortality.
Basically, Keys published his study from an overview of 22 different countries that made it look like heart disease was associated with fat intake. But the truth was that Keys started out with 22 countries and tossed out the ones that didn’t fit his hypothesis! When other researchers analyzed his data using all the original 22 countries, the link between fat and heart disease vanished.
Keys therefore was a bit of a fraud, manipulating science to suit his agenda. While we now know that his theory was weak, his conclusions wrong and often inconclusive, his misguided ousting of saturated fat gained ground because of the logic and the lack of alternative ideas to the problem. Ironically, this misguided and incorrect material went on to become instrumental in establishing guidelines for the reduction of cholesterol and, along with information from the Framingham Study, established a strong foothold for the statin drug industry to dictate our health through unreasonable guidelines in cholesterol. These guidelines all but guaranteed that the average American would eventually require a statin drug because their now artificially high cholesterol required lowering to “save their life” and “protect them from heart disease”. Turns out in the 40 years or so since statins were prescribed the risk has not changed much, so therefore lowering cholesterol with drugs is likely also not the answer. Actually, it turns out that people with higher cholesterol live longer. It also turns out that people with lower cholesterol have a higher cancer risk than those with higher cholesterol levels.
Keys presented his findings in the 1970’s to congress. He published several papers on the subject, none of which were challenged or verified. Thus the idea that fat was the bad guy began its ground swirl in the 1970’s and still today it gains momentum. As a result the food industry, eager to sell more food product, pounced on the low fat, low cholesterol craze. American’s, under the false security of believing they were doing themselves a favor, cut down on fat consumption and instead turned to more processed carbohydrates that were indeed low in fat but high in sugar, artificial flavors and empty calories. And heart disease rates went up, cancer went up and obesity went up.
Fortunately, the truth is finally starting to come out, as medical scientists have begun to question Keys' findings. The truth is, it’s sugar and processed foods that drive up cholesterol, but, to be fair to Keys, certain types of fats called trans fats found in margarine, vegetable shortening, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils is the true fat villain, causing a multitude of health problems.
But the good news is that there are good fats. Fats such as coconut oil which previously fell into the "bad for your heart health" category as a result of the saturated fat disparagement are now turning up good for you. Fact is fat is good for you and one of the healthiest fats on the planet is coconut oil. It is mostly medium chain triglycerides with over half of those belonging to lauric acid, which is an essential fat that regulates your immune system, and is also very prevalent in breast milk. It can curb hunger and help provide lasting energy.
But what about snacking? By now we understand that fructose is bad, too much sugar is bad and processed carbohydrates are bad. We also understand that vegetables contain carbohydrates and fruit contains many antioxidants that are good for us, even though the fruit has a fructose based sugar in it. And finally we should also understand that a little fat (good fat) is going to be used by the body for good things, not necessarily clog your arteries or strangle your heart.
The list below is not in any particular order of one being better than another. In reality, you are best switching up your snack choices in order to provide variety to your diet, as well as limit the amount of one food over another. Nonetheless, these snack choices are based on convenience. They are there to prevent your snacking on bad things
Eating nuts has been associated with plenty of health benefits
In the study, researchers examined data from the Netherlands Cohort Study, which included information about 120,000 Dutch 55- to 69-year-old men and women from 1986 to the present day. Among other markers they measured nut intake by asking about portion size and the frequency at which the participants ate tree nuts, peanuts, and peanut butter. What they found was remarkable. There were substantially lower mortality rates in those who ate a handful of nuts every day (about 15 grams).
The nuts they ate were mostly peanuts, but before you dive for that peanut butter you should understand that the researchers found no improvement among people who ate peanut butter, which typically contains non-healthy additives like salt and vegetable oils. But in those who ate peanuts, their mortality risk was lowered.
It’s been known for some time that nuts — which are rich in essential nutrients like fiber, protein, minerals, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, and antioxidants — have plenty of health benefits. One 2010 study notes that “by virtue of their unique composition, nuts are likely to beneficially impact health outcomes. Epidemiologic studies have associated nut consumption with a reduced incidence of coronary heart disease and gallstones in both genders and diabetes in women, and studies consistently show that nut intake has a cholesterol-lowering effect. But the new study is really the first to show that those benefits are so wide-ranging and encompassing — and can extend past heart health and helping people manage weight/diabetes, especially if the individual substitutes their unhealthy snacks for better choices.
Nuts like cashews, and almonds make for a crunchy way to add more protein and healthy unsaturated fats to your diet. Almonds and other nuts are a naturally high source of vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, copper and potassium and are rich in protein and fiber.
Nuts pack about 6 grams of protein per 2-ounce serving. With only 4 grams of carbs per ounce, walnuts can help you snack your way through a low-carb diet, not to mention their lofty levels of mega-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. When purchasing nuts, opt for salt-free to keep your sodium intake in check (or mix the salt free with salted) and try to limit peanuts due to their higher risk of mold.
#2 Hard-Boiled Eggs
Not just for breakfast, these
Fact is Eggs are extremely nutritious. A whole egg contains all the nutrients required to turn a single cell into a baby chicken, so that means everything in it is available to help keep you and make you healthy. A single large boiled egg contains Vitamins A, B5, B12, B2, folate, phosphorus and selenium. Eggs also contain decent amounts of Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Calcium and Zinc. An average egg is about 77 calories, 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of healthy fats.
Eggs also contain various other trace nutrients that are important for health.
Really… eggs are pretty much the perfect food, they contain a little bit of almost every nutrient we need including cholesterol. Yep, I know we have been told cholesterol is bad, but we need it to keep our cells healthy, reinforce cell membranes, make bile, absorb vitamin D and digest fat. So while eggs contain about 212mg of cholesterol, it’s important to keep in mind that dietary cholesterol in foods does not necessarily raise blood cholesterol levels.
#3 Plain Greek Yogurt
In recent years, Greek yogurt
Plain Greek yogurt can contain up to three times less sugar than flavored types, so try to add your own fruit to keep the sugar in check. Greek yogurt isn't the only smart choice on the dairy aisle. Traditional Icelandic yogurt, called skyr, typically has even more protein than its Mediterranean counterpart (about 15-20 grams per serving) and a praise-worthy creamy texture that is still low in sugar without compromising too much taste. Like Greek yogurt, it's made by straining away the excess liquid, leaving behind the ultra-thick yogurt that's laced with gut-friendly probiotic bacteria.
#4 Cottage Cheese
This curd-riddled cheese
Apart from the above nutrients, cottage cheese contains potassium. Potassium acts as a fluid-balancing element in the body and is an important component in neural activities of the muscle and brain. It, along with magnesium, also relieves muscle cramps as long as adequate hydration is maintained. Intake of potassium on a regular basis prevents the risk of getting brain stroke, since it lowers blood pressure and the contraction of blood vessels.
Cottage cheese is notoriously high in sodium, but you can compare nutrition labels to find brands that contain less.
Avocados are my favorite
With about 160 calories, 2 grams of protein and 15 grams of healthy fats, it’s a winner.
Avocados also contain 9 grams of healthy carbs, 7 of those are fiber and 2 “net” carbs for energy. Avocados do not contain any cholesterol or sodium, and they are low in saturated fats. Bottom Line: Avocado is a green, pear-shaped fruit often called an “alligator pear.” It is loaded with healthy fats, fiber and lots of nutrients.
So here’s my list of healthy snacks that are natural, healthy and for the most part not yet destroyed by the commercial food industry. There are three main reasons that will help remind you that eating healthy is the best choice to make for your diet. Eating healthy helps to provide the necessary nutrients that your body needs to create new cells, clean toxins, and to just function every day! That in itself should be all the convincing that you need. But here’s a few other points. Eating healthy helps prevent future diseases such as diabetes and cancer, and, with exercise, helps you to maintain a healthy weight.