Figuring out what to eat for your next mid-morning, mid-afternoon, or post-dinner snack? According to new research, you may want to pause before you reach for those crackers, potato chips, pretzels, or other starchy snacks.
In the Journal of the American Heart Association, a new study looked into meal and snack patterns to see how they affect cardiovascular health, cancer risks, and other common causes of mortality. Scientists parsed National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data from roughly 21,000 American participants between the years of 2003 to 2014. They tracked what these subjects reportedly ate at their meal times and investigated health outcomes at the end of the time period.
After crunching the numbers, scientists discovered that participants who consumed higher amounts of starchy snacks that contained potatoes or refined flour had a 50 percent higher mortality rate and a 57 percent higher risk of cardiovascular-related death. Meanwhile, those who consistently munched on healthier options throughout the day like fruits, veggies, and whole grains had a lower risk of heart-related death as well as cancer-related death.
What’s the connection between these starchier additions and heart health? Essentially, processed starches cause your blood sugar to spike and are harder for the body to break down than whole foods, resulting in increases to your cholesterol and more potential blockages around your heart. These lead to heart attacks, heart disease, and similar cardiovascular events that put your life at risk.
What should you be including instead? Scientists say they need to conduct more research since the results of this study came from self-reported participant data, but they believe that a fruity snack after breakfast or around lunch as well as a veggie-heavy dinner could make a huge difference and promote better heart health. And fear not: You can still have those starchier foods in moderation! Just make sure they don’t make up the majority of your snack time.