Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Retrospective #164:The Best Snack?

As a long time (33 year) Type 2 diabetic who, by diet mostly for the last 17 years, has pretty much controlled the disease (and gotten off most of my oral diabetes meds, except Metformin), I have long argued that snacks are unnecessary. If you haven’t eaten a Very Low Carb (VLC) breakfast and a no-carb lunch every day, as I did in the early years, you may doubt this. You may even say it is not credible. But as incredible as it sounds, it is absolutely true. You have to try this Way of Eating (WOE) to discover it for yourself. You will not be hungry between meals.
I do admit to snacking sometimes before supper, though. I like radishes with salt or celery with anchovy paste. Why? Not because of physical hunger or any other known nutritional need. I describe it as habit or nervous eating. I always ask myself if I am hungry before I do it. The answer is always “no,” but I do it anyway. Go figure!
So, in 2013, when I saw a column by the late David Mendoza in the Low Carb Diet News titled, “The Best Snack for Weight Loss and Diabetes, I was interested. Mendoza was a well-respected and widely read blogger who described himself as a “freelance medical writer, advocate, and consultant specializing in diabetes.” He had been a Type 2 diabetic since 1994 and started writing about it online in 1995. So, David Mendoza had credibility with me.
But after I read through his piece about the “best snack,” I felt his credibility was both tarnished and diminished, as I’ll explain. First, I want to point out some of the good stuff. Early on in his blog piece he emphasizes this:
“Unlike some other tasty nuts like cashews, almonds are much lower in carbohydrates, which are the part of our diet that is almost solely responsible for raising our blood sugar level. Nothing else in our diet is more important for managing our diabetes than keeping that level [carbohydrates] in check.”
Mendoza’s point about cashews and carbs is good. Cashews and pistachios (drats; I love them.) are both too high in carbs to be considered part of a healthy diet for Type 2 diabetics. He then goes on to make a pitch for almonds:
“Some other nuts have a somewhat more favorable ratio of those super-healthy monounsaturated to polyunsaturated fats than almonds. But I avoid them as a matter of taste. I can eat macadamia nuts nonstop until the container is empty, but my body gets so full that I can easily put on a few pounds. On the other hand, I don’t particularly appreciate the taste of other healthy nuts like pecans or walnuts.”
I certainly agree with his point about macadamia nuts. They’re also very expensive. (Does anybody know a source for buying macadamia nuts wholesale?) However, as I’ve stated before, for me the only basis for selecting which type of nuts to eat (besides carbs) is their Omega 6 content. In that respect, I disagree with Mendoza. Pecans are marginal at best and walnuts are simply verboten. In my opinion, the very best, excluding again cashews and pistachios because of their high carb content, are macadamia nuts, then hazelnuts (filberts), and then almonds.
Now, to the problem: It turns out, according to Mendoza, “the best snack for weight loss and diabetes” is almonds. And although Mendoza expresses a personal preference for raw almonds (which he keeps in the freezer to give them a little “crunch”), the study he cites is with roasted and salted almonds. The study, however, as Mendoza points out at the end, has a fatal flaw: it was funded by the Almond Board of California. Oh dear…
In the positive, Mendoza said, “A big strength of this study by Purdue University and Australian researchers is that it was randomized and controlled. This is a good-sized study conducted with the standard controls.”
But Mendoza cites 3 problems: 1) the funding source, “…although [the authors] report that they have no conflicts of interest;” 2) “… we still don’t know why the study participants who snacked on almonds didn’t gain weight.”; and 3) “…this was also a short study that couldn’t measure the long-term impact of snacking on almonds.”
Almonds could be my favorite snack too, but the study’s snack size, 1½ ounces (20 almonds) is 250 calories! That’s half a supper meal (for me). How can anyone hope to lose weight eating a 250-calorie snack on a regular basis?

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