Does eating extra fruits and vegetables really help you lose weight? Does adding vegetables to the dinner plate make you seem like a better, more caring cook?
Glad you asked. Two surprising studies add a new twist to the old bromide about eating and serving all that healthy stuff.
First, the weight-loss question. A study from researchers at Purdue University in Indiana recently took a closer look at the weight-loss advice to fill up on things like broccoli, carrots, apples and grapes to feel fuller and keep from eating too much high-calorie food. Sometimes, they found, that advice can backfire.
Not only did putting subjects on a vegetable- and fruit-heavy diet for months make no difference at all in their feelings of fullness in the long run. It turns out that those who drank fruit juice before a meal gained weight - 3.5 to 5 pounds - because of the extra calories it added, Reuters reported.
When the subjects in the study were offered an all-you-can eat lunch of macaroni and cheese, they typically ate about 785 or 821 calories. Eating some fresh or dried fruit before lunch lowered their calorie intake to 678, but drinking juice beforehand upped it to 891, according to the findings published in the International Journal of Obesity.
But while eating whole fruit led to the consumption of fewer calories, it didn't affect how the subjects rated their feelings of hunger or fullness. In other words, simply adding fruits and veggies may not be enough to help people feel full and lose weight. And, in the case of juice, it may actually make it harder for them to shed extra pounds, researchers said.
On the other hand, serving veggies as part of a home-cooked meal may make people think you're a better, more heroic person.
A study from Cornell University, sponsored in part by Pinnacle Foods (owner of Birds Eye brand frozen vegetables), found that diners think more highly of a cook when he or she prepares vegetables as part of the meal.
"Simply put, vegetables make people feel more positive about the main course and the cook who prepared it," said lead author Brian Wansink, Ph.D., of Cornell's Food and Brand Lab. The study was published online in the journal Public Health Nutrition.
Vegetables are included at dinnertime only 23 percent of the time, Wansink and his colleagues noted. Their survey of 500 women, ages 18 through 65, didn't focus on the nutritional aspect of a meal with vegetables. The study was all about perceptions. Evidently serving green beans with that chicken breast and spaghetti makes you feel better about yourself and earns you higher ratings from your family than just offering chicken and starch alone.
So there you have it. You don't need to wear a cape and soar through the air - you just need to serve broccoli.
In other health news:
Reduce esophageal screening, physicians say. A group of U.S. internal medicine doctors today recommended limiting esophageal cancer screening to people with chronic heartburn who have additional, more severe symptoms, Reuters reported. Known as an upper endoscopy, this test is often used to diagnose and manage gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), but doctors say it's been overdone in many cases, adding cost and risk to patients without offering clear benefits.
Photo: La Grande Farmers' Market via flickr