If you’re concerned about the allure of the snack foods surrounding you and your kids, this New York Times Magazine cover story – “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food” – will give you a lot to chew on.
It details how food manufacturers deploy teams of PhDs to devise and market processed foods with the type of scientific vigor that goes into curing diseases.
Salt, sugar, and flavorings are tweaked by milligrams with the help of chemists, psychologists, and focus groups. Not one detail in snack foods and drinks, including their “bliss point” and “mouth feel,” is an accident. The goal is to keep you coming back for more.
I’ve been thinking about sodium recently. A new study that relied on computer models estimated that gradually lowering the nation’s sodium intake by 4 percent a year over a decade could prevent up to a half-million deaths during that period.
We get most of our sodium from processed foods and foods from restaurants – not from our own salt shakers. Once we consume these “outsider-made” foods, our sodium consumption begins to spin out of our control. As that magazine article showed, food makers are in perfect control of how their food appeals to us. Being able to control what we eat is critical to good health.
When it comes to salt, is it time to take back some control over what we put in our bodies? And shouldn’t the food providers have a responsibility to us as well? I believe that the answer to both questions is a resounding yes.
I’m no food scientist. But I do know that brownie recipes that recommend a teaspoon of salt come out just fine without it. I have NEVER added this. I’m confident that when the food industry feels pressured to develop recipes for processed foods that taste great with less sodium, fat, and sugar, they find a way to do so.
But to think that the food industry should bear the full burden for doing so is irresponsible. It’s up to us to provide the pressure. These companies are in business to provide us with the products we want. If we refuse to buy healthier options and keep showing that we want salty, over-sweetened products, then that’s what they’ll keep giving us.
You can do your part by voting with your dollars. If we all:
- · spent 10 percent less money each year on chips, sodas, and pre-prepared boxed and canned meals, then
- · put that money toward fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, lean meat and beans, and
- · supported healthier formulations of snack foods when they’re available
Then our food supply would steadily look different. And so would our nation’s health.
For even more tips on how to get better health and need the health care system less, check out: The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System by Dr. Cynthia D. Haines, M.D. (Dr. Cindy Haines) and Eric Metcalf, M.P.H. This is a book about getting what you really want: better health on your own terms.
Published On: March 04, 2013