Who doesn’t love a good salty snack? When at the bar, most of us down peanuts and pretzels like they’re our last meal, and you can’t have a good party or family gathering with potato chips, Doritos, and other salty goodness. Heck, even a dinner party is often loaded with salty food: pizza, cheese, cold cuts, crackers, bread, olives, and the list goes on.
Salty snacks are almost as addictive as sweets, whether you realize it or not. The truth is that your body actually ends up CRAVING salty snacks, especially when you’re stressed. According to a new report from Mintel, up to 62% of Americans eat salty snacks to combat their stress. Just one year ago, that number was as low as 16%. Perhaps this change is the result of our understanding that sugary foods are just so bad for our health. We’ve turned to salty snacks to deal with our cravings now that we’re eliminating sweets.
But did you know that stress isn’t the only reason you crave salty snacks? Boredom is one of the primary triggers for snacking, particularly for those who tend to use food as a comfort. 30% of American consumers eat salty snacks when they are bored, with more than half of those snackers agreeing that salty snacks help to alleviate boredom.
The fact that salty snacks are so portable is one of the main reasons that they’re the go-to for snackers. Considering how many “travel sized” bags of chips and crackers there are, as well as how extensive the variety is, it’s no surprise that it’s so easy to snack wherever you are. 41% of Americans snack on the go, with 36% of all Americans snacking at work! Up to 73% of parents will actually give their children a salty snack to help reduce stress.
You may be thinking, “Well, at least it’s not sugary foods, right? Salty snacks have to be the healthier option.” That much is true: they are healthier, but not by much!
Your average sugary snack contains A LOT of empty calories from sugar, which your body processes and turns to glucose very quickly. Salty snacks, on the other hand, contain mostly empty calories, but a lot of those calories come from fat. Fat is harder for your body to digest and absorb, so it doesn’t cause that spike in blood sugar. However, there are plenty of carbs in most salty snacks, meaning you do get a rise in your blood sugar levels.
But there are two primary threats in salty snacks:
Trans fats — Trans fats are the WORST kind of fat around! They’re a completely artificial type of fat, one your body is unable to process properly. Once it enters your bloodstream, it clogs your arteries and adds to your stored fat. It is the kind of fat that increases your risk of heart attack, stroke, obesity, metabolic disease, diabetes, and many other health problems. It’s the kind of fat you absolutely want to avoid!
Sodium — For the average person, a bit of salt isn’t a problem. Sodium helps your body to store water, ensuring there is enough liquid to keep your body hydrated. But too much sodium can lead to water retention, which makes it harder for your heart to pump blood. People with high blood pressure often consistently over-consume salty foods, and the salty snacks only make their high blood pressure worse.
If you want to avoid heart problems, you’d do well to limit your salty snacks as much as you limit your sugary snacks. Snacks should ALWAYS be healthy, natural foods: nuts, seeds, fruit, veggies, etc.