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|All Health and Nutrition Bites|
Is it important to measure your ingredients?
I have written about how I like to use butter in recipes. It enhances the flavor and texture of recipes in a way that few other ingredients can. Most of the time you don't need much, just a bit works wonders. A chef friend once commented that he believed it was easy for chefs to hide their sins by simply adding more fat and salt to a recipe. He would say, "You can make bad food taste better with more butter or salt, but it's better to just make great food with the right amount of ingredients."
The Measure of Taste
I measure everything. As many of you may have seen, when I am on television or in interviews I stress the importance of careful measurement as one key to cooking and eating healthy.
When the Glycemic Index Doesn't Measure Up
A couple of months ago I wrote about the link - or lack thereof - between dietary Glycemic Index and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The Glycemic Index is of interest to those seeking to help prevent or treat diabetes because it measures the effect that a specific food has on a person's blood sugar after the person eats it. Unfortunately, the results of studies assessing the link between GI and diabetes risk have been mixed.
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A recent study in Japan investigated our ability to estimate amounts of food based on appearance (Appetite 2007;49(1):183-190). Noting that two types of food, soft food or hard food, might be estimated differently, the scientists selected raw carrots as their sample hard food and surimi gel (ground fish) as a sample of softer food. (Both were familiar foods to the test subjects.)
For the study, the team cut the two sample foods into various shapes, including a single block, multiple fine strips, and a number of small blocks. The procedure of the study was fairly simple: A computer screen was used to present a sample size of the given food on the left of the screen (for example, a single block of carrot labeled as 5 grams in weight). On the right side of the screen was a sample of the same food in a different form: perhaps fine strips instead of a single block. Both sides of the screen also showed a plastic spoon as a size reference item. The subjects were given a target weight for the item on the right (say, 12 grams) and were instructed to use the arrows on the keyboard to display pictures of larger or smaller quantities until they felt that the picture they selected matched the target size. The two types of food were not compared to each other, but each test subject performed over 200 comparisons for various reference sizes, food types, and target weights.
The scientists found that the subjects consistently overestimated the weight of finely cut foods, regardless of which type of food (carrots or surimi gel) they were estimating. All of the subjects had normal vision and had some cooking experience, although none was a professional cook or chef.
Chances are you can't eyeball your food and accurately estimate how much you're eating. One of the most important pieces of equipment you can have in your kitchen is a good scale. Weigh and measure everything you cook. Eventually you'll learn how to look at different foods and judge their weight accurately, but until then... use a scale.
First posted: August 8, 2007