What's in your snack?
Snacks are a part of almost everyone’s day, from children to adults. Supermarkets and convenience stores offer a wide array of snack choices from candies and snack-size cakes to peanuts and chips. However, some snacks leave a person feeling energized while others can leave you feeling tired, lethargic and possibly even moody. The reason for this is found in the contents of the snack.
Which snacks are best?
When choosing a snack you want to make sure you are getting something that is nutrient-dense, lots of nutrition but not a lot of calories, and provides protein. Energy-dense snacks, those that have a lot of calories, but not a lot of nutrition, are going to leave you feeling full but you'll run out of energy and have a blood sugar drop.
The best snacks are those with a higher profile of proteins instead of sugars. Snacks filled with protein give fabulous energy boosts. A protein is a substance formed by a conglomeration of bonded amino acids. The proteins, and by extension the amino acids, found in foods are the building blocks of the body's cells, vital for maintaining all the cells in the body and providing the energy the body needs to function.
How does protein boost energy?
Proteins are a far different energy source than carbohydrates. When a person eats carbohydrates they are broken into sugars, which provide quick energy. However, this energy only lasts a short time, eventually leaving the person feeling tired. Proteins provide a much longer source of energy than carbohydrates do. The energy from proteins is a more consistent fuel that powers the body. In addition, adequate protein in the diet guards against fatigue, disease, and moodiness. If you want to know your body's protein requirements, Georgetown University provides a helpful table for determining how many grams of protein men and women need each day.
Choosing protein for snacks
It's important to understand that there are two main types of protein; complete and incomplete. A protein is considered to be complete if it contains all of the essential amino acids necessary for body growth and function. In general, animal products contain complete proteins while plant-based products are incomplete. However, consuming a variety of plant-based products can still give a person all the amino acids they need by combining to form a complete protein. As an example, combining grains and legumes will form a complete protein.
Protein-rich snack ideas
These suggested protein-filled snacks can provide long-lasting energy boosts. So you'll get the nutrition you need and won't feel depleted.
- A hard-boiled egg with some fresh veggies
- A can of sardines with lettuce or endive
- A cup of yogurt
- Half a cup of cottage cheese with some fresh veggies
- 2 Tbsp almond butter and an apple
- A small handful of nuts and seeds
- Beef jerky
- A stick of string cheese and some fresh veggies
- 2 T. hummus with raw veggie sticks
Of course, protein should be consumed in moderation. While protein is vital for all individuals and moderate amounts of protein make excellent snacks, consumption of excessive amounts may eventually begin harming the kidneys. Protein is a good choice for busy days when adequate stamina is vital.
Iliana Spector, a health writer for Assisted Living Today, contributed to this article
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