Obesity is reaching epidemic proportions with 2 billion people worldwide now reported to be overweight. With fast food at our fingertips and sweets every which way we look, it’s easy to see why temptation overrules our voice of reason.
The good thing is, however, we’re not crazy in our inability to stop craving these foods, because according to researchers from Purdue University, Indiana, fat has a “taste sensation” that keeps us wanting more. What’s more, scientists believe that the discovery of this could lead to tackling the epidemic once and for all.
“Our experiments provide a missing element in the evidence that fat has a taste sensation, and that it is different from other tastes,” Professor Richard Mattes, director of Purdue’s Ingestive Behaviour Research Centre, told The Independent.
“Identifying the taste of fat has a range of important health implications. At high concentrations, the signal it generates would dissuade the eating of rancid foods,” he explains.
“But at low levels, it may enhance the appeal of some foods by adding to the overall sensory profile, in the same way that bitterness alone is unpleasant but at appropriate levels adds to the appeal of wine and chocolate.”
Researchers believe that as a result of identifying fat as its own flavour – just like sweet, sour and salty – it will help to create fat replacements, which Mattes pointed out has been unsuccessful up until now because scientists have failed to nail the taste of it.
The research, published in the journal, Chemical Senses, comes off the back of a study conducted by Deakin University that found taste was one of the primary reasons some of us overate. Because fat is a vital contributor to feeling full, they discovered that people who couldn’t taste it in their food were less likely to recognise that they were full compared to those who could.
“These results suggest that the ability to taste fat is linked with the fullness experienced from fat,” professor Russell Keast, a researcher in sensory science, told the Daily Mail.
“If you do not taste fat or experience the fullness associated with eating fatty food, you are likely to be more hungry and consume more energy after an earlier fatty meal. And as we know, over-consumption of foods – particularly fatty foods – is associated with people being overweight or obese.”
Should we be pleased or concerned with this research, however? If there is in fact a link between the taste of fat and overeating, will this then lead to even more genetically modified products on our supermarket shelves?
What do you think?
Lunchtime meal choices have become a new source of tension in the workplace, with more than 40 per cent of Australians admitting to feeling judged by colleagues when eating unhealthy meals.
According to the survey of 1000 Australian workers, commissioned by healthy food retailer SumoSalad, one in four Australians confess to judging co-workers for regularly making unhealthy decisions at lunch. When judging the overall health of a person, one in three goes as far as to base their decision purely by the type of food they see them eat.
When it comes to the reasons behind why people opt for a burger or fries at work, the strain of increased workloads and hours could be at fault. More than half of respondents (55 per cent) believe that they are more likely to pick an unhealthy meal for lunch on stressful workdays.
Georgie Moore, SumoSalad’s resident dietitian says: “We often feel drawn to fatty foods when we are stressed, as we associate them with comfort. However, what our bodies actually need when feeling strained and over worked are highly nutritious meals that will keep us going for longer.”
Moore also says that judgment in the workplace doesn’t always come from a bad place. “With the amount of information available to us about how bad certain foods are for the body, it’s not surprising that people are taking note of not only the food they eat, but also the food people around them are eating. While caring is not a bad thing, Australians should be careful not to turn unhealthy eaters into the new cigarette smokers.
“Rather than make a colleague feel uncomfortable for their choice of lunch, the best way to help is to suggest going to lunch with them, as they will feel more inclined to make comparable choices.”
Leading by example could prove to be an effective way to encourage colleagues to make healthier decisions, with 60 per cent of respondents surveyed saying they are more likely to choose a nutritious meal if lunching with a healthy co–worker. Leaving colleagues to face the food court alone could be a recipe for disaster, with one in three people admitting to feeling ambushed by the amount of unhealthy food options available in a food court.
Luke Baylis, co-founder of SumoSalad, said: “Enticing Australians to make healthy decisions in a food court environment can be challenging. The aroma and look of indulgent food can deter even the most committed healthy eaters. As a result, it is up to us to show customers that healthy options are as delicious as they are nutritious.”
To encourage Australians to eat healthy and seasonally, SumoSalad has introduced an Australian food court first, cultivating fresh produce in store through a hydroponic vertical garden wall. The installation boasts a range of fresh and seasonal vegetables, all grown and maintained in store for use in daily lunchtime meals.
The innovation, which is now on display at Sydney’s premium corporate store at Darling Park and Highpoint in Melbourne, will be rolled out across select SumoSalad stores over the next three years.
“The hydroponic vegetable wall is our way of visually prompting Australians to make healthier lunchtime decisions. When choosing between a burger or salad, we hope that being able to see exactly where ingredients come from will be the clincher” Luke said.
If you are looking to turn last nights cooked chook or roast into something scrumptious, this very versatile recipe is for you. You can use up whatever type of left over meat or poultry you have, add whatever veggies you like and it’s a fast, healthy meal.
1-2 cups left over cooked chicken, chopped or broken into small pieces
6 cups of frozen or fresh stir fry veggies
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons chicken stock powder
1/2 cup water
- Heat non stick pan on high until it’s hot and add your veggies. Toss veggies for a couple of minutes as they cook and then turn down heat to medium.
- Add ginger, garlic, chicken stock and water. Stir though and place the lid on. Continue to toss veggies until they are about 2/3 cooked. The time will depend on whether you are using frozen or fresh.
- Add chicken and stir through veggie mix. Add soy sauce and replace lid. Cook for about 2 minutes and serve.
By Kim Chartres
Even the hardened CHOICE food team was shocked by the amount of kilojoules, fat and salt that some options packed. A burger with 67 grams of fat ? that?s around three-and-a-half tablespoons, even before you add the chips and other possible extras. Or a serve of crunchy chicken bits that?s nearly 2000 kJ are just two examples.
If the kids drag you to worship regularly at the fast-food altar and you?re looking for something that amounts to more than a tiny burger yet is healthier than the usual chain offerings, try:
- RED ROOSTER?s Sub 97.
- A visit to NANDO?S will give you a few options that won?t break the nutrition bank.
- A KFC Orignal Fillet Burger ? if you go for potato and gravy or coleslaw with it instead of chips ? can be a reasonable option.
- SUBWAY ? it offers plenty of choice as long as you?re careful not to add the high-fat options.
- A falafel roll or some of the kebabs, which are also good choices.
The report also reveals that a kid?s meal from the big chains buys you 2000 to 3000 kJ, 20 to 30 grams of fat and way more salt than a kid needs. So if there?s a bonus toy, it had better be good!
Upsize to the next trouser size
Fast food?s easy availability, relatively low cost and the advertising-driven demand from our kids for fatty, salty, high-calorie fast food have to take some share of the blame for the expaning waistlines of our kids.
And the fast-food giants can take more blame still for their deliberate strategy aimed at increasing the amount you spend when you visit by offering meal deals and ?upsizes? where a little more money gets you heaps more food.
In some instances you even get more food for less money by taking a meal deal. For example, the smallest HUNGRY JACK?S meal deals include regular-size chips and soft drink, so if you really only want small chips and a small soft drink with your burger it?s going to cost you more for less.
A recent study by health researchers at Deakin University in Melbourne found one upsize deal that delivered as much as 50% more fat, calories and sugar for only 16% more money. On average they found 12% more cash buys you around 25% more fat and calories (and nearly 40% more sugar).
It may add up to value for money, but your arteries (and backside) won?t thank you for it.
For more information including a table of fast foods compared, check out the CHOICE free report Fast Food. You can also see hundreds of independent product tests from digital cameras to dishwashers at CHOICE Online ? www.choice.com.au. We?re a non-profit site funded by consumers.
? Australian Consumers Association 2003