Spice it Up and Lose the Fat

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • Let’s face it, when it comes to food – if it doesn’t taste good, then you don’t want to eat it. Despite your attempts to embrace healthier fare, which you find bland and uninspiring, and your efforts to try to make healthier selections, you still gravitate to the foods that do taste good.  We’ve become accustomed to the addictive nature of foods that are either high in fat, sugar, sodium or a combination of two or more of these ingredients.  Just the other day, Twinkies were reintroduced to the marketplace.  Shoppers, who have been consuming them for years said, that even though they've been reformulated and taste a bit different, and the creamy texture, especially the crème filling has been modified, they are rejoicing.  Diehard lovers of this processed treat are so happy it’s available again, they are grabbing crates of these goodies.

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    So how are we to combat the very nature of foods that lure us to eat too much of them, too often?  When it comes to cutting dangerous, artery-clogging trans fat and saturated fats in foods, the key may lie in spices.  Spices can supply robust flavor and help to reduce the creamy or oily palate-pleasing ingredients in familiar foods.  In fact, data presented from a recent experiment suggests that spices may be the key to leveling the taste playing field, allowing dishes to shed calories and fat, but not flavor.  In this case, traditional meatloaf, creamy pasta and buttered vegetables were ranked against their spiced up, reduced fat made-over dishes.


    John Peters, Ph.D., professor of medicine at the University of Colorado and Chief of strategy and innovation at the school’s Anschutz Health and Wellness Center set up a test group of 150 participants in this experiment.  They tasted a meal of about 610 calories, with the full fat content, a reduced fat meal of about 395 calories, seasoned with onion, oregano, paprika and garlic, and a control meal which was lower in fat but did not contain the flavor-boosting seasonings.  The key to the experiment was to randomize the meals, so no one knew when they were eating the full fat or spiced meal, or the low fat, simple version.  Results were as follows:

    • Both meals, the full fat and the lower fat, spiced meal, scored about a 7 out of 10.
    • Before spices were added to the low fat meal, it scored about a 6.25.  When
    • spices were added, the meal “moved up” to a 7, like the full fat version.
    • Individually, the meat loaf ranked as a 6.75 (full fat), a 6.50 (low fat with spices) and a 6.0 (plain, low fat).
    • The full fat vegetables scored just below a 7.0, while the low fat version with spices scored a little above 7.0, and the reduced fat plain vegetables scored just above a 6.0.
    • The full fat creamy pasta scored above a 7.0, actually a 7.25, while the spicy vegetables scored just above a 6.5, and the plain low fat vegetables made it just above a 6.0.

    The lead researcher noted that certain foods like milk and cheese may be especially challenging, when trying to lower fat and maintain flavor, but overall the research certainly suggests that many recipes will lend themselves to the swap out – if the chef knows what he or she is doing.  And this is a great opportunity for food manufacturers to take the plunge and attempt to lower fat while using spices to boost flavor.  In fact, some of this research was funded by the McCormick Science Institute, an independent research organization, part of the spice manufacturing company, McCormick and Company Inc.


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    So let these findings inspire you to learn more about spices, and use spice rubs, fresh and dried spices and pungent fruits like lemon and limes to help cut the fat while preserving the flavor in your recipes.  Websites like Cooking Light also have other swap outs for specific recipes to help you lower calories and fat, while maintaining taste and texture.  Go ahead and get spicy in the kitchen!!


    Amy Hendel is a health professional, journalist and host of Food Rescue, Simple Smoothies and What’s for Lunch?  Author of Fat Families, Thin Families and The 4 Habits of Healthy Families, she tweets health headlines daily @HealthGal1103.  Catch her guest appearances on Marie! on Hallmark and other local and national news and talk shows.   Check out other blogs on lifestyle issues at www.healthcentral.com/obesity





Published On: July 17, 2013