Monday, June 10, 2013

"Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us," by Michael Moss

In my opinion, Salt Sugar Fat is a must-read for anyone with a serious interest in health and/or nutrition.

Lessons learned


  • Don't be deceived by the innocent sound of the name "fructose." A natural sweetener, fructose is "far sweeter than sucrose, the other component of table sugar," and is, therefore, frequently used as a cheaper substitute, but since it cakes more easily, it must be mixed with "agents like calcim citrate tricalcium phosphate and silicon dioxide to prevent the caking." (Pages 130-131) [Keep in mind that just about every ingredient ending in "ose" is a form of sugar.]
  • We're more likely to "OD" on sweetened beverages because the body doesn't notice sweetness in liquids as well as it does in solids.
  • Fruit-juice sweetener is no more healthy than any other form of sugar--it's been stripped of all nutritional value. (See p. 134.)
  • "Cheese has become the single largest source of saturated fat in the American diet . . . " (Page 163).  We're eating much more of it than we used to eat because it's being slipped into other foods as an ingredient (e.g. cheese-stuffed pizza crusts, cheese-drenched vegetables) in and/or on other foods. Another major source is red meat.
  • Just about every ingredient that includes the word "sodium" is a form of salt.
  • We're born loving sugar, but we have to be taught to like salt--and the younger one is taught, the more likely one will get "hooked."

Sugars and salts are used not only to enhance flavor, but also to help extend shelf life. "Convenience" is a big selling point for food producers, and removing the fear of spoilage is a form of convenience (for both retailers and consumers).

The take-away: If you're truly serious about your health, it's essential to read the ingredients!

P. 340: "The bigger challenge lies in closing the price gap between processed and fresh foods so that blueberries could better compete, as a quick snack, with a Snickers bar."

P. 340-341: "We're hooked on inexpensive food, just like we're hooked on cheap energy," said James Behnke, the former Pillsbury executive. "The real question is this price sensitivity, and, unfortunately, the growing disparity between the haves and have-nots. It costs more money to eat fresher, healthier. And so, there is a huge economic issue involved in the obesity problem. It falls most heavily on those who have the fewest resources and probably the least understanding of what they are doing."

Here's something that hadn't occurred to me, from p. 342:

Drexel University clinical psychology professor Michael Lowe pointed out "a tear in the social fabric that first appeared in the early 1980s, as the obesity rates started to surge. 'When a lot of us grew up,' he told me, 'there were three meals a day, and maybe a planned snack at bedtime--and that was it. You never ate outside of those times because you would spoil your appetite. That changed. People began eating everywhere, in meetings or walking down the street. There's no place where food isn't acceptable now, and people are so busy they don't make time to sit down for meals. We have to work to encourage families to eat together, and that used to be automatic.'"

I think Prof. Lowe has a point. It seems to me that the whole concept of not eating between meals lest one spoil one's appetite has disappeared.

Maybe we Americans should just call ourselves a nation of snackers.

Related--today's bad news from NY1:  DOH: Diabetes, Related Illnesses Now A Citywide Epidemic; Some Need Clearer Idea Of How Many Calories They Are Consuming

Mr. Moss doesn't discuss the role of religion in eating habits, but that certainly won't stop me.  My husband has been working crazy hours for over two decades, frequently working evenings.  One of the extra added benefits of Shabbat (Sabbath) and Yom Tov (major holidays) is that, in observing them, we eat (and, when he was still young enough to be living with us, we and our son ate) dinner and lunch together at least once every week.


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