Trail mix is an excellent snack, if you make a good choice. Here, I’ll give you some tips on general things to consider about trail mix, as well as possible healthy and not-so-healthy qualities of this food.
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Calories in trail mix
It’s good to keep in mind that this is generally a relatively high-calorie food. If your trail mix is made up of nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate, it will deliver a hefty amount of energy. This is not a problem, as long as you are aware of portion size.
Healthy qualities of trail mix
Antioxidants. If your trail mix has dried fruit such as blueberries and cranberries, this is a plus for health. These contain antioxidants, which help protect against disease. Other brightly-colored fruit such as goji berries are also a great source.
Heart-healthy fat. Nuts contain a hefty dose of unsaturated fat, which is beneficial for heart health. If your trail mix contains walnuts, you will get some omega-3 fats out of your snack. Omega-3 fats have many different functions in the body. Trail mix might also have other items such as sesame sticks or corn nuts mixed in, which also contain heart-healthy fat.
Fiber. Both dried fruit and nuts contain fiber. Fiber is important for so many reasons, including to help us maintain a healthy weight, have healthy digestion, and control cholesterol.
Protein. Nuts also contain protein, which, along with fiber, gives us a feeling of fullness after eating. Getting protein from plant-source foods is generally beneficial for health, as foods like nuts also provide healthy fat, fiber and important vitamins and minerals.
Not-so-healthy qualities of trail mix
Artificial color. Many brands of trail mix contain artificial color-these may include blue lake 1, yellow 6, red 40 lake, and many others. We have no dietary need for these color additives, and questions still remain about potential harms to health.
Added sugar. You may think the dried fruit in the trail mix is a great choice, but this is one of the places sugar may hide. Dried blueberries and cranberries, while a great source of antioxidants, might also contain a lot of sugar. There are some brands of trail mix that do not contain any added sugar- one brand I particularly like has coconut and different types of unsweetened berries.
Artificial flavors. We have no dietary requirement for these additives, and given that there is trail mix on the market that does not contain these, I prefer to avoid them. Recently, the FDA removed seven synthetic flavors from the food additive list given evidence that they caused cancer in animals exposed to high doses. While the FDA deems them safe at the level humans consume them, it may be wise to steer clear.