Salt Sugar Fat takes you through the history of the demise of home-cooked meals by explaining why you love salt, sugar and fat so much and how the processed food industry managed to hook us by cramming all 3 of those into their products.
This book is eye-opening. Michael Moss explains both why we love these 3 things so much and how the food industry has managed to jam pack their products with all of them.
The results are more than shocking, leading us to eat 1.5, 4 or even 20 times as much of them as we should.
Here are 3 major lessons from the book:
TV, jobs and clever marketing ruined home-cooked foods.
You eat 50% more fat than you should and it’s because you can’t taste it.
It’s not the food industry’s fault that it offers so many bad foods – it’s yours.
Some mouthy claims here, we better take a closer look at them!
Lesson 1: TV, jobs and smart advertising marked the downfall of home-cooked meals.
Gary Vaynerchuk always says marketers ruin everything. He’s right.
In the 1950s, for the first time women in America started taking jobs and creating careers of their own on a big scale. That of course meant more wealth and made the US prosper, but it also meant less time for cooking.
Additionally, TV had just been invented, so naturally all eyes were glued to it – who’d want to miss Bonanza, Lassie or Tom & Jerry for boiling potatoes?
So why not spend some of their hard-earned money on convenience foods, Americans thought.
But don’t think there wasn’t any resistance. 25,000 teachers at the time taught a subject that is unheard of today: home economics.
Yes, learning how to cook and manage a household was taught in school once. Why did we do away with one of the most useful subjects?
I know I could’ve used some cooking skills prior to moving out.
But marketers are smart, and so they hired some of those home economics teachers and started educating Americans about the ease of processed meals.
This resulted in fictional teachers, like Betty Crocker, who ended up promoting heat-and-serve meals across the entire nation with cookbooks, classes, TV shows, catchy slogans and even showrooms.
The combined power of being busy, TV and the heavily marketed faces of convenient cooking eventually overpowered the home-cooked meal and took its place, and it hasn’t given it back until today.
Lesson 2: You eat 50% more fat than you should and it’s because you can’t taste it.
I wish I could tell you about all 3 ingredients, but this summary only leaves room for one, but it’s a big one: fat.
You probably know the whole evolutionary story of how our bodies have developed to crave sugar for its short-term energy boost could save our ancestors’ lives.
But do you know why you even love fat so much (which has twice as many calories as sugar, taken gram for gram, by the way)?
It’s because you don’t have a built-in limit for fat.
Unlike sugar or salt, you can never have too much fat. More is always better. At least that’s what your body thinks.
This is because we have taste buds for salt and sugar, but not for fat.
Since all we do is sense its texture (which we love), we suck at estimating how much fat is in food and whether we’ve had enough of it already.
Even worse, add sugar to the mix and the fat moves its operations even more to the background, hiding behind the taste of the sugar. Talk about sugarcoating things.
Apart from giving food an awesome texture and making it look better, fat also increases shelf life, a very important quality for food processing companies, because the longer those canned soups are good to eat, the more time they have to sell it to you.
As a result, tons of processed foods are full with tons of fat, and that’s the reason why Americans, on average, eat 50% more fat, every single day, than they should.
Lesson 3: It’s not the food industry’s fault that it offers so many bad foods – it’s yours.
Here comes the worst part of all of this. None of this is the food industry’s fault.
We are responsible that the food aisles in supermarkets are filled with crappy products.
Because we demand them.
Yes, some government programs help, like the one in the UK, where food producers can voluntarily limit the amount of sodium they put into their products, but the root of the problem is consumer demand.
Some companies showed goodwill, for example Campbell cut out a lot of sodium from their soups. The result?
Consumers started complaining, claiming the soups didn’t taste as good, because they weren’t used to the low sodium amounts.
Sales took a dive and a few years later, up goes the sodium content.
The same thing happened for Kraft, which set limits for salt, sugar, and fat for all new products in 2003. But the demand for their old, worse products got a lot stronger, so it was economically impossible for them to let them go.
As long as we demand crappy foods, crappy foods is what we’ll get. We have to change ourselves first, and then demand the rest of the world change with us.
My personal take-aways
This book is gold. It introduces the 3 components along with how our bodies react to them and them moves on to how they rose to power in the foods we eat today.
The research is interesting and the statistics are shocking and powerful.
No other book has ever made me want to eat healthier more than this one.