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All Health and Nutrition Bites


More on Chewing Gum and Appetite
I have patients who chew gum when they are trying to quit smoking but I have had only a few tell me they use gum chewing when they are trying to eat healthier. There's not been a lot of research on this (which I always found a bit odd). In a report in this months journal Appetite two researchers tackle just this very question.

Best Snack? Nuts!
When I'm giving a lecture about eating healthy, someone invariably asks about snacking. As you may already know, I'm not a big fan of snacking between meals when you're trying to lose weight. All too often that snacking simply adds calories that you don't need. Still, people really want to know what is the best snacking option.

Air has no calories
I have previously written on numerous studies that reveal how our perception of food has an effect on how much we consume and enjoy what we eat. One area that has been studied extensively is how we react to the volume of food. Kathrin Osterholt and her colleagues at the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State report on a study where participants were given snacks made with different volumes of air.


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Snack right!

A lot of health issues come from snacking and this is because many snack foods are very calorie dense (high calories for small portions). A sweet snack like a Kit Kat bar has 220 calories and 11 grams of fat, whereas only 6 Triscuits are 120 calories and 5 grams of fat. Most such snack foods have little nutritive value.

Brian Wansink and his colleagues at the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab wanted to know if there might be a difference in how those who preferred sweet snacks perceived eating fruit. Their feeling was that it might be helpful for us to identify a preference for sweet or salty snacks, since we might be more inclined to eat something as a healthy alternative that better fits our tastes (Appetite 2006;47: 107-110).

The researchers conducted two separate studies. The first was based on information gathered as part of a dietary survey by the USDA between 1994 and 1996. Participants were asked to recall two days of what was consumed in their households. The data collected included type and amount of food as well as when and why (whether the food was a meal or a snack).

Dr. Wansink and his researchers found that both sweet and salty snack consumption correlated with fruit consumption. Those who consumed sweets were more likely to consume fruits, however. To further investigate, they performed a study to see how well sweet snack consumption related to eating fruit vs. other snacks.

They mailed a survey to 2000 people and almost 40% responded. The questionnaire had a list of 12 fruits and veggies, 8 sweet snacks and 8 salty snacks with instructions to indicate how often they had eaten each in the previous week. When they compared those who expressed a strong liking for fruits or vegetables, they found that fruit eaters recalled consuming sweet snacks more often than veggie lovers.

On the other hand, veggie lovers were more likely to recall eating salty snacks. So in both studies, sweet snack eaters appeared to eat more fruit.

What this means for you:

Do you love sweets? The research says that you might like eating fruit just as well as that Kit Kat bar. You can eat almost three apples to equal the calories of a single candy bar (and not get all that saturated fat). Likewise, if you are a salty snack lover veggies could be just the ticket. Or nuts: Salty snack lovers would be much better off eating the same weight of nuts as salty crackers or chips.

First posted: August 18, 2006