Participating member of 2011 Mommytography 365 Project
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2011 Mommytography 365 Project Sunday Assignment

Book Review of Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss

Salt Sugar Fat:  How The Food Giants Hooked Us*, by Michael Moss.
Copyright 2013.  ISBN-13: 978-1400069804

(*Amazon Affiliate Link)

Salt Sugar Fat was an eye-opener, revealing the history, science, and marketing behind our present-day convenience / processed foods.   I was a child of the 60s & 70s and thus remember a time when a trip to a fast food restaurant was a rare treat and buying a packaged pizza (crust, sauce, and cheese topping in a box!) was very cool.  Grocery shopping was simple because there were so few choices in the store.  Today a trip to the grocery store feels like running a gauntlet – so many options assaulting you, wearing down your defenses until you just grab something, not caring whether it has any nutritional value or not – and chances are pretty high that the answer to that is “not.”

This book is jam-packed with information, but here are a few highlights:

Sugar

  • Our bodies are hard-wired for sweets.
  • Children like a much higher level of sweetness than adults
  • There is a particular “bliss point” at which things taste their best and ultimate sweetness
  • The bliss point is at a different level for different age groups and even ethnicities.

Fat

  • There is no taste receptor in the mouth for fat (taste receptors are how the sweet taste and other tastes get delivered to the brain)
  • Fat is about a mouth feel or texture, rather than taste
  • There is no bliss point with fat
  • Fat is so pleasing to the brain that the brain never sends the signal to stop eating
  • Fat tastes better with the addition of a little (or a lot) of sugar
  • When sugar is added, people mistakenly believe that the item contains less fat because they notice the sugar, not the fat (the fat goes “into hiding”)

Salt

  • Even more than sugar or fat, salting processed foods is the way to increase sales and consumption
  • “Among the basic tastes—sweet, sour, bitter and salty—salt is one of the hardest ones to live without.”
  • Salt is not a taste that we are born to love – babies don’t like salty foods, but love sweet foods. Rather it is a taste that we learn to love.  The more salty foods we eat, the more our palate adjusts to salt, the more we crave salt.
  • Manufacturers of processed food thus create our cravings for salt by adding more and more salt into their products.
  • Salt fixes many problems that occur in processed foods, which is why manufacturers rely upon it so.
  • The most important issue salt fixes is WOF – warmed over flavor. “ WOF is caused by the oxidation of the fats in meat, which gives meat the taste of cardboard or, as some in the industry describe it, damp dog hair, when the meat is reheated after being precooked and added to soups or boxed meals.”
  • With the addition of salt, “the cardboard or dog-hair taste is still there, but it is overpowered by the salt.”
  • Addiction to salt can be reversed. People who consciously reduce salt levels in their diet will notice within a few weeks that normal processed foods taste way too salty.  Their taste buds become more sensitive to salt and thus need less salt to experience the same salt enjoyment.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is concerned about nutrition and eating a healthier diet.

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