After a heavy meal, some people are seen reaching out for their favourite snacks. But according to health experts, if the habit is a regular craving, it can lead to health problems.
Medics say only pregnant women and the sick are recommended to eat frequently because their energy and nutrient needs are beyond those of other people. The rest should learn to control their appetite.
Eating all the time is a form of nutritional indiscipline, says Dr Daniel Gahungu, a general practitioner at Polyclinic de l’Etoile in Kigali.
“The human body has an intrinsic mechanism to signal when food is needed. Even when it is eating time, you should eat just what is enough. As soon as you get the feeling of satisfaction, you should stop eating. It makes no sense to eat like there is no tomorrow,” he says.
Dr Gahungu further explains that most people crave for snacks between meals, because they cannot switch their minds off food.
“In the end they run to eat whatever snack crosses their eyes. Thinking about food all the time drives many into eating irresponsibly. In such situations, there are constant cravings unless individuals find an activity to divert their attention,” explains, Gahungu.
Do not exceed your daily calorie requirements
Males need around 10,500kiloJoules (2,500Kilocalories) while females require about 8,400kilojoules (2,000Kilocalories) of energy per day to maintain a normal body.
However, research shows that those who eat snacks frequently go beyond these figures and could end up becoming obese.
According to a study in the Journal of Consumer, researchers found that people who tended to consume more did not feel satisfied after just one pack, so they eat multiple packs, which leads to overeating and eventually gain excess weight.
The findings are supplemented by Dr Menelas Nkeshimana, an internal medic at University Teaching Hospital in Kigali (CHUK).
“There is a limit to the daily nutritional requirements of the human body. The more you eat, the more you are likely to accumulate a lot of calories. This could eventually result into obesity,” he explains.
Dr Gahungu echoes these views pointing out that most times when people crave for food, they crave for junk products that are high in calories and these lead to cardiovascular diseases.
“Most of these foods are high in calories and when taken in excess, it leaves many at the risk of heart diseases,” explains Gahungu.
Nkeshimana further warns that individuals need to avoid situations of stress and depression since these could drive them into frequent snacking.
“People who are stressed either lose appetite or gain it. It is important that when someone experiences such situations, they seek proper medical care than resort to snacks,” advises Nkeshimana.
A risk for diabetes and cancer
Sometimes people who enjoy snacks have a habit of shunning normal meals and end up eating late in the night. Regrettably, a recent study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention shows that eating a late dinner or snacking at night may increase a person’s risk of breast cancer and diabetes.
From a total of 2,212 female participants whose eating and sleeping patterns were recorded for a year, researchers at the university of California found that for every three hours of extra fasting per night, participants were 20 percent less likely to suffer from high blood sugar which has a connection to both cancer and diabetes.
The research found that increasing the amount of time spent fasting overnight reduces blood sugar levels and in turn, reduces the risk of both diseases.
Do not skip any meal
Dr Raymond Awazi from La Croixdu Sud Hospital in Kigali explains that skipping any meal especially breakfast can result into serious consequences that reduce energy supply to the body.
“Skippers could starve during normal eating time and choose not to eat meals like breakfast. The problem is that they will instead end up over eating at the end of the day,” he explains.
He adds that eating all meals ensures that more stable blood sugar composition of blood is maintained and fewer food cravings are experienced.
“Because you’re re-fueling your body when it is necessary, you will have all the energy that you need,” says, Dr Awazi.