Attention, people who care about calories. Two new studies by scientists at Purdue University have confirmed the appetite-satiating power of both cayenne pepper and pureed vegetables; both caused test subjects to eat fewer calories over the course of a meal. According to the New York Times, red pepper helped test subjects feel fuller faster (were they drinking lots of water to cut the spice?), as well as temporarily speeding up their metabolism to burn calories at a slightly elevated rate. Anyone who’s ever suffered through the spicy lemonade cleanse knows firsthand that cayenne pepper will play all sorts of tricks on your brain and stomach. However, the effect is most pronounced in those unaccustomed to eating spicy foods. Once the honeymoon is over, cayenne just doesn’t get your heart racing the way it used to.
Then there is the finding that adding pureed veggies to foods will bulk up said food while reducing the number of calories per serving, which is not necessarily new information, but bears repeating. Additionally, when appropriate spices were employed, the subjects couldn’t even tell they were eating gross vegetables. Same taste, fewer calories…seems like the holy grail of diet strategies to me. This is, of course, assuming that people think vegetables are gross. Which, in this country of meat-loving Ron Swansons, is probably true. Give green veggies a chance, people! I promise they taste extra delicious if you don’t turn them into baby food first.
Despite their potential to help those struggling to eat better, these studies also brought up some uncomfortable associations for me. As anyone who’s ever flirted with disordered eating knows, there are certain “good” foods that will make you feel full in a sickly sort of way without adding any significant number of calories to your daily intake. Although the studies’ findings are potentially constructive, there’s always a chance some people will misuse them in an unhealthy way, so if anyone reading this is thinking of doing that, please consider clicking over to the National Eating Disorders Association instead.