You can count on food being in the news every day. Sometimes confusing, always amusing. Here’s a look at what I’ve been reading this week.
The news about salt took a dramatic turn this week when a new study suggested that cutting back on sodium too much can actually be harmful. This global research (called PURE for Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology studies) published in the New England Journal of Medicine tracked more than 100,000 people from 18 countries over an average of three years. Those who consumed fewer than 3,000 milligrams of sodium a day had a 27% higher risk of death or a serious event such as a heart attack or stroke in that period than those whose intake was estimated at 3,000 to 6,000 milligrams. Risk of death or other major events increased with intake above 6,000 milligrams. So it’s bad to have too much and too little.
The American Heart Association objected to the findings, and here’s a response statement from Bonnie Liebman of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which points out several flaws in the study:
“The results of the PURE studies (by O’Donnell et al. and Mente et al.) should not change advice by health authorities—American Heart Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and others—to consume less salt to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.”
Dr. Suzanne Oparil, a cardiologist at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, who wrote the editorial accompanying the research said:
“My personal bias is that there are so many more important things we could do. A diet that reduces sugar drinks and approaches the Mediterranean diet will give you more benefit than regulating the salt aspect of the diet.”
Maybe that’s true. Although I’m concerned that the public is going to be more confused that ever. I don’t want salt to be the new saturated fat. Just like some people may think that butter is actually good for you now, I’m worried that they’ll interpret these headlines as a green light to pour on the salt. It’s time we don’t focus on one nutrient at a time, but consider the total diet.
Here’s a video from the New England Journal of Medicine explaining the three new salt studies published in the August 14 issue.
THE FRIED CALAMARI INDEX: A NEW TOOL FOR MEASURING FOOD TRENDS
via New York Times
I love this new Times Chronicle tool for measuring food trends — which looks at how often terms are used in the pages of The New York Times. Writer Neil Irwin uses the example of fried calamari to demonstrate the trend tracking. ”Fried calamari made a voyage that dozens of foods have made over the years: They start out being served in forward-thinking, innovative restaurants in New York and other capitals of gastronomy. Over time, they become more and more mainstream, becoming a cliche on big-city menus, showing up in high-end restaurants in smaller cities, and eventually finding their way to neighborhood bistros in the hinterlands and chain restaurants across the country.” Fried calamari began its rise to mass popularity in 1980. The term peaked in 1996, mentioned in 56 articles, and has come down significantly since then. Irwin used this method to look at other foods, including sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, crab cakes and hummus — all rarely mentioned before 1980.
PIZZA DOMINATES AMERICA’S CASUAL FOOD CULTURE
via The New York Times
In an analysis of food trends from the New York Times archives, pizza took the top spot as the nation’s most preferred casual comfort food. In the 1950s, pizza started to gain attention nationwide, and by the 1980s it surpassed the hamburger in the number of food mentions in the newspaper.
ARE BROCCOLI STALKS THE NEXT KALE? TRENDY INGREDIENTS BEING SOURCED FROM THE COMPOST PILE
via Wall Street Journal
Just as kale was transformed from an unappealing garnish to main menu item, chefs are looking for unlikely and usually tossed-out ingredients to become the next hot trend. Jonathan Wu, chef and partner at Fung Tu in New York City, saves broccoli stalks from the compost pile by slicing and serving them with beef and oyster sauce while Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy uses beet, celery and carrot greens in stir-fries, pestos and pies.
THE CHURCH OF SUPERFOODS GAINS MORE BELIEVERS
via Bloomberg BusinessWeek
The popularity of superfoods continues to soar as more consumers believe that nutritious foods can not only improve their overall health but can even replace modern medicine, according to a Nielsen survey. “Consumers are proactively using food to address their health issues,” said Nielsen’s Sherry Frey. ”I believe we’ll continue to see this grow. The aging boomer demographic and millennials are interested in health claims and fortified foods.”
FOOD ENTREPRENEURS TO WATCH
via Food Navigator
Here’s a fun bunch of food and beverage entrepreneurs — an interesting array of marketers who have created Chimp Food (‘walk like a man, eat like a chimp’), coffee four, egg white chimps, artichoke water, hybrid burgers and kids’ tea.
THE RISE OF KOREAN CUISINE ON AMERICAN MENUS
via Serious Eats
Nearly every major U.S. city now boasts Korean cuisine, from traditional barbecue to the arrival of kimchi and bulgogi on myriad menus. While immigration influenced the rise of Chinese and Japanese fare in the U.S., Korean food has only recently played catch up, partially because of a lack of Korean chef-run eateries. “We didn’t have many Korean chef-run restaurants until five years ago,” said chef Hooni Kim of New York’s Danji and Hanjan. “Chef-owned restaurants are the key to growing a cuisine. [Japanese chefs] taught Americans what real sushi was.”
CHEF ROY CHOI IS GETTING HIS OWN SHOW ON CNN
More evidence of the Korean craze is the success of Chef Roy Choi, who started the food truck phenomenon with his widely successful Korean BBQ Kogi truck. Coming off of the recent opening of his new restaurant in LA, Roy Choi announced he is filming a new show for CNN. Based on various tweets, it appears the show will be named Street Food.
GLOBAL POPCORN MARKET HEATS UP
Global launches of popcorn snacks grew more than 8% in the year ending in June, thanks to brands promoting the snack as healthier and less-processed than other bagged snacks, according to Innova Market Insights. The U.S. market accounted for more than 20% of new popcorn products, but complex flavors are becoming more popular in Europe where gourmet popcorn is starting to infiltrate the snack market.
THE FUTURE OF FOOD: HOW OUR EATING HABITS WILL CHANGE
via USA Today
USA WEEKEND asks experts: How will Americans be eating in five years? The article calls out four trends about the future of food; creating healthy food that is also delicious, farm-to-table trickle down, increased marketing for fresh foods and the end of the dieting culture.
When you read a nutrition label, you expect the information to be correct. Consumers demand it, FDA requires it. So that’s why Whole Foods is in some hot water — hit by class action lawsuits over the labels on its 365 Everyday Value yogurts. The labels declare just 2 grams of sugar per serving, yet Consumer Reports found that the amount is actually 11.4 grams. Someone’s got some explaining to do.