Category Archives: Self-Improvement

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Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us

This is Eye-Opening

There has been a great deal of press recently about how the big food industry has used unhealthy ingredients to hook us on processed foods.  New York Times Reporter Michael Moss has written a book called Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.
He was interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air on Tuesday, Feb 26.  It was an eye-opener!

So I downloaded the ebook


Now, I don’t know how many pages the printed book had, but the e-book was substantial.  It has taken me a while to read it!  There was a lot to absorb.

We All Know There’s Too Much Salt, Sugar, and Fat in Our Diets, Right?

Well, Michael Moss tackles the “Why” of that statement.
He went inside the Processed Food Industry–interviewed the executives, the scientists, the marketing people–to get the real picture of how we got where we are.  
As early as 1999, the Processed Food Industry has been aware of the “emerging epidemic of obesity,” and wondered how it would affect their industry.  Several experts were pointing fingers directly at the Industrial Food Manufacturers.  The Chair of Harvard’s Department of Nutrition, Walter Willett, said, “The transition of food to being an industrial product really has been a fundamental problem.  First, the actual processing has stripped away the nutritional value of the food.  Most of the grains have been converted to starches.  We have sugar in concentrated form, and many of the fats have been concentrated and then, worst of all, hydrogenated, which creates trans-fatty acids with very adverse effects on health” (from the Prologue, “The Company Jewels”).  Some in the industry were willing to talk about instituting self-imposed, industry-wide limits on salt, sugar, and fat in their products.  Some wanted to be a part of the solution to the increasing problem of obesity.  

But the Big Guys Weren’t Receptive.

And since then, Industrial Food has just gotten saltier, sweeter, and more fatty.

Moss tackles the three big culprits–salt, sugar, and fat in three parts of his book. 

First, Sugar

Biology, Cravings, Convenience–all play a part in sugar’s allure.  I learned a new term–“Bliss Point.”  It’s that point of sweetness that leaves us blissfully content, but before we say it’s too sweet and stop eating.  And it is, dare I say it, addictive.  We come back to it again and again and again.  It’s our biology.  Moss learned that “the entire mouth goes crazy for sugar, including the upper reaches known as the palate.  There are special receptors for sweetness in every one of the mouth’s ten thousand taste buds, and they are all hooked up, one way or another, to the parts of the brain known as the pleasure zones, where we get rewarded for stoking our bodies with energy….  Sugar not only makes the taste of food and drink irresistible.  The industry has learned that it can also be used to pull of a string of manufacturing miracles, from donuts that fry up bigger to bread that won’t go stale to cereal that is toasty-brown and fluffy.  All of this has made sugar a go-to ingredient in processed foods.  On average, we consume 71 pounds of caloric sweeteners each year.  That’s 22 teaspoons of sugar, per person, per day” (Chapter 1).


On the other hand, we don’t have a bliss point for fat.  We just love it.  We can’t get too much.  Our bodies do not say we’ve hard enough fat–that we’re sick of it and it’s just too much.  Our bodies always want it, and want more and more.  And it’s magic–it “turns listless chips into crunchy marvels, parched breads into silky loaves, drab lunchmeat into savory delicatessen.  Like sugar, some types of fat furnish processed foods with one of their most fundamental requirements: the capacity to sit on the grocery store shelf for days or months at a time.  Fat also gives cookies more bulk and a firmer texture.  It substitutes for water in lending tenderness and mouthfeel to crackers.  It lessens the rubbery texture in hot dogs, deepens their color, keeps them from sticking to the grill….  It can mask and convey other flavors in foods, all at the same time….As I spoke with scientists about the way fat behaves, I couldn’t resist drawing an analogy to the realm of narcotics.  If sugar in the methamphetamine of processed food ingredients, with its high speed, blunt assault on our brains, then fat is the opiate, a smooth operator whose effects are less obvious but no less powerful” (Chapter 7).


Salt also can be tasted all through the mouth and even into the gut.  But we don’t have a natural desire for salt.  Babies do not like it, and have to be coaxed to eat foods that contain salt.  But once they get used to it, they are hooked.  That’s something that the Processed Food Industry has done well–coaxed us to eat foods full of salt.  The industry uses a staggering 5 billions pounds of salt per year.  Moss learned that not only can salt excite the taste buds, it “is the great fixer.  It corrects myriad problems that arise as a matter of course in the factory.  Cornflakes, for example , taste metallic without it.  Crackers are bitter and soggy and stick to the roof of your mouth.  Ham turns so rubbery it can bounce.  Some of salt’s power has nothing to do with the food at all.  In commercial bread making, salt keeps the huge, fast-spinning machinery from gumming up and the factory line from backing up: Salt slows down the rising process so that the ovens can keep up with the pace” (Chapter 12).  Salt also covers up all kinds of bad tastes associated with reheating foods, especially meats, a staple of processed foods.  

But It’s Not All About Salt, Sugar, and Fat.
Yes, it’s about Washington, too.  Subsidies to corn and dairy farmers have made the raw materials for processed foods really cheap.  So the industry keep adding more and more to their products, and the government keeps subsidizing our overeating.  
What crops should we be subsidizing, if any?
Did you know that the US Government will buy any excess milk or cheese that the Dairy Industry overproduces?  So when people switched to low- or non-fat milk, all of that excess cream went into thousands of pounds of cheese, which the government bought.  Have you noticed a big increase in consumption of cheese?  There is a lot of it in many products that didn’t have cheese in them–or much of it–20 years ago.
Moss concludes by saying that the processed food giants will not be giving up salt, sugar, or fat without a major fight.  If one product comes under fire for having too much of the big three, they will come up with healthier-sounding products to lure the customers in, but often are not healthier than the original product.  They look at their industry as making food affordable.  But some have a different view: “They argue that the low cost of processed foods has been thwarting the development of healthier ways of feeding the world” (Epilogue).

The Bottom Line:

As I read this book I came away with eyes opened wider to a processed food industry that has engineered foods “to maximize their allure.”  I came away with a determination to buy and eat as little processed food as possible.  Pay more attention to ingredients, and make sure they are healthy and in healthy amounts.  Cook from scratch.  Resist the siren-song of excess salt, sugar, and fat.  Buy and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.  Keep sweet treats just that–treats, not every-waking-hour snacks., Lassen's, Lassens, Organic+Broccoli
If we have to subsidize crops, shouldn’t we subsidize healthier options, like broccoli?

I found this book to be very enlightening.  It made me very grateful for the options that we have to buy and eat healthy, organic, fresh, un-processed foods.  

So let’s eat more unprocessed foods!  
forks+over+knives, documentary+review, vegan+diet, healthy+eating, earth+friendly+eating, earth+friendly+diet

Documentary Review–Forks Over Knives

Look at all of those gorgeous fruits and vegetables!

Just in time for Spring and lots of gorgeous produce, I watched the documentary, “Forks Over Knives.”


This was a compelling and convincing argument for changing our diet–especially the highly processed animal-based diet of the average American–to a whole-food, plant-based diet.  


Of course the documentary begins with all of the scary statistics about the American diet–the change in the last 60 years that has brought a health crisis with Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, cancers, and obesity.  This doesn’t even begin to mention the billions of dollars spent on drugs, drugs, and more drugs.

When this film was made, the healthcare cost in America was $2.2 trillion, and yet Americans are sicker than ever, and the rate of chronic diseases is ever increasing.

So, the question is posed, “What is the solution?”  “Not another pill.”


The film centered on the life-long research and experience of Dr. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.  They both have spent their professional lives making connections between food and health. 

“Let Food Be Thy Medicine”  (Hippocrates)


Several other doctors were involved in the film, as well as patients whose lives had been changed.  One of those who changed their diets completely was Lee Fulkerson.  The film followed his journey as he learned of this movement.  He went to see Dr. Matthew Lederman and Dr. Alona Pulde, a husband/wife team. 




Lee was shocked to see how unhealthy his bloodwork numbers were, especially since he had considered himself generally healthy.  He had an alarmingly high risk factor number for heart disease.


Lee took this very seriously and changed his diet completely to eat only whole-food, plant-based foods.



Lee was taken step-by step, from shopping to preparing to eating a whole-food plant-based diet.  Within a few months, his health was vastly improved, and not just by the numbers, but by how he felt.  The documentary also followed several others who have changed their lives and found incredible health benefits.  There was even one woman who was told that she should just go home and prepare to die because of her heart disease.  Instead, she met Dr. Esselstyn and changed the way she ate.  The film was made twenty years after that diagnosis, and she looks younger than she did when she was told to go home and get ready for her demise.

If you’d like to read more, and watch the trailer or the entire film, go to their official website.  They also have recipes and more help to make the switch.



I know we feel better when we eat more fruits and vegetables, and cut back on the animal products.  In the coming weeks we will feature recipes and tips to eat better, as well as featured produce.  We have some really beautiful produce at Lassen’s, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised as how affordable it is!



new+year+new+you, setting+goals, new +erspective, beautiful+world

A New Year… Hmmm…

Time for a Fresh Start!

I’m not going to blast you with a guilt-trip on this New Year.  But here are some suggestions for a great year.

Notice Beauty


When my sister and her husband moved from drizzly Seattle to the San Diego area, they promised each other that they would stop whatever they were doing and watch the sunset every day.  How often do we neglect the beauty that is all around us?  Noticing beauty isn’t just a fun thing to do.  It adds a deep breath and perspective to our all-too-often hectic lives.  

Ask Questions
Ever wonder why people take this supplement or choose that particular smoothy?  Go ahead and ask!  Of course we are interested in you learning new things when you come into Lassen’s, because we do care about your health.  (Not just a slogan–promise!)
     Here are some of my favorites.  I love Alaffia’s hair products.  I have dry hair, and the Shea and Henna Moisturizing Shampoo helps keep it managable and soft, even when I shampoo every day.  The conditioner is a must!  I’ve always been concerned about my bones because osteoporosis runs in my family, so I’ve taken Jarrow’s Bone-Up for more than 20 years.  So far, my bone density is in good shape!   Have you TASTED the organic honeycrisp apples?  I grew up in the apple capital of the world, Yakima, Washington, so I know my apples and I’m very picky about them!  Crisp, tart but sweet, and no awful wax coating.  Yum!  My daughter can eat about a half-dozen of these small tangerines in one sitting, so I always scoop up a big bag of them whenever I shop at Lassen’s!  And Brown Cow Yogurt with berries and granola is just about my favorite breakfast.  (Watch this blog for a wonderful granola recipe later in the week!)
     So next time you visit, take a couple of minutes and ask a member of our staff about their favorite supplement, or body-care product, or soup–whatever interests you!  They would be happy to share.  And you just may discover something that will become your new favorite.
  And this goes for other areas of your life, too–ask questions about anything–and use that awesome feature on e-books where you can find out the definition of unfamiliar words with just one tap!

Flirt with Babies



Take a look at this cutie!  Don’t you just want to squeeze those cheeks and rub his head?  Keep a look-out at the Ventura Lassen’s, because you just might spot this adorable baby.  I guarantee that he will grin back at you if he catches your eye!  (He’s the son of one of our staff members.)

  You’ll feel so much more cheerful after a flirting session with a baby.

Look for–and be amazed at–New Things   


Now THIS is an incredible creature!  Did you know seahorses come in a multitude of varieties?  And that the male carries and gives birth to the babies?  (How’s that for trivia?)  We have museums and zoos and Interpretive Centers and libraries all around us.  How long has it been since you’ve visited one of them?  Have you ever stopped at an “Historical Marker” as you’ve sped to get someplace?  If you just visit someplace new (or old, for that matter, if you haven’t been there for a while) a couple of times this year, what a more interesting 2013 you will have!

Move a Little More than You Did in 2012

You probably know as well as I do that you feel better when you’re moving.  Studies have shown that it doesn’t take much exercise to improve your health.  So find something that you like to do and do it more than you did last year.  Or try something new!  If you have a desk job, set an alarm to remind you to get up and walk around every hour or so.  If you’re at home, take the long way to the mailbox.  When running errands, park far away from the door.  Just walking around the office or up the stairs a few more times than usual makes you feel better.

New+Year, Hiking+PCH

And by the way, there are some awesome hikes along Highway 1.  We particularly like the trails that start at Sycamore Canyon, and also one a little farther west that starts across from the Military shooting range near Point Mugu–Mugu Overlook  (It’s a very steep butt-kicking hike, though–be prepared to sweat!)  Here is a photo taken New Year’s Day from the top of one of the Sycamore Canyon trails (much more gentle than the Mugu Overlook).  Gorgeous!

Turn off the Noise for a Little While Every Day


I saw this on pinterest a couple of months ago and it made me stop and think–

Why do we feel that we have to be doing, doing, doing all of the time?  It’s OK to take time to do nothing.   Turn off the radio in the car and enjoy the silence.  Meditation or prayer or yoga or even just staring at the clouds recharges our mental and emotional batteries, so don’t neglect the times of nothing in your life.  It doesn’t count if you have the radio or music or TV on.  Silence rules! 

Happy New Year from all of the Folks at Lassen’s.  Have a wonderful 2013!