Nutrition News: Healthy Food Pairings, Subsidized Obesity, Small Meals Overrated

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Underwriting obesity

Is the American government underwriting your weakness for junk food? A new study appears to confirm what health advocates have been saying for a while: that federally subsidized crops — corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, sorghum, milk and meat — are key ingredients in the foods that account for the most calories in the American diet, fueling the U.S. obesity crisis. At the very top of that list, The New York Times reports, are “grain-based desserts like cookies, doughnuts and granola bars.”

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that people who consumed the most federally subsidized foods were 37 percent more likely to be obese, the Times notes, and were “significantly more likely to have belly fat, abnormal cholesterol, and high levels of blood sugar and CRP, a marker of inflammation.” The study’s authors say they hope their findings help policy makers re-examine how they allocate subsidies.

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A fine pair

Want to make the most of the healthy foods you eat? Pair them up for maximal effect. Today.com offers a few flavor- and nutrition-boosting healthful food combos. Team avocados with leafy greens (or tomatoes or carrots) to increase nutrient absorption by 200 to 600 percent, dietitian and fitness specialist Wendy Bazilian advises.

Dress your salad with olive oil to boost carotenoid absorption. Pair mango with leafy greens to help with iron absorption and get a hit of vitamin C. Bazilian also suggests adding herbs and spices to fatty foods to reduce triglycerides and to meat before tossing it on the grill to curb the generation of harmful compounds. And adding citrus — a twist of lemon, a splash of orange — to green tea, she says, is not only yummy but also “increases the absorption of the catechins by up to five times!”

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Common diet wisdom not so wise?

It is an oft-repeated piece of dieting advice that eating frequent small meals throughout the day is better, in terms of curbing your appetite, than consuming three square meals per day. But, writing in the Washington Post, nutritionist Carrie Dennett suggests that research doesn’t actually support this claim.

“In fact, several randomized, controlled-feeding studies — some of which specifically measured appetite — conducted at institutions in the United States and other countries in the past decade tell a different story,” she writes. “In a few of these studies, smaller, more frequent meals helped curb appetite. But mostly, the opposite was true.” Dennett says the hunger we may feel between meals — and the fullness we feel after a big meal — are key signals telling us when to eat and how much. Plus, she notes, hunger “enhances our enjoyment of the meal to come!”

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer.