American Foodways: Is fat OK now? How about salt?


GOOD, BAD AND UGLY: In this week’s series on American Foodways, I’m reporting on our attitudes as Americans; I’m not pushing any particular medical conclusion. Nevertheless, if you click on this image, you can read a recent Harvard report on fat.

Our foodways are influenced by scientific studies and government reports, as well as the latest dietary fads and fashions.

Sometimes food scientists change their minds, or seem to. Lately, we’ve heard that fat is OK in our diets. Have American foodways been changing as a result?

Are you less likely to avoid fat? (Care to start a lively discussion about this week’s OurValues series? Simply ask that kind of question and you’ll be off and running.)

Just to be clear, I’m not making any assertions about fats. I’m interested in the attitudes and behaviors Americans have about food, consumption, and the values people bring to bear on their choices. (For the good, bad, and ugly truths about fats, see this recent Harvard report. )

So, what about fat? Are we eating more, less, or about the same?

Today, 25% of Americans say they include fat in their diets, according to Gallup’s 2015 survey. To put this figure into perspective, that’s the highest percentage Gallup has seen since it first asked diet in 2002. Then, 16% said they included fat in their diets.

Similarly, fewer than half of all Americans (47%) say they try to exclude fat from their diets. This is the lowest try-to-exclude percentage that Gallup has seen since 2002.


AND JUST TO BE BALANCED: If you care to read more about salt, here is a Mayo Clinic overview of the levels of salt in our diets. As above, click on the image to visit the Mayo site.

What about sodium chloride?

Over a third of Americans today (35%) say they include salt in their diets, says Gallup. That’s the highest percentage since 2002. About four of ten (39%) try to exclude it; this is the lowest try-to-exclude figure since 2002. (About 25% don’t think about the salt in their diets.)

This change in salt consumption is interesting because the scientific consensus on salt has not changed over the years.

Have you changed your dietary habits about fat and salt?

Are you influenced by scientific reports about food?

Start a conversation …

That’s the purpose of the OurValues project. We encourage civil discussion on important topics of the day. You are free to print out, repost and share these columns with friends. You can use them in your small group or class. Enjoy this week’s series!

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