Like Seaweed and Quail Eggs? How trying new foods may link to a healthy weight

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Polenta, quinoa, kimchi or seaweed – have you tried these foods, or even cooked with them? If so, you might be an adventurous eater – getting a thrill from seeking out and trying foods less familiar to most Americans. According to a new study, you might even weigh less than people who are less adventurous. And a healthy weight is one important factor for keeping risk low for many cancers, including colorectal, postmenopausal breast and kidney.

Published in the journal Obesitythe study authors set out to look at whether being willing to try new or different foods might relate to weight (BMI). Although some earlier studies found that eating more of a variety of foods links to higher BMI, in those cases variety meant eating more foods at one time. Here, the researchers wanted to look at women they describe as “neophiles” – adventurous eaters who enjoy trying new foods.

The 501 women in the study ranged from age 20-35 and they averaged slightly above a healthy weight, 43% Caucasian, with about one-quarter each Black and Hispanic.

Participants were shown a list of 16 foods considered novel, or relatively unfamiliar; those who said they have tried at least nine of the foods were considered adventurous. The young women identified as adventurous eaters had a lower weight than the less adventurous eaters. These women were more physically active, reported being healthy eaters and were less concerned with price of new foods. These differences may all have played a role with being a lower weight. However, this first attempt at studying “adventurous eating” may provide some hints at how we should think of choosing a variety of foods.

Some of the other unusual foods they had on the list of choices were kale, seitan, bean sprouts, eel, quail eggs and rabbit.

If you’d like to have a greater variety of foods – or at least try some new foods, here are 3 things you can do to nudge yourself towards adventurous eating:

1. If your supermarket hands out samples – take advantage! You can get a sense of the flavor and texture of a new food that way, and often the recipe they’re using is simple.

2. Restaurant buffets can be a danger zone for overeating, but you might also be able to try a variety of foods new to you – kale, quinoa or starfruit are relative newcomers to the US, but becoming more common.

3. Try a simple recipe in your kitchen – find a recipe with few ingredients, but one new to you food. Check out AICR’s Healthy Recipes for some delicious and cancer-fighting options. You can start with these: Quinoa with Cauliflower and Broccoli or Soba Noodles with Kimchi.


Author: Alice RD

Alice G. Bender, MS, RDN, is the Director of Nutrition Programs at AICR. She helps put the science of cancer prevention into action by providing tips and tools to choose nutritious and delicious foods. Alice has guided thousands of individuals to healthier lives through diet changes and choices.

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