Once again, I’m back with my weekly recap of the major food stories of the week — or at least what I’ve been reading.
DEBATING THE MERITS OF PROCESSED FOODS
American Society for Nutrition issued a scientific statement on processed foods that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The paper, “Processed Foods: Contributions to Nutrition,” has stirred up quite the debate. I’m a firm believer that “processed” isn’t necessarily bad, and I think it helps to provide guidance on how to evaluate prepackaged, prepared foods. Yet, this statement seemed to hit nerve. The paper redefines processing to mean “the alteration of foods from the state in which they are harvested or raised to better preserve them and feed consumers.” So foods that have been washed, packaged, or frozen—like frozen strawberries or chopped-up lettuce—would qualify as processed. Critics say ASN is backed by manufacturers of processed foods and the new delineation is simply industry propaganda. ASN says it’s time for critics to accept that processed foods make up an important part of the American diet. Here’s a look at some of the coverage:
HEALTHY DIETS NEED VARIETY, NOT OVERHYPED SUPERFOODS
via Wall Street Journal
The term superfood entered our dining vocabulary nearly 15 years ago but Phil Hagen, a preventive-medicine specialist, said the label is often used as a marketing term to sell a product
and isn’t always an indicator of the food’s nutritious properties. Instead, Hagen suggests that health-conscious consumers eat a wide variety of nutrient-dense food from legumes and nuts to chard and strawberries.
IS COCONUT WATER ALL THAT IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE?
via New York Times
Michael Moss provides an entertaining look at coconut water, including how the marketing has changed and the claims softened.
XTREME EATING 2014
via Center for Science in the Public Interest
CSPI issued a new Xtreme Eating Awards (for the most fattening restaurant food), and the Cheesecake Factory takes 3 out of 9 spots. Ouch.
I love this new data tool from Yelp that graphs the popularity of trends over time. The new feature called Yelp Trends searches the words used in Yelp reviews since 2004 to show users what’s hot and top trend-setting cities. Users can compare trends, foods and data by city. According to the Yelp blog: From food trends to popular slang to short-lived beauty fads (Brazilian blowout anyone?), Yelp Trends searches through words used in Yelp reviews to show you what’s hot and reveals the trend-setting cities that kicked it all off. Our massive wealth of data and the high quality reviews contributed by the Yelp community are what allow us to surface consumer trends and behavior based on ten years of experiences shared by locals around the world. For example, are San Franciscans still sipping PBR or craving craft beer? Is the CrossFit fad still going strong or losing steam? Are Londoners loving bob hairstyles or feeling more fringe (that’s bangs, for you Americans) these days? And every city has its favorite food trucks now, but where did this meals-on-wheels phenomenon first take off?
FOOD INNOVATORS INFLUENCE AMERICAN DINING TRENDS
Food scientists and market researchers partner with corporate food manufacturers such as Kraft and Whole Foods to introduce diners and shoppers to the next big culinary trend, whether it be the indulgent Frappuccino or nutritious, leafy kale. “We see our role as translating trends,” said food science expert Barb Stuckey. “We are putting ideas in front of consumers that are both appropriate and challenging. We’re here to test that line.”