Extension and Ag Research News


Prairie Fare: Chewing Gum May Help With Stress and Appetite Management

Researchers continue to show that enjoying a stick of gum has some potential health benefits, along with promoting fresher breath.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

Whenever I get into my vehicle after work, I reach for my purse and dig around for my pack. After a long day, I need a little pick-me-up.

When my family is in the vehicle with me, everyone asks me to share. In fact, sometimes my pack is empty because my kids help themselves when I’m unavailable to guard my purse.

Yes, they all enjoy a stick of gum from my pack of chewing gum.

Chewing gum has been a common practice since the time of the ancient Greeks and Mayans who chewed on tree sap. Native Americans introduced chewing spruce sap to the colonial settlers.

Although other chewy substances have taken the place of tree sap, chewing gum remains very popular. In 2005, chewing gum was voted the top snack choice in the U.S. Today’s chewing gum is made up of a gum base, a sweetener (caloric or noncaloric), a softener (such as glycerin) and flavorings or colorings.

Some people think of gum as a type of “candy,” and an indulgence that usually provides calories without health benefits. However, researchers continue to show that enjoying a stick of gum has some potential health benefits, along with promoting fresher breath.

Some types of sugar-free chewing gum carry the American Dental Association (ADA) seal. According to research reported by the ADA, chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after a meal promotes the flow of more saliva, along with tooth-strengthening calcium and phosphate.

Some types of gum are specially formulated and may help reduce plaque and keep your gums healthy. Other types of chewing gum may help whiten your teeth. Dentists, however, caution that chewing gum does not replace brushing and flossing.

As most of us remember, chewing gum usually is forbidden in school classrooms because the gum gets deposited under desks or chairs.

However, some research has shown that allowing kids to chew gum during class may improve concentration and academic performance. In a study conducted with teenagers in classrooms, the researchers noted that math scores and final grades were better among the gum-chewing teens.

According to psychologists, chewing a stick of gum may help you vent some stress and provide a psychological lift. Besides, if you’re feeling a little frustrated, you might be tempted to reach for something to munch on even though you really are not hungry. Chewing gum does not contribute lots of calories.

People with New Year’s weight loss resolutions might want to add gum to their menu. At zero to 10 calories per stick, gum may help people control their appetites.

According to the results of a study reported in the journal Appetite, people who chewed sugar-free or regular gum before an afternoon snack ate a little less. When offered a snack, the gum chewers ate about 35 calories less than those who did not chew gum.

After all this discussion of gum, I think I need to indulge myself with a stick. Now where’s my purse?

If you’d like to munch on something, here’s a creamy fruit dip recipe to enjoy with appetite-taming crunchy apples or pears.

Fruit Dip

2 c. fat-free sour cream

1 c. fruit-flavored yogurt (such as lemon)

4 Tbsp. (about one-half of a 3.5-ounce package) vanilla instant pudding

Mix and chill. Serve with assorted fruit, such as apple slices and pear slices. To help prevent browning, dip apple and pear slices in pineapple juice or orange juice.

Each 2-tablespoon serving of dip has 38 calories, less than 1 gram (g) of fat and 7 g of carbohydrate.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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