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Health Information Could Enhancing Food Flavors Promote Weight Loss?

A new study suggests that boosting the flavor of your food with calorie-free seasonings and sweeteners may help you feel fuller faster and decrease the amount you eat. The results were presented recently at the Endocrine Society's Annual Meeting.

The study used "tastants" - substances designed to stimulate the sense of taste. The participants included 2,436 overweight or obese people who were asked to sprinkle a variety of savory or sweet crystals on their food before eating their meals.

They used the salt-free savory crystals on salty foods and used the sugar-free sweet crystals on sweet or neutral-tasting foods. The participants did not know what the flavors of the crystals were, other than salty or sweet.

One theory is that the subjects lost more weight than the controls because the "tastants" made them feel full faster and therefore they ate less. However, the amount of food the subjects ate was not tracked.

Another possibility could be that the crystals improved the taste of bland but healthful foods, such as tofu and some vegetables, causing a change toward healthier eating habits.

"The bottom line for loosing weight is taking in less calories than you need," says Kathryn S. Keim, PhD, RD, LDN, associate professor of clinical nutrition at Rush. "You can do this by taking your time at the table, eating low calorie, low fat and calorie-dilute foods, decreasing the amount that you eat or increasing your physical activity."

Keim suggests these tried-and-true strategies for controlling your weight:

  • Eat less, e.g., make your portions smaller
    • One strategy is to use a smaller plate
  • Take your time, eat slowly and savor your food
    • This gives your body time to direct messages to the brain that you are full. "Give your body the chance to talk to you, and listen to it," says Keim.
  • Chew more slowly
    • This helps the digestive process, while helping you more fully enjoy your meal.
  • Eat consciously
    • One tends to eat more food when distracted by television, talking to friends, etc.
  • Choose low and no fat foods
    • Go for the low and no fat versions of your favorite foods, but be aware of the calories per serving.
  • Avoid calorie-dense foods
    • Calorie-dense foods include foods with a high fat or sugar content. "Some people would be surprised to find out how many calories are in the average serving of fruit juice, soda pop, smoothies and some coffee drinks," says Keim. "The problem is that you're getting a lot of calories with little nutritional value."
  • Choose calorie-dilute foods
    • "These are foods, most commonly fruits and vegetables, that tend to have more water and fiber," Keim says. "Calorie-dilute foods more quickly fill and expand the stomach, which signals the brain that it's time to stop eating."
  • Drink water before a meal
    • The body often has trouble distinguishing between thirst and hunger.

As Keim notes, "Unfortunately, we still haven't found the 'magic pill.' Yet, we continue to research the best strategies for maintaining an ideal weight and staying healthy."

More Information at Your Fingertips:

  • For more information about nutritional services at Rush visit our Food and Nutritional Services home page.
  • Looking for a dietitian? Call (312) 942-DIET (3438)
  • Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (7874)

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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