Soup. Nothing warms the body or soul like it. And studies show, eating it helps you lose weight. My clients who make batches of soup this time of year do - as do I. That's great news because during this time of year, we all crave hearty, satisfying dishes, which are almost always fattening - with most soup being the exception...
Classic studies have found that as long as the volume of the food is high, even if the volume is just water with no added calories, people can feel full with fewer calories. In one study, researchers varied the amount of water in a food eaten as a first course to study this effect. Subjects were fed one of three conditions: either chicken rice casserole, chicken rice casserole served with a glass of water or chicken rice soup. The subjects who ate the soup consumed 26 percent fewer calories at the main course compared to the other conditions.
In another study, the researchers served salads of various sizes and calorie levels before a main course to determine the effect on the calorie intake of the whole meal. They found that people consumed the fewest overall calories—100 calories fewer—when they were served the largest, lowest-calorie salad before a meal. Vegetables are foods that have a naturally high water content. The higher a food’s water content, the higher its volume, but the lower its calorie density.
Researchers surmise that a large food volume caused by water or air, even without added calories, influences satiety in a variety of ways. When the water is incorporated into the food (as opposed to just a glass of water), it causes stomach stretching and slows stomach emptying, stimulating the nerves and hormones that signal feelings of fullness. Also, visually seeing a large volume of food can increase your ability to feel satisfied by it. Finally, the larger a meal and the longer a meal goes on, studies show, your satisfaction declines and you lose interest in completing it. Water is the component in food which has the largest influence on how much you eat. These studies show eating a high-water-content, low-calorie first course enhances satiety and reduces calorie intake at the next course. This effect persists over time.
One of my favorites found in my new book: "Diet Simple Farm to Table Recipes: 50 New Reasons to Cook in Season!" is Cauliflower Vichyssoise...
For most people, chocolate is a delicious treat to enjoy in moderation. Some new scientific work, though, may give you an excuse to treat yourself more often.
The first, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, examined the effects of cocoa on the moderately sun damaged skin of women aged 43 to 86. The participants drank flavanol-enhanced cocoa drinks, containing 320 mg flavanols daily**, over 24 weeks. It's been established in previous studies that flavanols in cocoa help maintain a healthy vascular system, relax blood vessels (lowering blood pressure), reduce blood clotting – an aspirin-like affect –reduce oxidative damage, and improve blood flow. This new study found that women who drank the flavanol - fortified cocoa drink experienced reduced wrinkles and increased skin elasticity, thereby reducing the effects of sun damage and aging. Flavanols, found in many plant-based foods, such as wine, tea, fruits and vegetables, have been found to have these effects in other foods as well as in cocoa. This study used the equivalent of 4 Tablespoons of cocoa daily.**
Cocoa flavanols may impact brain aging, too, according to a recent Journal of Alzheimer's Disease review. Previous research has shown that flavanols contribute to healthy brain aging and cognitive decline prevention by improving blood flow to the brain and reducing the oxidative and inflammatory damage which occurs with aging. But cocoa harvesting and production produces highly variable levels of flavanols in cocoa products. So scientists are looking for more consistent methods for developing cocoa flavanol formulas containing higher levels of flavanols. "The ultimate goal of this review is to provide recommendations for future developments of cocoa extracts as a therapeutic agent in AD [Alzheimer's Disease]."
These results could mean big things down the line for brain and skin health! Meanwhile, keep in mind that flavanols are found in tea, wine and many fruits and vegetables. Also, these studies use concentrated amounts of flavanols to get larger effects which would be more likely measurable in a food study.
Katherine’s Chocolate for Health Tips:
If you’re eating chocolate for health benefits, you’ll need to be very discriminating in your selections.
You’ll get more flavanols, and therefore health benefits, with less processing. The first choice is cocoa, which isn’t Dutch processed – as when cocoa is “Dutch processed with alkali” the flavanols are reduced. Look for chocolate which has the highest percentage of cocoa as possible and to save calories, look for chocolate with lower fat and sugar levels. In general, cocoa is your best first choice. Second choice is a semisweet or bittersweet chocolate with a high cocoa percentage. Some chocolates go as high as 85% cocoa, but legally can be as low as 35%. I recommend no more than an ounce a day, which may be about 110 - 150 calories, depending on the chocolate. Any more than that and you’re probably going to take in too many calories for weight control
Type of Chocolate Mg Flavonols Calories
1.3 oz Dark Chocolate Bars, Average*: 82 mg 187
1.3 oz Milk Chocolate Bars, Average*: 42 mg 198
1 TBSP Unsweetened Cocoa Powder, Average*: 75 mg 12
*USDA’s Nutrient Data Laboratory
Want to make sure your mind stays sharp later in life? Get strong legs now.
Everyone wonders what they can do to stay of sound mind as we age. Well, now we may have a strategy: get strong gams!
Researchers studied twins over a period of 10 years. What they found was promising. Those who had increased leg power at the start of the study showed improved cognitive aging after the 10 years. They also found those with stronger legs had larger gray matter volume.
Because of these findings in the November issue of the journal Gerontology, researchers intend to do bigger and longer studies. They even plan to look at how other areas of strength might correlate with improved cognition. While they do that, I’m going to do more squats and lunges … after I take a nice, long walk to make sure I can do crosswords for a long time!