India, where I have been for the past week, has been exciting, surprising, inspiring and bustling. In this exotic land I have experienced incredible flavors and tastes. But the strongest food experience was the power of slow eating.
On my second night in Delhi, I went to Masala Library and sampled the 19-course tasting menu. It might sound like a lot of food but every exquisite course was one mouthful. Really. The meal took three hours. And before it was over, probably by course 12, a feeling of satisfaction and fullness was beginning. I didn’t eat that much but the slow pace and the savoring of flavor made the difference. The lesson I will practice and share with my clients is to slow down while eating. Take time with smaller portions, knowing that more food is available if hunger persists. Starting dinner with a salad is another strategy to increases satiety with small but appropriate portions. When eating out with friends try sharing a few appetizers, while sharing conversation, and then order a main course based on feelings of hunger. Take your time.
The spiciness of the food also slowed my eating pace. Taking small bites of spicy food delivers a richly flavored taste with a hint of heat that is pleasurable and tolerable. And adding heat, usually from red chili powder, has additional benefits. A study released last month online in Hypertension found that eating spicy foods reduced individuals salt preference. Subjects had brain imaging performed after eating a meal with added low levels of capsaicin, the spicy compound in chili pepper. The finding was that capsaicin increased activity in a brain region that was also activated by salt. These researchers suggest that eating spicer foods could be an effective technique to reducing salt intake.
If you overdo the chili powder and the heat is too intense cool down with a dairy product such as yogurt, as they do in India, or a glass of milk. The casein in dairy quenches the fire.
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Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.