Friday, January 16, 2015

Food Fads and Crazes


I knew a woman from North Carolina who would tell those who seemed to be losing their composure to “get a grip.”  That’s what I wanted to say to no one in particular when I read this Gannet article about food trends for 2015.  Even the idea of having food trends seems to be a solution looking for a problem.

First, they tell us, we have big problems in the kitchen if we don’t have a $6,000, 34 cubic foot refrigerator with an LED temperature gauge and sparkling water spigot built into the door.  Other must-haves include same-day home grocery deliver and a special scoop to ease the drudgery of skimming the fat from the soup broth.

Alas, for 2015 we find out that quinoa is out and kaniwa, “sourced primarily from the Andes Mountain region of South America,” is this year’s super-food, “high in protein, fiber, iron and calcium” and gluten-free!  In the search for a better sweetener, “coconut sugar is making its way onto the scene.”  Actually, all things coconut are in fashion as part of the Paleo food trend.  Almonds are out and pistachios are in along with Nduja, spreadable salami.  (These food trends are so revolutionary that my spell-check doesn’t recognize many of them!)

The report goes on to talk about the latest variety of apples, new drinks and restaurant trends.  Are these foods about healthy living or are they more like the luxury handbag, the point being to be seen and to make a statement about how cool you are?  It would be laughable, except that so many people are taken in by these trends and fads, usually to the detriment of their finances with no discernable effect on their health.

Speaking of being taken in by food fads, another article appeared in researching the above trends.  Cosmopolitan Magazine published “10 Food Trends That Need to Die in 2015.”  They need to get out of the way, because (1) they were more hype than substance and (2) they must make room for the next wave of fads.  Topping the list were Juice Cleanses (“There's no evidence that the body requires or remotely benefits from random detox diets”) and Gluten-free (“Gluten-free pastas, snack foods, breads, and treats aren't necessarily lower in calories or be [sic] any healthier than gluten-free foods. They just tend to cost more.”)  The rest of the list of trends to drop is informative as well.

There’s more news on gluten-free.  ConsumersReports.org finds that although, 63 percent of people surveyed thought that following a gluten-free diet would improve physical or mental health, they are wasting their money.  Gluten-free is not recommended for six reasons:  not more nutritious and may be less so; probably increases exposure to arsenic; increases risk of overweight/obesity; costs more; may mask a serious medical condition; and is not always pure – may contain gluten despite what the label says.  Of course, I told you about gluten-free being a pricey fad and not a miracle discovery back in August.

Let’s get some perspective (get a grip!).  What are people trying to prove with these food fads and trends?  It may be just showing off.  It may be looking for the easy way out, a guarantee of good health without having to do the hard work of diet and exercise.  It could be a secret dread of death or illness.  It could be fear of taking any chances with the family diet and fear of the resultant guilt if “I didn’t do everything possible.” Whatever it is, it seems to be way out of proportion and based on emotional decision making, behavior weak in the dimensions of perspective and critical thinking.  It does not reflect an appreciation and gratitude for the good food, like fresh (ordinary, not exotic) fruit all year round, that was less available just 50 years ago.  It certainly doesn’t reflect the idea of moderation that is a hallmark of perspective.

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