When I say the word “snacking,” what comes to mind? For many, snacking elicits visions of potato chips and candy bars parading over mountains of candy-coated milk chocolate. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there. We’re human for goodness’ sake.
But maybe the reason why snacking has been given such a bad rap is because its place in a healthy diet is misunderstood and its value underestimated. A recent study showed when snacking or “eating frequently” is done healthfully and habitually; it can help to maintain a healthy body weight—and by extension, may reduce the risk of uterine fibroids.
The study published in the April 2015 Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics examined the relationship between frequency of eating, types of foods eaten, and body mass index (BMI)—a common indicator for body fatness. Over a three-year period, the authors of the study analyzed BMI measurements and standardized diet reports of 2,696 men and women from the United States and the United Kingdom. The results indicated that when individuals ate four times or less in a 24-hour time frame they were more likely to have higher BMIs in comparison to those who ate six times or more. In addition to these findings, those who ate less often concentrated all their meals later in the day—meals that were higher in saturated fat, salt and sugar and lower in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy.1
The study’s data suggests that small frequent meals may be associated with a healthy weight. And in terms of uterine fibroids, maintaining a healthy weight is something to keep in mind. Statistics show the risk of fibroids is two to three times greater in obese women.2 How obesity and fibroids are connected isn’t entirely understood, but some theories point the finger at hormones. Obesity has been linked to higher levels of circulating sex hormones, which can be a problem since research shows fibroids to be a hormone-driven condition.3,4
But it’s not only body weight contributing to higher hormone levels. Dietary habits do as well. Studies have found diets high in saturated fat to be associated with greater levels of circulating sex hormones like estrogen.5 Ironically, certain foods can also have the opposite effect. Nutrient-dense fibrous foods like whole grains are seen to support the body’s natural way of metabolizing and excreting sex hormones.5 Incorporating many of these same high-fiber foods can also help reach and maintain a healthy body weight.6
Provided below are snack-savvy tips and ideas to get you started:
Eat the Rainbow
Incorporate a fruit and/or vegetable with each snack. Increasing your fruit and vegetable consumption will also up your fiber intake.
Think of snacks as tiny meals. Make sure they have a balance of healthy carbs, protein, and fat to provide your body with energy between meals and to keep you feeling full longer.
Don’t Wait Until You’re Starving
By all means, eat when you’re hungry but don’t wait until you’re ravenous. This can easily lead to overeating. Find your body’s natural hunger and satiety rhythm. Eat when you start to feel hungry and stop when you’re slightly full.
Take Your Time
According to the British Nutrition Foundation, it takes about 15-20 minutes for the full range of satiety hormonal signals and sensory responses to even reach our brain.7 These signals are significant in controlling how much we eat.
Sardine Salad Lettuce Wraps
Ranking high with wild-caught salmon, sardines contain 500-1,000 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per 3-ounce cooked portion.8 Light on the mayo and veggie heavy, this snack is a great way to liven up that traditional tuna salad.
Peanut Butter & Fruit Stack
Using a brown rice cake as the base, this healthier version of a PB & J sandwich is a great source of protein, mono- and polyunsaturated fats—all with the natural sweetness of fresh fruit.
Fresh Veggies and Hummus
Boasting a hearty 1.5 grams of dietary fiber per tablespoon, legumes are a delicious way to experiment with fiber-rich protein sources.9
Yogurt with Mango Chunks and Hemp Seeds
Pairing plain reduced-fat yogurt with your favorite fruit is a balanced snack done right. Toss hemp seeds on top for more fiber and omega-3s.
Berry Piña Colada Smoothie
Whip up this simple smoothie recipe: ½ cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt, ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk, ¼ cup coconut milk, ¼ cup fresh pineapple, 5 frozen dark sweet cherries, and ¼ banana. Dairy serves as a hearty protein source in this recipe. Interestingly, consuming dairy has been linked to a reduced risk of fibroids—especially among African American women.10
255 calories, 25 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 14 g protein, 109 mg sodium, 18 g sugar
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Alicia Armeli has a Master of Science in Nutrition and Whole Foods Dietetics (MSN/DPD) and is a registered dietitian nutritionist, a certified dietitian, and a holistic life coach. In addition to writing, she enjoys singing, traveling abroad and volunteering with her local animal shelter.
1. Aljuraiban, G. S.,Chan, Q., Oude Griep, L. M., Brown, I.J., Daviglus, M. L., Stamler, J., Van Horn, L., Elliott, P., Frost, G. S. (2015). The impact of eating frequency and time of intake on nutrient quality and body mass index: the INTERMAP Study, a population-based study. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 115(4): 528-536. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2014.11.017.
2. US Dept of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health. (2015). Uterine Fibroids Fact Sheet. Retrieved April 14, 2015, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/uterine-fibroids.html?from=AtoZ
3. Sarwer, D. B., Spitzer, J. C., Wadden, T. A., Rosen, R. C., Mitchell, J. E., Lancaster, K., Courcoulas, A., Gourash, W., & Christian, N. J. (2013). Sexual functioning and sex hormones in persons with extreme obesity and seeking surgical and non-surgical weight loss. Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases, 9(6). doi: 10.1016/j.soard.2013.07.003
4. Khan, A. T., Shehmar, M., & Gupta, J. K. (2014). Uterine fibroids: current perspectives. International Journal of Women’s Health, 6: 95-114. doi: 10.2147/IJWH.S51083
5. Pizzorno, J. E., & Murray, M. T. (2013). Textbook of natural medicine (4th). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.
6. American Heart Association. (2015). Whole Grains and Fiber. Retrieved April 30, 2015, from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Whole-Grains-and-Fiber_UCM_303249_Article.jsp
7. British Nutrition Foundation. (2013). Understanding Satiety: Feeling Full After a Meal. Retrieved April 29, 2015, from http://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/fuller/understanding-satiety-feeling-full-after-a-meal.html
8. Seafood Health Facts. (2011). Omega-3 Content of Frequently Consumed Seafood Products. Retrieved April 29, 2015, from http://seafoodhealthfacts.org/seafood_nutrition/practitioners/omega3_content.php
9. United States Department of Agriculture. (2015). Basic Report: Chickpeas (garbanzo beans, bengal gram), mature seeds, raw. Retrieved April 30, 2015, from http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/4770?fg=&manu=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=35&offset=&sort=&qlookup=16056
10. Wise, L. A., Radin, R. G., Palmer, J. R., Kumanyika, S. K., & Rosenberg, L. (2010). Aprospective study of dairy intake and risk of uterine leiomyomata. American Journal of Epidemiology, 171(2): 221-32. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwp355