78. Read: Salt, Sugar, Fat
Oct 21, 2020
By: Michael Beiter
In 2018 Why We Sleep was the most important book I read because of the lessons it extolled on sleep. It’s the second most important thing for your success behind only sustainability.
In 2019 I got through another swath of material and the most impactful read was Salt, Sugar, and Fat by Michael Moss.
In it, Moss details the actions of big food. From their chemical manipulation of ingredients that create addictive combinations to the unethical marketing towards children and mothers, these corporations will stop at nothing to command your brand loyalty.
Their end goal is simple: create lifelong customers that contribute to their bottom line. Health, once you’ve read the evidence, is low on big food’s priority list.
Get the book, read it, and share it. I know of no other way to communicate the gamble we’re all playing when eating food products created by these people. Know that like slot players in Vegas, you may appear to win the battle in the short term when you eat their creations, but in the long game the house always wins.
We are all prone to fall for exaggerated forms of reality. Junk food, for example, drives our reward system into a frenzy.
After spending hundreds of thousands of years hunting and foraging for food in the wild, our brain has evolved to place a high value on sugar, salt, and fat.
Such foods are often calorie dense. They were quite rare when our ancestors were roaming the savannah. When we didn’t know where our next meal was coming from, eating as much as possible was an excellent strategy to survive.
Today, however, we live in a calorie rich environment. Food is abundant, but our brain continues to crave it like it was scare. Placing a high value on sugar, salt, and fat is no longer advantageous to our health, but the cravings persist because the brain’s reward centers have not changed for approximately fifty thousand years. The modern food industry relies on stretching our Paleolithic instincts beyond their evolutionary purpose.
A primary goal of food science is to create products that are more attractive to consumers. Nearly every food in a bag, box, or jar has been enhanced in some way. If only to add additional flavoring.
Companies spend millions of dollars to discover the most satisfying level of crunch in a potato chip or the perfect amount of fizz in a soda. Entire departments are dedicated to optimizing how a product feels in your mouth - a quality known as orosensation. French fries, for example, are a potent combination - golden brown and crunchy on the outside, light and smooth on the inside.
Other processed foods enhance dynamic contrast, which refers to items with a combination of sensations, like crunchy and creamy. Imagine the gooeyness of melted cheese on top of a crispy pizza crust, or the crunch of an Oreo cookie combined with its smooth center. With natural, unprocessed foods, you tend to experience the same sensations over and over - how’s that seventeenth bite of salad taste? After a few minutes, your brain loses interest and you begin to feel full. But foods that are high in dynamic contrast keep the experience novel and interesting, encouraging you to eat more.
Ultimately, such strategies enable food scientists to find a “bliss point” for each product - the precise combination of salt, sugar, and fat that excites your brain and keeps you combing back for more. The result, of course, is that you overeat because hyperpalatable foods are more attractive to the human brain.
Stephen Guyenet, a neuroscientist who specializes in eating behavior and obesity, says, “We’ve gotten too good at pushing our own buttons.”
This was an excerpt from the book. Bliss points, dynamic feel? These are things created within the last century to make navigating our food environment harder than it has ever been.
Check out the book and let us know if you need help with your nutrition.