Marcus Gavius Apicius, a Roman gourmet who lived in the 1st century AD, reportedly coined the expression “We eat first with our eyes.” And cognitive neuroscience proves that maxim to be true. Research shows that the proximity and visibility of food greatly influences our eating habits.
The most famous study was conducted at University of Illinois’ Food & Brand Lab. Researchers designed an experiment with chocolate “kisses” in an office setting to determine whether certain variables affected consumption. In the experiment, office workers were tempted with chocolate “kisses” in candy jars. Some kisses required a short walk to retrieve, while others were placed on a desk. Some candies were displayed prominently while others were out of sight in an employee’s desk. The results proved that being able to see the candy and easily reach for it strongly influenced how many pieces of candy were eaten.
Participants with candy on their desks ate an average of 2.9 more candies per day than when the container was stashed in their desk. When the candies were within grabbing distance, the employees consumed an average of 5.6 more kisses every day. A short walk of 6-1/2 feet was enough to reduce habitual snacking.
The bottom line is that the foods you bring into your house are the ones you’ll eat. Why not reduce the temptation to eat junk by altering your food environment?
5 Foods to Ban From Your Kitchen Immediately
Some foods are not just high-fat, high-sugar, and high calorie, but also harmful to your health and should be banned from your cupboards and refrigerator. Here’s a list of five of the worst offenders:
1. Diet Sodas
We often guzzle diet soda with the mistaken assumption that it contains harmless “free” calories and satisfies our sweet tooth. But, it comes at a steep price to our health. Studies associate consuming diet soda with metabolic syndrome (which raises your risk of heart disease), type 2 diabetes and even hip fractures in post-menopausal women. A nine-year study of San Antonio Texas residents over 65 found an association between increased intake of diet soda and “escalating abdominal obesity, a potential pathway for cardiometabolic risk.” A larger study of participants aged 45 and over, who were followed for over four decades, concluded that drinking diet soda was associated with an increased risk of stroke and dementia.
2. Cured Meats
Meats are cured by adding salt and sodium nitrite or nitrate, which acts as a preservative and flavor enhancer. Examples include bacon, ham, salami, prosciutto, sausage, and many lunch meats. Eating these foods, however, raises your risk of many diseases ranging from colorectal cancer to thyroid cancers and can lead to the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in women.
3. Processed Foods Containing Trans-Fatty Acids (TFAs)
Many processed snack foods, including cakes, cookies, crackers, and margarines contain trans-fatty acids. These artificial fats are created by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to keep them solid at room temperature, which improves their texture and taste. If the package lists “partially hydrogenated oils,” as one of the ingredients, steer clear.
Consuming foods containing trans-fats increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as a long list of chronic diseases, including systemic inflammation, endothelial dysfunction, and possibly insulin resistance, diabetes and obesity. In 2015 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration labelled trans-fatty acids as not “Generally Recognized as Safe” for human consumption and issued a requirement that manufacturers remove partially hydrogenated vegetable oils from foods within the next three years. Several cities, such as New York, have passed laws banning the use of trans-fats in restaurants. Many manufacturers are removing trans-fatty acids from their products.
4. Salt in the Shaker
I don’t have a salt shaker in my house. I use pepper liberally as well as a variety of other spices, such as cayenne, turmeric and sumac to flavor my meals. When I eat out, I cringe when I see how many people habitually salt their food even before they taste it.
High sodium intake is a well-known risk factor for high blood pressure, which can cause heart attacks and strokes. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 90% of Americans exceed the recommended upper limit of 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. A comprehensive data review of 66 countries attributed 1.65 million deaths from cardiovascular disease to sodium consumption in excess of 2,000 mg per day. One of the easiest ways to decrease your consumption of sodium is to ban the salt shaker from your house.
5. Sugary Drinks and Cereals
The association between excess sugar consumption and hypertension and obesity is well established. A recent analysis made the direct link between sugar intake and deaths from cardiovascular disease. The study involved a large number of Americans who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. It found that participants who consumed 17-21% of their calories from sugar had a 38% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease as compared with those who limited sugar to 8% of their daily calories. The risk more than doubled for those who consumed 21% of calories from added sugar.
A 12-ounce serving of sweetened soda, relatively small by today’s standards, contains almost 10 teaspoons of sugar. Read the nutrition label of your favorite bottled teas, juices and breakfast cereals and you’ll find another sneaky source of added sugars. Most Americans consume about 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day, far in excess of the American Heart Association recommendation of no more than 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons for men.