If there's one thing that people at large can unite under, it's a love and understanding of food cravings. At least once a day, we all have that biting desire to eat Something Needed to Alleviate Cravings in the Kitchen, or a snack, as everyone calls it. We don't need fancy nutritionists or inescapable advertisements for weight loss to tell us that snacks are delicious and addicting, the two vital constituents of something that is fiercely protected in the diets of people everywhere. However, we do need these mediums to tell us that sometimes snacking can be unhealthy, and can lead to preventable consequences like weight gain and even irregularities in blood sugar. So is snacking good or bad? The only way to determine that is to examine what exactly snacking does to the body and how that can effect living a healthy lifestyle:

What Does Snacking Effect, Exactly?

sweet, candy, chocolate
Caroline Morano

Based on many studies, the physical toll that snacking takes on the body depends largely on the individual. For example, it is widely believed that snacking promotes a healthy metabolism, however, the rate of metabolism after snacking varies in an individual based on the calorie intake of their daily diet.  However, there are some consequences that are universal and effects everyone in one way or another, and some of them can be positive:

1. Snacking prevents you from over-eating at meal time. Food usually takes 24 to 72 hours to travel through your entire digestive tract. Keeping your body fed throughout the day will sustain a consistent flow to your digestive system so there is not an over exertion of energy needed at the end of the day to digest a huge load of food. This is especially important at meals during the day, when your body will need to send energy to fuel the rest of your body as it completes necessary functions. The more energy it has to spend on digesting food, the less it will have to fuel general functions (we all know the infamous "itis" that comes after the consumption of a hearty meal).

2. Snacking can help incorporate healthy foods in your diet. Snacking can definitely increase your calorie intake in a day, but that doesn't mean it has to have a negative effect on your weight or bodily health. Choosing healthy snack options like nuts, which are full of protein, "good" fats, and omega-3 fatty acids, or fruit, which are a prominent source of nutrients like potassium, vitamin C, and fiber (also good for digestion!) will provide your body with necessary nutrients that may not be present in a dinner meal such as a burger and fries.

3. Snacking helps maintain your energy. Eating consistently will keep your blood sugar at a stable level for the day. You will feel better in the day if you're not constantly dipping in and out of having energy, so snacking is important for providing and maintaining that energy.

The benefits of snacking are significant, and worthy justification for those afternoon and late night indulgences. However, there are some other more harmful effects of snacking that can become urgent if not controlled:

1. Eating frequently taxes your body. Digestion takes a long time, so when you eat a snack after a meal it's like asking your body to start the digestion process all over again. This can lead to weight gain, since the body stores food it cannot burn as fat. It also takes more energy to start the process all over again, which is detrimental to other processes of your body that need energy.

2. Snacking can actually increase your desire for food. Unfortunately, when most people snack, it's on something that's sugary or full of carbohydrates. When these are consumed, the body releases insulin to help break down these sugars and carbs. The release of insulin like this can be problematic, since after it is released in can linger in the bloodstream for six to eight hours. The insulin is looking for something to digest, so you will crave more sugar and carbs to satisfy it. Obviously, this is not the ideal scene as an overload of sugar and carbs is not good for the body.

3. Your body never gets a break if you snack too much. With having to restart the digestion process, the body uses energy it should be using for other processes. Without a proper break, your body is never fully equipped to complete the digestion process.  For example, the excess of insulin prevents fat burning, and snacking will release insulin on top of the insulin you already have released, which then leads to weight gain and other potential complications. A proper rest will let your body reset and be completely ready to properly digest your next meal.

The Bottom Line: Is it Good or Bad?

nut, almond, walnut
Torey Walsh

So, is snacking good or bad? It's neutral. There's no denying that every once in a while we have to refuel between meals, but practicing healthy habits when deciding to snack will help control the negative potentials of snacking. For example, choose healthier snacks like fruit or nuts instead of chips or cookies. This will ensure you get nutrients from your snack as well as reduce the amount of insulin released so you won't be craving more junk food. Foods like nuts and fruits are also better at sustaining energy and won't give you a high and then a crash like straight up sugar will, requiring that you eat more than you need. Also, avoid eating late at night so your body can have time to rest and reset so it can properly digest your food the next day.

Next time you consider eating Something Needed to Alleviate Cravings in the Kitchen, aka a snack, think twice about what it is, how long it's been since your last meal, and what time it is. Keeping in mind what you're eating and how long you're giving your body time to reset will ensure that you snack properly and maintain a healthy, hunger-free lifestyle.