Ice cream is crafty stuff

Warning: Ice cream contains a fat that will send you back for seconds.

Warning: Ice cream contains a fat that will send you back for seconds.

I’ve always believed that no food should be completely off-limits. But I’ve also been known to plow through a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food in one sitting (and, no, I’m not ashamed to admit it).

Now I know why. Apparently, when it comes to ice cream you can’t have “just a taste,” according to a new University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center study. Ice cream contains palmitic acid, a type of fat that causes the brain to suppress the body’s signals of fullness. “Normally, our body is primed to say when we’ve had enough, but that doesn’t always happen when we’re eating something good,” said Dr. Deborah Cleggassistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern. “Since you’re not being told by the brain to stop eating, you overeat.” In particular, palmitic acid causes your body to ignore appetite-suppressing signals from leptin and insulin, two hormones involved in regulating weight.

Palmitic acid is a type of artery-clogging saturated fat commonly found in butter, milk, cheese, and beef. Researchers also examined the effect of heart-healthy oleic acid–a common type of unsaturated fat–and found it did not have the same effect. “The action was very specific to palmitic acid, which is very high in foods that are rich in saturated fat,” says Clegg.

She says the study’s findings are more reason to limit saturated fat in your diet. In other words, just say “no.”

I won’t, of course, but at least now I know why I should.

Saturday starters

dreamstimefree_1149421It’s all about calories

Physicians and nutritionists have been saying this for years: To lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than you expend. That’s a simple equation, but many of us still seek a magic weight-loss bullet. You know, the special diet that finally unlocks the key to shedding all those excess pounds. So what works best? High fat/low carb/high protein? High protein/low fat/low carb? High carb/low fat/some protein? A new study published in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine compared four different weight-loss diets over a two-year period and found that what really matters is: consuming fewer calories, regardless of diet. So if you want to drop a few pounds, just eat less and move more.

Grow your own

lettucecloseupAs the terrific blog RecessionWire notes, when times get tough, people start planting. During the Great Depression, anyone with some spare dirt grew something; that was followed by the victory gardens of World War II. These lean days are no different, and the National Gardening Association predicts the number of households growing vegetables will sprout 40% this year. This can range from a few containers of herbs to full vegetable gardens. To help you get started, the editors at have just launched Vegetable Gardener, a cool site devoted to growing and cooking with fruits and vegetables. is another good source of info. Finally, for glorious inspiration, check out Jeanne Kelley’s book Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes: Recipes from a Modern Kitchen Garden, in which she shares delicious recipes inspired by her own home garden. Think of it as uber-local food.

duo10qt_large_horizontal_productTried it, loved it

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with pressure cookers, which cook food in less than half the time of conventional methods. You may remember those retro gadgets from your grandma’s kitchen–they rattled menacingly on the stovetop while pressure built up in the pot. They even exploded on occasion. Hmmm, why bother with them now? Today’s models are safe, sturdy, and easy to use. I recently picked up a 6-quart, stainless-steel Fagor Duo pressure cooker on Amazon for $80 (it typically retails for $120). It’s a solid piece of cookware–you can saute and sear in it before adding other ingredients and starting the pressure. It’s also simple to handle, quiet, and speedy. We enjoyed homemade split pea soup in about 20 minutes, start to finish. I also like to cook dried beans, but hate the long soaking and simmering time. The pressure cooker will speed that process up, too, enabling me to use cheap dried beans instead of pricier, sodium-packed canned legumes.