August 31, 2016
Anatomy of a Healthy Trail Mix
Ever wonder if that trail mix you packed is actually healthy…or just an excuse to eat some chocolate chips?
Not every trail mix is created equally, and if snacking healthy is your goal, it might be worth compiling your own. It’s not hard – just follow the recipe below, picking ingredients based on your own tastes – or nutritional needs!
Nuts – 1/2 cup
Nuts have been shown to correlate with longer lifespan – so it’s time to get snacking! Consider some of these particularly healthy options:
When tested against a pack of commonly eaten nuts in the US, Pecans (along with walnuts) earned top rank for their anti-cancer effects.1
Like walnuts and others, hazelnuts too have been found to have cholesterol lowering effects and positive impact on hearth health.4
Pistachios have been shown to help improve the function of the arteries and also to lower elevated blood sugar levels.5
Worried about the fat content of nuts? You may not need to. Studies have repeatedly shown that those who eat nuts, even peanuts, do not show the expected weight gain. In fact, most show weight loss! Theories as to why abound, and include an increased thermogenic effect (energy lost as body heat) and a dietary-compensation effect (IE nuts are so filling, you eat less at the next meal). Whatever the reason, the effect is real. So eat your nuts with joy – but that’s not an excuse to eat the whole jar!8 9
Seeds – 1/8 cup
Similar to nuts, seeds often pack a good nutritional punch in their small packing. There are lots of healthy options out there, but here a few good examples:
If you have heard the amino acid tryptophan spoken of before, chances are it may have been sometime around the post-thanksgiving food coma. Pumpkin and Squash seeds have an especially high ratio of tryptophan content – which is a precursor for serotonin production in the brain. So a healthy way to boost mood levels might be a handful of these crunchy snacks.10
Dried Fruit – ¼ cup
Not only does it add a little sweetness to a good trail mix, dried fruit adds its own health promoting benefits.
A little less common than your usual raisin, these berries have some unique qualities. Full of melanin, the hormone we produce to sleep, they can help fight insomnia. They are so high in antioxidants, they are among the healthiest of berries studied. Gojis have even been shown to help with failing eyesight.14 15 16
Cranberries are usually enjoyed seasonally in New England, but there may be good reason to eat them year long. When tested for cancer-fighting ability, these tart berries reached the top rung. Be careful of overly sugary ones though – they won’t hurt the cancer-fighting power, but it will add extra calories to your snack.17
Sweets – 1/8 cup
What trail mix is complete without a little something sweet? Try these healthy(ish) options!
Dairy-free Dark Chocolate Chips
Why dairy-free? Studies show that the dairy in dark chocolate negates the health promoting effect of the cocoa. Sweetened is OK though, after all – this is the “sweets” part of the mix!18
Peanut Butter Chips
Peanut butter isn’t technically a nut (it’s a legume), but similar effects seem to apply with this healthy, but very energy dense food. Studies have found that peanut butter is so satisfying, consumers often eat less at later meals. So add this enjoyable snack for a kick of flavor, health, and satisfaction!19
Makes approx. ¾ cup (single serving)
Mix, munch and enjoy!
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