Big Bite!

We crave foods for LOTS of reasons, not just because of marketing mind control (but yeah, mostly that!). From what our mothers ate while pregnant with us to nutrient deficiencies, we can find ourselves somewhat on the warpath for things we know are bad for us. And the usual suspects—excessive fat, sugar and salt—may originate from a more primordial urge resulting from their relative scarcity in nature. (Or as late night fast food commercial creators call it, “resistance is futile.”) But, if we can contain ourselves to the single mouthful, does a bite of that we-know-we-shouldn’t make a difference either way?

Empty calories from trans fats, genetically modified ingredients, refined sugars, sodium, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, are proof enough that junk foods do us few favors. But… even if we don’t eat the whole thing?

Does a Bite Really Satisfy a Craving?

It just might. Researchers have found brain patterns that are connected to emotional eating. And those excess fats in ice cream, brownies, fudge, etc, can actually boost your mood similar to the effects in consuming large amounts of omega fatty acids (which are the good-for-you kind of fats). What gets you is the inevitable sugar crash that can lead to mood swings and irritability. But, if you can limit yourself to just a bite or two, you may be okay. The USDA recommends consuming fewer than 40 grams of processed sugar daily, which is just about the amount in one can of soda. And those ridiculous gooey, fudgey desserts can have three times that, so watch the big bitefuls.

How Bad Is “Just a Bite,” Really?

Well, it all depends on what’s in that bite. New recommendations on sodium intake suggest consuming no more than 2,400 milligrams daily. Considered the saltiest food in America, Uno Chicago Grill’s Classic Deep Dish Individual Pizza contains more than double the total recommended intake of sodium for an adult! Just a bite of that could push you over your recommended intake, and excess sodium consumption is linked to a number of health issues including hypertension and heart disease. 

It all really boils down to what makes up most of your diet. If you’re regularly eating fresh, whole foods, a bite every now and then (be it salty or sweet) shouldn’t send you into cardiac arrest or make you a candidate for diabetes. But, a bite every day on a not-so-great diet? Probably not the best use of your mouth.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Resources:

http://my.menshealth.com/exclusive-content/30-saltiest-foods-america
http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/07/25/study.clues.emotional.eating/index.html
http://www.happyhealthylonglife.com/happy_healthy_long_life/2009/05/food-addiction.html
http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/03/28/us-obesity-junkfood-idUSTRE62R23O20100328

Image: jenny downing