Variety is the spice of life—up to a point, says nutritionist Dr. David Katz. Dr. Oz talks to Dr. Katz, nutritional columnist for O, The Oprah Magazine and author of The Flavor Point Diet, about how flavor combinations in foods affect your appetite.
Dr. Katz says the "appetite meter" center in the hypothalamus of the brain is hardwired to respond to different flavor categories (salty, sweet, savory, etc.) independently. He explains that the term "flavor point" refers to the point when flavors in your food fill up the appetite center in the brain, thereby subduing hunger and appetite. "If you switch flavor categories—you go from salty, savory to sweet—in essence, you turn on a new appetite response and you have more room," he says. "That's why we all have room for dessert."
He argues that modern-day humans have created a food supply of mostly processed foods that's bombarding our appetite center with all sorts of stimuli it doesn't need. This interferes with the "flavor point," puts the appetite into overdrive and increases the number of calories it takes to feel full.
Dr. Katz says flavors are your friend, as long as you know the basics. "This is not about limiting flavor and it's not about limiting variety of food," Dr. Katz says. "It's about avoiding unnecessary combinations, like lots of sugar in something that's supposed to be sweet or lots of salt in something that isn't supposed to be salty."
Here's Dr. Katz's guide to sensory specific satiety:
Distribute flavors thoughtfully. Organize the way you spread out food by using a single food or flavor as a reminder ingredient throughout the day. For example, build a meal plan that revolves around a flavor theme such as almond, basil, tomato or lemon.
Unjumble flavors. Don't cruise from flavor category to flavor category. If you're having a salty snack, don't mix in something sweet.
Use flavor harmonization in meals. Dr. Katz says mixing unharmonious flavors is not only bad cuisine, it's bad for your waistline. For example, you shouldn't eat a cream sauce on pasta, ranch dressing on your salad, french fries with ketchup and a sweet soda in one meal. Look to many ethnic cuisines for examples of harmonious flavor combinations, he says.
Eat closer to nature. Choose more wholesome foods and avoid items that have superfluous flavors, like processed foods with added salt and/or sugar. "When you cut out those unnecessary flavors, you fill up on fewer calories," says Dr. Katz.