health bites

August 1, 2006
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Eat Hot to be Hot
Not only do spices contribute to the flavor and aroma of snacks and baked goods, but they also may help us lose weight. According to researchers from Maastrich University’s Wageningen Centre of Food Science in Holland and Lavale University in Quebec, seasonings such as capsaicin, black pepper, ginger and mixed spices contribute to energy balance and heat generation (thermogenesis). For instance, the compound that gives red chili pepper its heat might help people burn more energy. Case in point: Consumers who drink tomato juice with a little bit of red pepper added might experience reductions in the amount of energy consumed from meals by 10%. Additionally, black pepper can stimulate the metabolism through piperine, a component that can bind Transcient Receptor Potential Vanilloid (TRPV1) receptors in the brain and other parts of the nervous system. Ginger also activates TRPV1 and has thermogenic properties.
Nutty Studies
In their efforts to eat more healthful products, Americans today often turn to foods that are rich in antioxidants, which deactivate free radicals — cell-destroying compounds in the body that can cause heart disease, cancer and strokes. Good news: Researchers from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University found that a serving of almonds contains a comparable amount of antixodants called flavonoids as a serving of broccoli or a cup of brewed back or green tea. The findings recently were published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. A 1-oz., 160-calorie handful of almonds also is an excellent source of Vitamin E and protein, a good source of protein and fiber, and offers heart-healthy monosaturated fat, potassium, calcium, phosphorous and iron.
In a related study, primary care doctors in 10 teaching hospitals across Spain discovered that those who follow a “Mediterranean diet” that includes vegetables, legumes, olive oil or nuts — especially walnuts — may reduce the risks of heart attack and cardiovascular disease by up to one-half. The diet is said to lower blood pressure, improve lipid profiles, decrease insulin resistance and reduce concentrations of inflammatory molecules. “Effects of a Mediterranean-Style Diet on Cardiovascular Risk Factors” appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine in July. For more information, visit www.predimed.org.
Habitual Learning
Here’s yet another reason why snack and bakery food producers should target moms as their core consumers. Children begin forming eating habits and food preferences while they’re still in the womb, according to research by the Monell Chemical Senses Center, the National Institutes of Health and Sam Houston State University. The study, shared at the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting and Food Expo in June, suggested that a mother’s eating habits during pregnancy and breast feeding have a strong influence on children’s acceptance of healthy foods. In addition, an infant’s reactions to food are similar to an adult’s, and repeated exposure leads to greater acceptance. Also, heredity and a child’s exposure to family customs have a major impact on their eating habits and taste cravings as an adult. For additional health studies, visit www.ift.org.

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