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Food For Thought: Does A Food’s Texture (In Your Mouth) Impact How Many Calories We Eat?

Image source: Health

The all too personal ‘creamy or crunchy’ question doesn’t just apply to peanut butter anymore. A recent study from the Journal of Consumer Research revealed that the way we perceive food texture, and the way we chew and eat, has an impact on our overall food consumption.1

Researchers looked at a variety of experiments to examine the relationship between how a food feels in your mouth and the amount we eat, the types of food we choose, and how many calories we think we might be consuming. The research looked at 5 experimental studies from the University of South Florida, the University of Michigan and Columbia University; one of which had participants stare at TV ads while eating different kinds of brownie bits (can you say yum?).

For the brownie bits study, the pool was divided in half. Group A was asked to focus on the caloric value of the brownies, Group B was not. From there, within these groups, they were given two different varieties of brownie bits — half received soft, gooey brownie bits, while the other half received ones that were harder and rougher in texture.

What happened? The individuals that did not have to focus on calorie count ended up consuming more soft-textured brownie bits, while those that did focus on calorie count gravitated to the harder, rougher brownie bits.

Overall, researchers concluded that individuals perceive smoother, softer foods to be higher in calories, and rougher, harder foods to be lower in calories. But why? The ‘oral haptics–calorie estimation’ (OHCE) effect, better explained as the way food feels in your mouth, has an impact on your perception of how many calories are in a food. This ultimately could impact how much of that food you end up eating.


Don’t Judge A Food By Its Texture — Bottom Line

While this research is fascinating, and helpful for the food industry, it’s not indicative of all crunchy and soft foods. Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, oatmeal, quinoa and real-fruit purees are just a few examples of softer foods that are low in cals. But crunchy foods aren’t all-you-can eat, either.

Potato chips, pretzels and crackers are all on the ‘rough-textured’ side of guilty pleasures — and binging on a whole bag of baby carrots is A LOT different than a whole bag of barbecue potato chips. I know, life isn’t fair.

Even crunchy ‘health foods’ like almonds need to be portioned out. While nutritious, they can easily rack up calories and fat content quickly (but the creamy versus crunchy peanut butter debate is still pretty important, don’t you think?)!

Julie Fine

Julie Fine

Content Specialist at Lean It Up
Julie Fine is an AFAA-CGF, Beachbody INSANITY Coach, former chunky gal, 110% pure fitness junkie and an SEC-lovin' sorority girl at the University of Missouri.

When she isn't spending her extra time as a campus tour guide (Go Tigers!), she's probably scrounging around the aisles of Barnes & Noble or doing some impulse online shopping.
Julie Fine
Follow Lean It UP on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest for real-time fitness/nutrition tips, advice, info and updates.


References, Notes, Links

  1. Dipayan Biswas, Courtney Szocs, Aradhna Krishna, and Donald R. Lehmann. Something to Chew On: The Effects of Oral Haptics on Mastication, Orosensory Perception, and Calorie Estimation. Journal of Consumer Research. []


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