Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss is a review of how the food industry changed our eating habits (for the worst).
- You’re probably eating too much salt sugar and fat
- Watch out for pre-packaged food
- Don’t expect help from government and NGOs: eating well is up to you
The food industry values money over health.
And they will overload their products with the following ingredients which are harmful in high doses:
We love sugar because for most of our evolution it represented an advantageous quick energy booster.
Sugar in nature is scarce though, so over-consumption never was a great danger.
But that has changed now.
And the food industry scientifically studied how to maximize the amount of sugar in pre-packaged food to reach the “bliss point”. The bliss point is the point at which the sugar content maximizes our pleasure -and the addictive power-.
The bliss point is not the same for everyone of course, and there are patterns to it.
Children prefer a higher sugar content for example, and that’s why many products aimed at children have a higher percentage of sugar.
Most people in the west consume way too much sugar.
Orange juices and other canned flavored drinks such as coke, fanta and Pepsii have a huge amount of sugar in them.
Most of the salt we consume doesn’t come directly from the salt shaker, but from processed food.
Processed food indeed accounts for more than three-quarters of Americans’ salt consumption. The food industry put salt in all kind of foods for two reasons:
- Salt makes food tastier
- It covers unwanted manufacturing byproducts that taste bad
Too much salt increases blood pressure and leads to hypertension.
There can be such a thing as “too salty” of course, but the more salt we consume, the higher that bar goes. Exactly, just like a drug.
There can be such a thing as too much sugar and salt for our tastes.
But there’s no such a thing as “too much fat”: we don’t have a built-in limit for fat.
So the food industry had free reins here to put as much possible. Fat indeed is the most powerful ingredient to make pleasurable food and does two great things for pre-packaged food:
- It gives food the gooey, “chewey” texture we love
- It helps preserve the food longer
Unluckily most of the fat used in pre-packaged food is saturated fat. Saturated fat is highly linked to diabetes and heart diseases.
It’s Up to You
The food industry used some shady practices to hook us in, but today much of the unhealthy food overload is demand-driven.
Companies that tried to lower the amount of salt, sugar and fat saw their sales decrease and had to revert to their unhealthy ways (examples are the Campbell Soup and Kraft).
In the end, says the author, the best solution consumer awareness and a more health-conscious population.
Real Life Applications
Take care of your health
Your body is what you put in it. Take care of what you eat.
Read the labels!
Learn to read the food labels and what they mean. I have a note saved in my phone on what it means to be high in sugar, salt and fat and pull it out any time I am checking a new food packaging.
Basic health information
The health information in Salt Sugar Fat is a bit basic. If you have done a bit of research into food and health, you probably knew most of this stuff.
Not a what to eat book
The book explains and tells a (very interesting) story, but it’s not much about what you can or should consume.
It’s not necessarily a con, it’s just the way the book was meant to be, but if you’re looking at a “what should I eat” this is probably not your book.
The book is well researched and with lots of data
The information on how the food industry meticulously studied what makes people consume more food is eye-opening. And it will probably make you angry at the same time.
But that’s great: hopefully, you will refuse most pre-packaged food from now on.
Salt Sugar Fat is an interesting read on the daily poisons many people feed themselves with.
It sheds an uncomfortable light on an industry’s unethical modus operandi that has impacted, negatively, the life of millions. And it can give you the motivation you need to start eating properly.