Hot Off the Skillet - April's Food News


Food news in this post:

  • World obesity rates continue to rise.
  • How much of your daily food intake is "ultra-processed"?
  • Droughts aren't all bad.
  • Eat like it's 1939!
  • Want to lose weight? Here's what you should listen to.


Obesity is no longer just an American phenomenon, or even a Western one. The NCD-Risc, a network of health scientists studying risk factors for non-communicable diseases, has found that one in seven women and one in nine men are now obese. Worldwide. The only places remaining with significant numbers of underweight folks are India and Bangladesh. Astonishing figures, so to speak, and ones that show no signs of slowing.

The team predicted if these global trends continue, by 2025 18% of the world’s men and 21% of women will be obese. Furthermore, the probability of reaching the World Health Organization global obesity target (which aims for no rise in obesity above 2010 levels by 2025) will be close to zero.

As obesity has been linked to a variety of health problems, including diabetes and metabolic syndrome, associated worldwide health costs will soar right along with our weight. Their recommendations? Eating more fruits and vegetables (duh), but also possibly "taxing high sugar and highly processed foods." Wouldn't that be an interesting world, if the good stuff was subsidized and the bad stuff taxed? For more details, here's the longer article.

Speaking of processed foods, Mental Floss reports that almost 60% of the typical American diet is "ultra-processed," including goodies like "sodas, packaged snacks and baked goods, candy and desserts, instant noodles and soups, and frozen meat products like chicken and fish nuggets." The percentage seems high, but I'm betting in our house we at least hit 25%, between breakfast cereal, ice cream, and cold cuts. Yikes.

On the upside, when you do get around to eating those expensive fruits and vegetables, consider finding drought-stunted survivors, for their bigger nutritional punch. (This is why my husband under-waters his tomatoes--to increase their flavor and meat density.) Plants that are fighting for survival pack their fruits with antioxidants. Check out this fascinating article on the topic from KQED (a Bay Area station). We've been so fortunate to hit that Ferry Building farmers market in San Francisco on our summer visits, and they do have good stuff.

Before widespread irrigation, the produce might have had more flavor and nutritional value, but that didn't mean we couldn't still find ways to make weird food. The American History Museum of the Smithsonian has been posting about American cooking in various decades, based on cookbooks of each era. Just look at the pictures from the article on the 1930s! The question isn't "how did 'congealed salads' ever go out of style?' but rather, "and we complain about kale salads?" The series continues into the 1940s, with recipes to stretch wartime rations. The magic bullet? Gelatin. Still gelatin. Good source of protein, after all, if you're not vegetarian.

And finally, if cooking from 1930s and 1940s cookbooks doesn't help you lose weight by diminishing your appetite, a new study shows that listening to chewing sounds makes you eat less. Yep. Sit next to that guy in the theater crunching popcorn or by the vending machine where people crunch potato chips, and your body might be fooled into thinking you're actually taking part. I don't know if I believe this one, but if it's true...goodbye, audiobooks, hello Soundtracks of Crunching, Munching & Chewing?