Is Snacking the cause of your Hormone Imbalances? plus 5 healthy alternatives
Who doesn't love a good snack?! Coming home from school in my younger years was always a highlight, not because school was finished, but because mum would always have a little plate of goodies waiting at home for me. I loved coming home, watching cartoons and eating my snacks on my wiggles chair (yep, I had one)... life was bliss ;)
While these mid-morning or afternoon delights nourish the soul, they also do wonders for keeping your blood sugars stable while avoiding over eating at main meal times. BUT (there's always a but when it comes to health), the common snacks we see today are contributing to the exact opposite... over eating, unstable blood sugars and hormone imbalances.
Why you may ask?
Well the average snack is mostly made up of refined carbohydrates which ultimatly break down to glucose in the body. This spikes our blood sugar, leading to large secretions of the hormone insulin to mop up all the extra sugar. When this cycle is repeated from the wrong kind of snacking, it can eventually lead to insulin resistance where our body is less sensitive to utilising insulin.
Insulin resistance can lead to weight gain, cardiovascular problems, infertility, skin issues, elevated testosterone levels, and an increased susceptibly to developing diabetes.
On the other hand, If you're blood sugar is low, your body secretes cortisol as a compensatory mechanism. Over time, this can lead to weakened adrenal glands and depleted cortisol levels; a major contributor to the fatigue epidemic we’re in.
So basically I'm saying both ends of the scale aren't great if you're wanting sustained energy, even weight and balanced hormones... but there's good news I promise!
How do we make sure our hormones stay balanced while snacking?
By consuming meals and snacks which are macronutrient balanced a.k.a contains complex carbs + protein + healthy fats. This combo of nutrients will curb cravings, leave you full and satisfied and help you get through the day without stimulants.
Below are some examples of my go-to snacks:
1. Bliss balls (sometimes called protein balls)
These are usually a base of nuts and raw dates combined with whatever other flavours you like. There's some great brands out there now at your local health food shop - just look for simple ingredients on the back and keep it to 1 as some will have high amounts of sugar due to the dates. Better yet, you can save money and reduce the sugar content by making them yourself like my 10 minute energy bites found here.
2. A boiled egg rolled in dukkah
Dukkah is pretty much ground herbs, spices and nuts and brings any old boiled egg to life. You can purchase this in the supermarkets in the spice aisle. Paprika and sea salt is a nice mix too. You simply boil your eggs to your liking, peel them, then place them in a container or reusable plastic bag with the spice mix, give it a gentle shake and it should stick to the sides of the egg.
3. Chia pudding
Chia seeds contain high levels of magnesium and omega 3 which can enhance brain receptors, improving memory and concentration, so is a great snack to keep powering through the day. Mix 1 part chia seeds to 3 parts milk of choice, soak overnight, add fresh berries then grab and go in the morning. This makes a delicious breakfast with mixed nuts and seeds as well.
4. Apple slices with nut butter and cinnamon
I first thought this was an unusual combination, but trust me it’s delicious! You simply spread your favourite nut butter like almond or cashew, over pieces of apple (or banana), then you sprinkle with a little cinnamon. This one’s been a mid-morning favourite for a while!
5. Spelt or buckwheat crackers with hummus and parsley OR smashed avo and hemp seeds
Most supermarket crackers are drenched in hydrogenated oils, which the body has no idea what to do with (it's like a foreign substance) so it turns it into fat. It’s worth spending a couple of extra dollars at your local health food store for some good quality crackers, preferably ones void of vegetable oils and made using quinoa, chia or buckwheat as these contain small amounts of protein and are naturally gluten free.
I also like to sip on herbal teas or drink a big glass of water if I'm feeling a little snacky, sometimes our brain simply confuses dehydration for hunger. Drink 250 - 500ml water, wait 20 minutes and see if you're still peckish. And don't forget, if you're not hungry you don't need to eat - our body's are pretty good at telling us when it needs food.
Becky Jane x
Related: For more information on macronutrient foods, I talk about it over in my Q&A video here