It seems that just as quickly as tastes change in food fads, so too do we see changes -- often total turnarounds -- in what health experts say is good and not good for us to eat. The latest turnaround was documented in The Wall Street Journal a few days ago, under the headline "America Renews Its Love Affair with Butter."
We've gone from a nation virtually swearing off butter a few decades ago (Paula Deen notwithstanding) to now loving it to the point that every American is expected to consume 5.6 pounds of butter this year. That's 22.5 sticks of butter a year for each of us.
I remember when the health experts told us to avoid too much butter, and margarine became a popular -- a big-selling -- substitute. We learned, through ads by the likes of Blue Bonnet and, later, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter that saturated fats are not good for us; they clog arteries and can lead to heart attacks. Vegetable oil-based spreads were promoted as healthy alternatives, with their polyunsaturates. I'm not sure I ever understood the chemistry of it, but the ads told us they were better for us than the saturated fats.
Now we've learned that the butter substitutes actually have something called transfats, which turn out to be just as unhealthy for us as the stuff we've been trying to avoid in real butter. That news, coupled with the popularity of cooking shows on TV, where butter is often the ingredient of choice, has brought real butter sales up to a level that hasn't been seen since the late 1940s, when the health concerns first began to surface.
The margarine makers are trying to hold onto market share by using words like "simple" to try to make consumers think their products are chemical- or fat-free and, thus, healthy.
Think of some other food trends that seem to flip back and forth. Coffee is bad for you -- causes cancer, etc. Oh wait, no it doesn't. Health experts now say it can promote memory retention as we age and it may also help with heart health.
Sugar is bad, so let's use sugar substitutes. Oops, does aspartame used in diet sodas cause cancer? And isn't saccarine (for many years, the main ingredient in Sweet & Low) a carcinagen?
And whatever hapenned to the anti-oxidants craze? For a while, it did wonders for sales of red grapes and blueberries.
Well, at least most of us no longer use lard and Crisco for cooking, and we try to limit red meat, some seafoods (mercury) and calves liver (who knows what?). Until the next report comes out, telling us what else will kill us.