The secret to spending less money on meals? Eat tastier food!

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Having tried a few diets, it seems logical to me that, the more repulsive and flavorless one's food is, the less likely one is to actually eat a lot of it. In that context, I can completely understand why cabbage diets, kasha diets, grapefruit diets and the like are so successful: after a few days of eating cabbage stew, starvation seems like a reasonably pleasant alternative.

Recently, however, a Chicago scientist made the bold assertion that foods with clearer, stronger flavors signal consumption to the brain more clearly. As the brain processes the amount of food that someone eats, it decides when to release feelings of fullness. With stronger flavors, those feelings are released more quickly. Consequently, when one eats more flavorful food, one eats less, buys less, loses weight, and generally all is well with the world.

To test his hypothesis, Dr. Alan Hirsch used what he calls "tastant crystals," which are calorie-free sweet and savory flavorings that can be sprinkled atop foods. In a study of 1,436 subjects, Hirsh claims that the crystals led to an average 15% weight loss over a period of six months. A control group of 100 subjects lost less than a tenth as much weight.

Dr. Hirsch's "tastant crystals" aren't on the market yet, but this ever-so-much-more-so approach to weight loss is interesting. In the meantime, I'm keeping a heavy hand on the balsamic vinegar!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He's got another word for Dr. Hirsch's magic crystals. It's called "seasonings."

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