addictive? I wondered as i polished off my pumpkin pie …
with an added extra bit of whipped cream.
to a recent article in Food and Nutrition, a publication of
the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, yummy food stimulates
the same pleasure centers in the brain that are stimulated by
addictive drugs like cocaine. And just like drug abusers, we
could become so "hooked" on tasty food that we seek
after it even when we know the consequences might be painful.
most of the research on this topic has been conducted on
animals, not humans. Researchers at Princeton University for
example, found that rats prefer to drink sugar water instead
of plain water. And when they no longer have access to the
sweet stuff, they go through withdrawal symptoms.
rats studied at Scripps Research Institute ran away from their
chow bowl when they heard a signal that warned them of an
impending electrical shock. But the story changed when these
rats were fed chocolate, cheesecake, and sausage. When they
heard the signal, they kept eating … even when they knew
pain was on the way.
course humans are not rats (most of the time), we are reminded
by other experts. And scientists have never observed true
withdrawal symptoms by depriving humans of flavorful foods.
jury is still out. But if food addiction really does exist,
sugar may not be the lone culprit. It’s probably a
combination of sugar, fat, and salt that triggers
addictive-type behavior in humans, say scientists. Christmas
speaking of salt (or sodium), we know that excess can squeeze
up blood pressure, disable kidney function, and contribute to
osteoporosis (porous bones). And we know it’s a challenge to
make food taste good without it. Here are some spicy ideas
from a recent article in Today’s Dietitian to add flavor to
ingredients — citrus, vinegar, and spices — add flavor to
dishes without salt, says culinary nutritionist Robin Plotkin.
Combinations of acids (such as vinegar, lemon or lime juice)
and spices "awakens your palate to taste the flavors of
food," says registered dietitian and chef Amanda Gilley.
Think about basil, oregano, parsley, garlic and red wine
vinegar on Italian food, for example. Deliziosa!
seasonings to use? "Spices with similar colors mix well
together — reds with reds, yellows with yellows," says
Gilley. Cinnamon and nutmeg. Garlic with lemon.
some ingredients. Use tomato paste instead of tomato sauce for
instance. One-fourth cup of tomato paste contains about 40
milligrams of sodium; tomato sauce about 410.
for flavor. Roasting cut-up vegetables such as onions, red
peppers, or Brussels sprouts in the oven (about 400 degrees
for 20 minutes or until browned) causes their natural sugars
to caramelize and creates a great taste. Flavors are diluted
when food is steamed or boiled, says Plotkin.
if pumpkin pie has made my life unmanageable, I will seek
healthier alternatives most of the time. Maybe I’ll toss
some chopped vegetables in olive oil, garlic, and balsamic
vinegar and roast them in the oven. And life will be good.