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Wellness

What A Healthy Snack Looks Like Around The World

Everyone loves snacks.

Around the world, consumers spend $374 billion on snack foods a year, according to research giant Nielsen's recently released Global Survey of Snacking, and 91 percent of global consumers polled turn to a snack at least once a day, USA Today reported.

But Americans are a different breed of snackers. Globally, the top three most popular snacks are chocolate, fruit and vegetables, according to Nielsen's data. In North America, they are chips, chocolate and cheese.

It sounds like many of us are guilty of one of the prime examples of snacking mistakes: We confuse "snack" with "treat". "Snacks offer nutrition and fullness to help bridge one meal to the next," registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner previously told HuffPost. "Treats don't give either."

Maybe it's time to put down the chips and adopt a few of the healthier snacking habits from farther away from home. Here a few healthy snacks from around the world to start with.

Mexico: Pepitas
morberg/Flickr
Pumpkin seeds -- or pepitas, in Spanish -- like other nuts and seeds, are naturally rich in a type of plant-based compound called a phytosterol that seems to reduce LDL or "bad" cholesterol. They also contain the amino acid tryptophan, which helps with the production of serotonin, a brain chemical majorly involved in mood.
Japan: Edamame
joyosity/Flickr
Soy beans -- like all beans -- are a great way to get protein and fiber. Edamame also offers some vitamin K and folate.
Middle East: Hummus
Sarmale / OAyuso/Flickr
Even if the origins of hummus are still debated, there's no denying the benefits of the dish -- especially when eaten with a range of brightly-colored veggies. Chickpeas, the central ingredient of the spread, happen to be beans, known for benefits to heart health and weight management. Hummus, therefore, is perhaps surprisingly rich in protein, with some fiber, iron and folate to boot.
Vietnam: Summer Rolls
Kake Pugh/Flickr
Filled with fresh ingredients, these hand-held bites are the anti-spring roll. There are seemingly endless possible combinations when it comes to fillings, but the most common ingredients include obvious nutrition stars like lettuce, carrots, cilantro (high in vitamin K), mint (good for digestion) and shrimp, a low-fat protein source.
Greece: Tzatziki
futureshape/Flickr
Another good dip for those veggies! Classic Tzatziki is made with plain yogurt -- a satisfying source of protein. The fresh mint and dill (which may help with digestion) add lots of flavor without adding calories or sodium.
Nigeria: Fruit Salad
ninacoco/Flickr
Fruit is a smart snack anywhere, and certainly no country lays claim to its low-calorie, high-fiber (i.e. filling) benefits. But Nigerian fruit salad is so jam-packed with tropical, flavorful fruits, it's worth recognizing. This version calls for papaya, pineapple, apple, banana, flaked coconut and just a touch of cinnamon and sugar.
Thailand: Green Mango
Jepster/Flickr
A popular snack in Thailand, Forbes reported, is to dip green mango in prik gup kleur, a mix of salt and red pepper flakes. Mangoes of any color are rich in fiber, pectin and vitamins A, C, and B6, boosting the immune system, protecting eyesight and helping to manage cholesterol.
Italy: Parmigiano Reggiano With Honey And Walnuts
cyclonebill/Flickr
Aside from the fact that the flavors of this snack pair perfectly, they also each pack unique health perks. Cheese is a good source of protein and calcium (although keep servings small, because Parmigiano Reggiano is high in sodium and fat). Honey has antibacterial and antioxidant power and may promote healing and prevent coughs. And walnuts were named the healthiest nut for your heart by Health.com, thanks to their high amount of alpha-linolenic acid.
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