One of the great ironies of food politics these days is this: while journalists and scientists are increasingly documenting the health consequences of diets way too high in added sugars, the producers of two forms of those sugars — sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) — are doing everything they can to decrease their rivals' market shares.
Once the election is over, I will write about the ugly legal battles between the producers of sugar cane and beets (sucrose) and the corn refiners who produce HFCS. But in the meantime, don't miss the current issue of Mother Jones.
It has just published an investigative report by journalist Gary Taubes and dental health administrator Cristen Kearns Couzens: Big Sugar's Sweet Little Lies: How the industry kept scientists from asking: Does sugar kill?
Their report is a detailed account of how the sugar industry manipulated scientists and government officials into overlooking the health problems caused by overconsumption of sugars and instead focusing on overconsumption of dietary fat (both removed from their caloric context, alas).
Their winning campaign, crafted with the help of the prestigious public relations firm Carl Byoir & Associates, had been prompted by a poll showing that consumers had come to see sugar as fattening, and that most doctors suspected it might exacerbate, if not cause, heart disease and diabetes.
With an initial annual budget of nearly $800,000 ($3.4 million today) collected from the makers of Dixie Crystals, Domino, C&H, Great Western, and other sugar brands, the association recruited a stable of medical and nutritional professionals to allay the public’s fears, brought snack and beverage companies into the fold, and bankrolled scientific papers that contributed to a "highly supportive" FDA ruling, which, the Silver Anvil application boasted, made it "unlikely that sugar will be subject to legislative restriction in coming years."
The report is accompanied by riveting background information, examples of sugar advertisements, and formerly confidential documents:
- A Timeline of Sugar Spin
- How a Former Dentist Drilled Big Sugar
- WATCH: Q&A With Author Gary Taubes
- Secret Sugar Documents Revealed
- 10 Classic Sugar Ads
- Charts: How Our Sodas Got So Huge
Much of what’s in this report came as news to me, but is consistent with what I know. Here, for example, is a comparison of the increasingly complicated and obfuscated sugar recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans from 1980 through 2010:
- 1980 Avoid too much sugar.
- 1985 Avoid too much sugar.
- 1990 Use sugars only in moderation.
- 1995 Choose a diet moderate in sugars.
- 2000 Choose beverages and foods to moderate your intake of sugars.
- 2005 Choose and prepare foods and beverages with little added sugars or caloric sweeteners, such as amounts suggested by the USDA Food Guide and the DASH eating plan.
- 2010 Reduce the intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars.
"Avoid too much sugar" is still good advice.
And here's a photo of a billboard in Guatemala, taken a couple of years ago by anthropologist Emily Yates-Doerr. If the sugar industry isn't selling enough sugar here, might as well push it onto people in emerging economies. (Photo courtesy of Emily Yates-Doerr)
How to Practice Cultural Humility in the Food System
The concept of food within a cultural context is fraught with complexity. At its very core, food is sustenance—a collection of micronutrients, macronutrients and chemicals. But, oh, it is so much more! The way in which we, as fellow humans, have eaten since the beginning of time has been shaped by numerous factors over the eons, including our tribes, communities, geography, climate, agriculture, traditions, religions, hardships, politics, economics, colonization and much more. Civilizations were founded on the simple basis of securing food, and over the centuries multiple influences converged to create the diverse food cultures that we see today around the world. From the eating styles of the Sacred Valley in Peru (focused on corn, potatoes, quinoa, and guinea pig) to the food traditions of Morocco (simmered spicy stews cooked in clay tagines and lots of sweet mint-infused green tea) to the traditional diet of Japan (staples include fish, rice, tofu, fermented vegetables, and green tea), the world is filled with glorious eating patterns that have nourished bodies, built communities, and offered joy as people come together to share meals.
As a dietitian, I know this firsthand as I work with people who cherish diverse food cultures and traditions. In the past, much emphasis has been placed on cultural competence—the ability to understand and communicate with and interact with people across cultures. That is all good and well, but now it’s time to transcend that knowledge to a higher level of cultural humility, a life-long learning process that involves our continuous self-reflection and self-critique in which we evaluate our core beliefs, values, assumptions, biases, and cultural identities.
It’s also a time to reflect upon the ways we converse about food and nutrition, considering issues like colonization, and its impact on communities’ diets and health outcomes. Another important consideration is addressing the cultural appropriation of foodways, which describes the act of using things from a culture other than your own without showing acknowledgement or respect for that culture. These reflections come at an important time, given our population in the U.S. has become more diverse, our current discourse on diversity and civil rights, and our growing familiarity with global foods and traditions.
I interviewed several experts in the field of food culture in the food system to gain insight into how we can engage in practices that are culturally respectful, humble, and appropriate.
Beyond Cultural Competency to Cultural Humility
What are some of the primary issues that you should keep in mind as you move beyond cultural competency to cultural humility? According to Deanna Belleny, MPH, RDN, Co-Founder, Diversify Dietetics and public health practitioner in Hartford, Connecticut, you should keep four main things in mind when expanding from cultural competence to cultural humility:
- Practicing cultural humility is a lifelong process. It’s more than educating yourself on a person’s culture, customs or food preferences. It requires you to constantly self-reflect, self-critique and become aware of your own values, culture, beliefs, biases and position in the world.
- Cultural humility emphasizes that you have something to learn from people. You should prioritize connecting, listening, and learning in interactions.
- Cultural humility prioritizes respect. Respecting people as an individual, incorporating preferences, culture, and boundaries and always involving them in any decision making.
- Cultural humility requires historical awareness and educating yourself on historical realities and injustices that shape today.
Denine Rogers, MS, RDN, LD, FAND, Chair of National Organization of Blacks in Dietetics and Nutrition (NOBIDAN), integrative and functional dietitian nutritionist with a private practice called Living Healthy, telemedicine nutritional consultant with Anthem, and Co-Chair of the Anthem e-Commerce Committee of APEX (African-American Professional Exchange) explains that we should understand cultural humility is a mindset that allows an individual to be open to other peoples’ preferences by demonstrating respectful inquiry and empathy. Cultural competency is a learning experience about the patterns of behavior, beliefs, language, values, and customs of particular groups. Once we understand other people’s cultures, then we can move on to cultural humility.
Cultural humility and cultural competence can exist together, says Alice Figueroa, MPH, RDN, public health, food writer, and founder of AliceinFoodieland.com. Even if we were trained in a traditional framework that focuses on cultural competence, we can still learn to incorporate aspects of cultural humility into our practice, Figueroa stresses. Traditional education programs teach about cultural competence practices that include adopting attitudes, behaviors, and policies that ensure that institutions and professionals are able to respect cultural differences. “Cultural humility asks to evolve beyond cultural competence and embody a life-long process that requires us to make a commitment to self-evaluation and self-critique about our own biases and prejudices,” says Figueroa.
Practicing Cultural Humility in the Food System
Cultural humility encompasses seeing others as individuals, not as a representative collective of a culture, race or ethnicity, says Rogers. She suggests that you should not assume to know everything about people’s cultures, beliefs, including their practices regarding diet, health, and education. “For one example, do not assume that an African American patient with hereditary coronary artery disease eats soul food when they are a healthy vegan. Ask questions to understand better their personal cultural history, experience, and beliefs,” suggests Rogers.
Sherene Chou, MS, RDN, Sustainable Food and Nutrition Consultant puts it simply: Instead of a top down approach, look to the person as the expert in their culture, life and practices. See how you can meet their needs to begin building a foundation for a strong, trusting relationship. Kimberley Greeson, PhD, researcher on biopolitics of endemic species in Hawaii, and professor of sustainability education at Prescott College, adds, “It’s not just about the food, but also the way you approach communities that are not your own. Don’t use a savior approach, but be aware that certain communities might have different needs. Be open to different protocols.” Greeson offers the example of immigrants to the U.S., and the barriers they may face because of policies that make it difficult to grow or have access to familiar foods they may have to travel very far to get food that is healthy, fresh, and in their culture.
“When working with BIPOC, it is important to know that their views, perceptions, symptoms, culture, and experiences are valid and important,” stresses Figueroa. “Work together and learn from each other. People are the experts when it comes to their personal health history, culture, symptoms, and food preferences.”
Being Mindful of Cultural Appropriation in the Food World
We also should be mindful of cultural appropriation, which occurs when we take a practice of cultural significance from one group (usually marginalized), and turn it into something that benefits another group (typically dominant), without giving credit, money, or even acknowledgment to the group of origin—ultimately erasing its meaning, says Rogers. From recipe writing to culinary education to cooking videos, there are many opportunities in the food system to wade into these harmful waters.
Belleny suggests that we ask ourselves a series of questions in our areas of practice to avoid cultural appropriation: Is it from another culture that is not our own? Have we done research to understand its origins? Are we giving credit to those origins? Are we being respectful in how we describe or deliver information? Have we engaged with someone who is more familiar with this culture than ourselves? Are we the right people to be bringing this information or creating this recipe or is there an opportunity to amplify someone else’s voice? Rogers suggests a few more questions: Are we influenced by another culture? Have we given recognition to our influences? Are we claiming other’s work as our own?
Rogers says using the term “ethnic” to refer to immigrant and native food cuisines is a classic example of cultural appropriation, which should be replaced with a greater understanding of cultural food history. Describing a region that is large and very diverse, such as “Asian” or “African,” is another example, says Belleny. Instead, learn more about the food history. Rogers shares an example of one deeper understanding of cultural food history: Slaves in the Caribbean often had to subsist on dried fish since they were denied the opportunity to catch fresh fish, thus many traditional Caribbean dishes are based on salt cod, such as Jamaican saltfish and ackee.
“Avoid generalizing people, customs, and food names by broad cultural categories, says Chou. “This assumes that cultures, races, ethnic groups are monoliths without understanding the people or the cultures behind them and allowing the lack of distinction as a method of erasure.”
A specific area to focus on is recipe development. “It is important to always acknowledge and recognize when recipes are adapted or inspired by BIPOC cultural recipes and food traditions. When you use ingredients that are native to a particular culture it is essential to learn the history of the ingredients and to share that history,” says Figueroa. She offers an example of creating a chickpea curry with coconut milk that is inspired by South Indian cooking it is important to acknowledge that you were inspired by Kerala, South India food traditions. Or when we talk about eating cornbread and squash during the holidays, we can educate about the importance of corn and squash to Native American and indigenous communities. “We can make sure that people are aware of the crucial role BIPOC communities played in shaping our food system and enriching the foods available for use to eat,” says Figueroa.
Sherene Chou adds that in recipe writing and culinary education, we can show cultural appreciation. “People often eliminate the culture and take their own twist, leaving out critical information that can be a learning and teaching moment. When describing a cultural dish, take time to learn about the history and culture and showcase how foods are traditionally grown, prepared, and consumed. This is an opportunity to celebrate culture.” Greeson adds, “Don’t pretend you discovered it instead shift to expanding on its history and ethnobotany. There are examples of ingredients that people are profiting from, without fully understanding its cultural sacredness, which minimizes its significance.
Greeson stresses that if you know better, you can do better, adding, “Admit that you’ve done cultural appropriation, own it, move on, and learn.” She explains that it is a really thin line between cultural appreciation and appropriation. “It comes down to the idea of power—if folks in power of a majority identity are using traditional knowledge of other foods from a marginalized or oppressed community, or ripping it off and not giving credit to it, that’s appropriation. For example, a lot of foods in my Chinese culture are appropriated Chinese medicine was demonized, but now it’s in vogue and popular in the Western community. Now it’s become acceptable and monetized.”
One way you can address the issue is to bring someone in, whether it’s a chef, expert, or BIPOC dietitian, rather than claiming that expertise. “Don’t come across as an expert in a different food culture. It’s great to talk about history and how it’s been modified and what your interpretation is, but refer to experts that have a platform. Pass the mic rather than speak for other people bring in other voices and highlight them. Use that commodity and capital and share it,” adds Greeson.
Learning About Decolonizing Foodways
With a greater understanding of food culture and history, comes a greater appreciation for how indigenous food traditions have been altered due to colonization. “Decolonizing foodways is an essential practice because the colonization of indigenous communities has stripped them of their power and has created a deepening reliance on the government for survival,” says Rogers.
Greeson encourages us to look at issues of food sovereignty and ways to re-envision foodways to address issues like land, culture, and health issues. She adds, “We, as settlers, have forcibly displaced many indigenous people of this country. In the shifting of the Cherokee from the Southeast to Oklahoma, for example, cultural foods shifted they couldn’t can’t rely on traditional foods and received foods from the government. For the Navajo, fry bread became popular. In Hawaii, spam became popular because the government gave it to people to eat. This is an issue about reclaiming a connection to the land, traditional ways of growing food relationships to food, land access, land health, and ecosystems and native health, spiritual and mental well-being.”
The first step in decolonizing foodways so that you may be more effective at providing support for BIPOC communities is to acknowledge the impact of colonization, imperialism and slavery on issues like food access, malnutrition, food insecurity, and overall health, stresses Figueroa. She also notes that we may have shortcomings, since our personal and professional experiences—even nutrition research—are influenced by institutions that are a product of colonization.
One way to better understand this concept is to look at the history of the foodways in indigenous communities. Rodgers shares the story of Native American Indians on reservations. “In 1890, the federal government decided to restrict Native Americans Indians from leaving their reservations to hunt, fish, or gather local foods—all traditional ways of procuring their food. Instead, they received an allotment of food from the government. These rations were all nutritionally empty foods like sugar, flour, and lard. Over time, processed foods high in sugar and white flour became the norm in Native communities. This one oppressive act altered the future health of all Native Americans. Currently, there is a surge of learning, teaching, and implementing Native American Indians’ cultural foods dishes in some of the reservations in order to reverse the health disparities that continue in these communities.”
This issue can be countered by learning the traditional foodways of indigenous communities. Figueroa encourages dietitians to make nutrition more culturally humble and to take into account the perspectives, stories, recipes, food traditions, eating preferences, and experiences of BIPOC.
Putting Cultural Humility into Practice
In what areas in the food system should we be particularly mindful of cultural humility? One area is the way diverse cultural foods are portrayed. Figueroa suggests that we be careful not to portray foods from diverse cultures as “greasy”, “dirty”, or “unhealthy”. Thus, the term “clean” eating can be troublesome in this respect. The idea that we need to take a Chinese, Indian Ethiopian, Egyptian, Mexican or Guatemalan recipe and make it “clean” in order for it to be health-supportive implies that it is intrinsically dirty and unhealthy, says Figueroa. Rogers notes that some may say that soul food dishes are very unhealthy, but if someone learned its history, they would appreciate how African Americans survived with very little that was given to them during slavery.
Ironically, many of the “superfoods” that the wellness and nutrition world cherish are indigenous foods, says Figueroa. “Likewise, we should understand that indigenous and black communities developed the agricultural, farming, and cooking practices and traditions that make it possible for us to enjoy nutritious foods like quinoa, cacao, chia seeds, moringa, açai berries, sacha inchi, maca, amaranth, and lucuma, among others. It is important for us to be leaders in the food system who seek solutions on how to responsibly and sustainably consume these delicious and nutritious indigenous foods while honoring and supporting indigenous communities.”
Even how we consider “healthism” is an opportunity to cultivate cultural humility. “Healthism is essentially the belief that individuals are ultimately responsible for their health and they should pursue health because it’s the right thing to do. The same could be said about what American culture has deemed as a ‘healthy diet’. The spaces that create these rules are often not diverse and inclusive, from research and academic spaces to media and communications. What is deemed healthy comes with a fare share of bias. Let’s be critical of the information we take in, let’s do more listening and less instructing, let’s center and uplift the voices and experiences of people, and let’s advocate for social justice because there is so much more to health than food and physical activity,” says Belleny.
Greeson adds that we may need to rethink what we learned in school, which is based on a Western paradigm of thinking, and that the nutrition models might not be reflective of genetics from some communities, with strong tradition and culture. For example, Greeson shares the example of being open to traditions in her own Chinese American culture, such as the use of herbs and certain foods. “Look at the complexities of diabetes in minoritized populations, where policies forced them to relocate and exist on government-rationed food. How can we create pathways to food sovereignty, were people can be in charge of their own food, and how dietitians can work within that framework?” It’s also important to consider that in some cultures, foods like cheeseburgers, alcohol, and dairy products weren’t in their diets so long ago, and that we should be mindful of genetics.
Rogers also reminds us to be mindful of the lack of access to certain foods. People in urban areas often have no access to fresh food because it may be a food desert, with no grocery stores available. Likewise, rural residents in the agricultural areas may not be able to afford to buy the same food they can harvest.
Top Tips for Practicing Cultural Humility
These experts provide the following tips for practicing cultural humility in the food system.
11 Varieties of Sugar to Know
1. Granulated Sugar
Granulated sugar is a highly refined, multi-purpose sugar. It’s also sometimes called refined, table, or white sugar. When people talk about “sugar,” this is usually what they’re talking about.
Granulated sugar is made from sugarcane and sugar beets. It’s also the most common type of sugar used in baking and cooking.
2. Caster Sugar
Caster sugar is superfine granulated white sugar. Because the crystals are so fine, they dissolve much quicker than standard granulated white sugar, which makes it ideal for making meringues, syrups, and cocktails.
3. Confectioners Sugar
Also referred to as powdered sugar and 10x sugar, this is a type of white sugar that has been ground into a fine powder. To prevent clumping, a small amount of cornstarch is typically blended in. Confectioners sugar easily dissolves in liquid, and is ideal for making icing and frosting, as well as decorating baked goods.
4. Pearl Sugar
Sometimes called nib sugar or hail sugar, pearl sugar is a variety of white sugar that has a coarse, hard texture and an opaque color. It also holds its shape, and doesn’t melt when exposed to high temperatures. Pearl sugar is commonly used in Scandinavian baking to decorate pastries, cookies, and buns.
5. Sanding Sugar
Sanding sugar is used mainly for decorating. It has large crystals, which are fairly resistant to heat and add extra texture and crunch to cookies and other baked goods. You can find sanding sugar in a rainbow of colors.
6. Cane Sugar
Unlike granulated sugar, which comes from sugarcane or sugar beets, cane sugar is produced solely from sugarcane and is minimally processed. It also has a slightly larger grain, darker color, and higher price tag. Use cane sugar the same way you would granulated sugar.
7. Demerara Sugar
Demerara sugar is a variety of raw cane sugar that is minimally refined. It has large grains with an amber color and a natural, subtle molasses flavor. Use it to sweeten coffee or tea, or as a topping on baked goods, like muffins, scones, cookies, and cakes.
Get a Recipe: Petite Palmiers
8. Turbinado Sugar
Turbinado is another type of minimally refined raw cane sugar. This sugar variety has large, medium-brown crystals, and is often mistaken for standard brown sugar because of its color, although it’s not the same thing. Turbinado sugar has a delicate caramel flavor and is commonly used to sweeten beverages and can also be used in baking.
9. Muscovado Sugar
Also referred to as Barbados sugar, muscovado sugar is a variety of unrefined cane sugar in which the molasses isn’t removed. It comes in dark and light varieties, and has a sticky, wet, sandy texture with a rich, complex flavor. While muscovado sugar can be used as a substitute for brown sugar, its flavor is much stronger. It’s especially wonderful in barbecue sauce, marinades, and savory dishes.
The Shady History of Big Sugar
Charlottesville, Va. — On Monday, an article in JAMA Internal Medicine reported that in the 1960s, the sugar industry paid Harvard scientists to publish a study blaming fat and cholesterol for coronary heart disease while largely exculpating sugar. This study, published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine in 1967, helped set the agenda for decades of public health policy designed to steer Americans into low-fat foods, which increased carbohydrate consumption and exacerbated our obesity epidemic.
This revelation rightly reminds us to view industry-funded nutrition science with skepticism and to continue to demand transparency in scientific research. But ending Big Sugar’s hold on the American diet will require a broader understanding of the various ways in which the industry, for 150 years, has shaped government policy in order to fuel our sugar addiction.
Today’s sugar industry is a product of the 19th century, when the key federal sugar policy was not a dietary guideline but a tariff on sugar imports. In the decades after the Civil War, Americans’ per capita consumption of sugar more than doubled, from 32 pounds in 1870 to 80 pounds in 1910. As a result, the government got hooked on sugar, too: By 1880, sugar accounted for a sixth of the federal budget.
To protect domestic refiners, then the largest manufacturing employer in Northern cities, the tariff distinguished between two kinds of sugar: “refined” and “raw.” Refined sugar that was meant for direct consumption paid a much higher rate than did raw sugar crystals intended for further refining and whitening. But by the late 1870s, new industrial sugar factories in the Caribbean began to jeopardize this protectionist structure. Technologically sophisticated, these factories could produce sugar that, while raw by the government’s standard, was consistently much closer to refined sugar than ever before (akin to sweeteners such as Sugar in the Raw today). The American industry now faced potential competition from abroad.
The country’s largest refiners mobilized on several fronts. They lobbied the United States Congress to adopt chemical instruments that could measure the percentage of sucrose in a sugar cargo, and to deem sugar refined when its sucrose content was sufficiently high. Previously, customs officers had judged the purpose of a sugar cargo by its color, smell, taste and texture, as people throughout the sugar trade had done for centuries. Now refiners argued that such sensory methods were ripe for abuse because they depended on a subjective appraisal. They demanded a scientific standard instead — one that would reveal some “raw” sugar to be nearly pure and thus subject to higher tariffs — and they prevailed.
Their plea for scientific objectivity may have sounded sensible, but it masked nefarious aims. Like the tobacco industry in the 1960s, these refiners knew that scientific questions were hard for outsiders to adjudicate, and thus easier to manipulate to an industry’s advantage. If refiners were to bribe a customs chemist to shade his results in their favor — as they were routinely accused of doing for decades, beginning in the 1870s — such corruption would be much harder for the government to detect than it had been when everyone could see and smell the same sugar.
In addition to their lobbying, refiners waged a public campaign to dissuade Americans from eating raw sugar. One of their common advertisements featured a disgusting insect that supposedly inhabited raw sugar and caused an ailment called “grocer’s itch” in those who handled it. Other pamphlets suggested that Cuban factories operated by slaves or Chinese indentured workers would “give the people sugar teeming with animals and Cuban dirt.”
The refiners’ real agenda, of course, was not Americans’ health it was to maximize their profits from selling sugar. Thanks in part to their influence over both tariff policy and the new methods of customs collection, the big refiners were soon able to form the Sugar Trust, one of the most notorious and successful monopolies of the Gilded Age. By the early 20th century, belief in the health benefits of refined sugar was so widespread that increasing Americans’ consumption of it actually became a goal of federal policy.
Looking back at the industry’s transformation of sugar (an edible substance derived from a plant) into sucrose (a molecule), we also see the roots of “nutritionism” in United States policy. That’s the idea that what matters to human health is not food per se but rather a handful of isolable biochemical factors. As food critics like Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle have argued, nutritionism is better at helping processed-food companies market their products as healthy (“with Omega-3 added!”) than it is at promoting our well-being.
Today, the sugar industry remains politically powerful, with consequences for both public health and the environment. The Miami Herald reported this summer, for example, that the industry contributed $57 million to Florida elections in the last 22 years meanwhile, state officials have resisted efforts to make sugar companies pay for their damage to the Everglades.
If we want to check the power of Big Sugar, we’d be well served to acknowledge the long record — past as well as present — of the industry’s machinations.
Big Soft Sugar Cookies
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Do you like the frosted cookies you get from a bakery? Then you’ll LOVE these Big Soft Sugar Cookies! Light and puffy sugar cookies are topped with a smooth layer of vanilla frosting and your favorite sprinkles. These will be your family’s new favorite cookie!
Want to see how easy it is to make these Big Soft Sugar Cookies? Check out the quick video down below!
I’m usually a chocolate cookie girl, but I always make an exception for the frosted sugar cookies from my local bakery. I’ll bet you know the type I mean: big, puffy cookies SLATHERED with a thick layer of frosting that’s slightly crunchy on top and studded with bright sprinkles. They never taste quite as good as I imagine they will, but I still give in and buy one more often than I would like to admit.
The secret ingredient in these cookies, which is more like a not-so-secret ingredient, is International Delight Frosted Sugar Cookie coffee creamer. You might call it cheating to use a sugar cookie-flavored ingredient to make sugar cookies…I personally call it genius! I used the Frosted Sugar Cookie flavor in both the cookie dough and the buttercream frosting that goes on top. It’s not overwhelming, but it does give the cookies an extra oomph of that vanilla-y, butter-y, can’t-put-your-finger-on-it-but-it-tastes-like-a-bakery-cookie flavor.
Now don’t get me wrong–I love the flavor and texture of the sugar cookies, I really do. Those crispy, buttery edges? That light and fluffy center? Gimme! But we all know what’s really the best part of these cookies–THE FROSTING! So I didn’t skimp on the frosting, and smoothed on a thick layer of vanilla goodness (with a cute swirl in the middle, of course.) Since it IS almost December, I went seasonal with my sprinkles, but obviously these cookies are perfect for ANY time of year. Parties, showers, movie nights, teacher gifts…you name it, these cookies are up for it.
Op-Ed: Don’t scapegoat Big Sugar. Lots of food producers profited from the demonization of fat
The recent revelation that Harvard scientists were paid off to downplay sugar’s harms in the 1960s shows how the food industry shockingly manipulated nutrition science for decades. Yet the news media has given the sugar industry too much credit. The real story about how sugar got a pass — while dietary fat and cholesterol were blamed for heart disease — reveals that other industries played a role, as did, surprisingly, many of the country’s leading scientists.
According to an article published Sept. 12 by the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, the sugar industry formulated a game plan in the mid-1950s to capitalize upon an idea gaining traction “among leading nutritionists” that dietary fat and cholesterol cause heart disease. There are only three macronutrients: fat, protein and carbohydrates. Sugar executives recognized that if Americans could be persuaded to adopt a low-fat diet, they would invariably eat more carbs. Think cereal instead of eggs for breakfast, or cookies rather than cheese as a snack. Predicting that some 20% of calories would shift towards carbohydrates — a windfall to all the “carbohydrate industries” — sugar executives paid Harvard scientists to water down a 1967 review of sugar’s potential harms and instead pin the blame for heart disease on fat and cholesterol.
Commentators in the past two weeks have seen this as proof that “Big Sugar” is the equivalent of “Big Tobacco,” undermining good science to cover up the evils of a dangerous product. Yes, sugar executives used similar tactics, but the results were hardly so clear-cut.
It&#8217s naive to think that [sugar executives] alone were alert to potential windfalls of the low-fat diet.
First, we have to acknowledge that despite these unscrupulous efforts, U.S. consumption of sugar tanked in the decades following that Harvard review. Estimated consumption of “beet and cane sugar” fell by 38% between 1970 and 2005, according to the government’s best-available data. Instead, as consumption of sweeteners increased 19% during those years, it was high-fructose corn syrup that cleaned up.
All the “carbohydrate industries” profited from the demonization of fat, exactly as anticipated. Consumption of flour and cereal products increased by 41%, including a 183% increase in products from corn. Overall, as Americans cut their consumption of fat by 25% from 1965 to 2011, they increased carbohydrate intake by more than 30%.
The JAMA Internal Medicine article offered a tantalizing view into how sugar executives enabled this shift, but it’s naive to think that they alone were alert to potential windfalls of the low-fat diet. If one were to search the files of corn or wheat industry executives, certainly letters reflecting similar strategic thinking would turn up. Indeed, as early as 1941, Quaker Oats, General Foods, the American Biscuit Company and others joined forces to found the Nutrition Foundation, which spent millions annually on scientists and research, presumably in the interest of their products. Everyone could see the commercial shift the low-fat diet would create: If fat went down, carbohydrates went up. It was a simple idea.
Also important to note: it wasn’t all fats but specifically saturated fats that got demonized starting with the American Heart Assn.’s nutritional guidelines in 1961. Instead of saturated fats, such as butter and lard, Americans were told to eat and cook with products made from unsaturated vegetable oils, including Crisco and margarine. Consumption of vegetable oils, which were invented in the early 1900s, exploded during the 20th century. During the same decades that sweeteners increased by 19%, vegetable oil consumption rocketed up 91%.
The vegetable oil industry also used a variety of “Big Tobacco”-style tactics to influence the science. Wesson oil invested in scientists via its Wesson Fund for Medical Research, including donations to Chicago cardiologist Jeremiah Stamler, who authored that first AHA guideline condemning saturated fats. Stamler also benefited from the largesse of the Corn Products Co., which published a version of Stamler’s pro-vegetable-oils diet book bound in red leather (and including pages of advertisements for corn oil at the back) handed out by the thousands to doctors. The Corn Products Co., along with vegetable oil giant Anderson, Clayton & Co., also donated their products to researchers at the National Institutes of Health to be studied for potential health benefits. In my own research digging through old files, I found quite a few revealing letters, including one from biochemist Fred Kummerow in 1969, chastising the then-medical director of the AHA for posing with a bottle of Crisco oil in an educational film. “[This] is rank commercialism,” wrote Kummerow.
Yet here’s the rub: We can’t assume that industry money buys the minds of scientists. No doubt there’s some influence, but researchers have their own view of the evidence. Corruption cannot be assumed to be the norm.
The truth is that from the 1950s onward, many scientists truly believed that saturated fat and cholesterol were the primary cause of heart disease. Nutritionist D. Mark Hegsted, one of the authors of the 1967 Harvard review, was well-known as a passionate advocate of that view. He wrote numerous articles on how fat caused heart disease years before he ever accepted research money from the sugar industry. It’s unlikely that sugar money swayed him. In fact, when he later went to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to draft the federal government’s very first Dietary Guidelines, they included limits on both fat and sugar.
Right now, we’re living in an anti-sugar moment. Sugar is no doubt bad for health. But during the 50 years that obesity and diabetes have skyrocketed, the major shifts in Americans’ diets were from fats to carbohydrates, and from saturated fats to vegetable oils. Those industries also manipulated nutrition research, and their products also must be considered as possibly culpable for our current ill health. Let’s not oversimplify the story.
There has been a lot of bad science in the field of nutrition — and many “Big Tobaccos.”
Nina Teicholz is a science journalist and author of the book “The Big Fat Surprise.”
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Matcha Tea Lemon Muffins
(2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
- Author: The Plant-Powered Dietitian
- Prep Time: 12 minutes
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings 1 x
- Diet: Vegan
These healthy, plant-based, whole grain Matcha Tea Lemon muffins are filled with the clean crisp flavors of lemon, coconut, and matcha green tea.
- 1 cup coconut milk beverage (not canned), plain, unsweetened
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1 large lemon ( 1/4 cup juice and 2 tablespoons zest)
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
- 1 tablespoon matcha green tea powder
- 1 ¼ cups white whole wheat flour
- ½ cup almond flour
- 2 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch salt
- 1/3 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
- 1 tablespoon vegan margarine, softened
- 1 tablespoon coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon shredded, unsweetened coconut
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- With an electric mixer, whip together coconut milk beverage, chia seeds, lemon juice and lemon zest from one large lemon, and vegetable oil for 2 minutes.
- Gently mix in coconut sugar, matcha tea powder, white whole wheat flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt. Do not overstir. Fold in coconut.
- Spray a muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray (or use muffin pan liners).
- Spoon batter into muffin pans—filling each one about 2/3 full.
- Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare topping (optional) by mixing together softened vegan margarine, coconut sugar, lemon zest, and coconut in a small dish until smooth.
- After muffins have baked for 15 minutes, remove and sprinkle with topping. Return to oven and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, until a fork inserted in center comes out clean.
- Remove from oven. Allow to cool slightly. Loosen muffins with a knife and remove from muffin pan.
- Makes 8 small muffins.
To make this recipe gluten-free, use gluten-free flour blend instead of the whole wheat flour.
- Serving Size: 1 serving
- Calories: 215
- Sugar: 5 g
- Sodium: 9 mg
- Fat: 18 g
- Saturated Fat: 6 g
- Carbohydrates: 14 g
- Fiber: 3 g
- Protein: 3 g
Keywords: matcha, matcha muffins, vegan muffins, best vegan muffins, matcha tea muffins
50 Years Ago, Sugar Industry Quietly Paid Scientists To Point Blame At Fat
A newly discovered cache of internal documents reveals that the sugar industry downplayed the risks of sugar in the 1960s.
In the 1960s, the sugar industry funded research that downplayed the risks of sugar and highlighted the hazards of fat, according to a newly published article in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The article draws on internal documents to show that an industry group called the Sugar Research Foundation wanted to "refute" concerns about sugar's possible role in heart disease. The SRF then sponsored research by Harvard scientists that did just that. The result was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1967, with no disclosure of the sugar industry funding.
Sugar Shocked? The Rest Of Food Industry Pays For Lots Of Research, Too
The sugar-funded project in question was a literature review, examining a variety of studies and experiments. It suggested there were major problems with all the studies that implicated sugar, and concluded that cutting fat out of American diets was the best way to address coronary heart disease.
The authors of the new article say that for the past five decades, the sugar industry has been attempting to influence the scientific debate over the relative risks of sugar and fat.
"It was a very smart thing the sugar industry did, because review papers, especially if you get them published in a very prominent journal, tend to shape the overall scientific discussion," co-author Stanton Glantz told The New York Times.
Money on the line
How The Food Industry Manipulates Taste Buds With 'Salt Sugar Fat'
In the article, published Monday, authors Glantz, Cristin Kearns and Laura Schmidt aren't trying make the case for a link between sugar and coronary heart disease. Their interest is in the process. They say the documents reveal the sugar industry attempting to influence scientific inquiry and debate.
The researchers note that they worked under some limitations — "We could not interview key actors involved in this historical episode because they have died," they write. Other organizations were also advocating concerns about fat, they note.
There's no evidence that the SRF directly edited the manuscript published by the Harvard scientists in 1967, but there is "circumstantial" evidence that the interests of the sugar lobby shaped the conclusions of the review, the researchers say.
For one thing, there's motivation and intent. In 1954, the researchers note, the president of the SRF gave a speech describing a great business opportunity.
If Americans could be persuaded to eat a lower-fat diet — for the sake of their health — they would need to replace that fat with something else. America's per capita sugar consumption could go up by a third.
In 'Soda Politics,' Big Soda At Crossroads Of Profit And Public Health
But in the '60s, the SRF became aware of "flowing reports that sugar is a less desirable dietary source of calories than other carbohydrates," as John Hickson, SRF vice president and director of research, put it in one document.
He recommended that the industry fund its own studies — "Then we can publish the data and refute our detractors."
The next year, after several scientific articles were published suggesting a link between sucrose and coronary heart disease, the SRF approved the literature-review project. It wound up paying approximately $50,000 in today's dollars for the research.
One of the researchers was the chairman of Harvard's Public Health Nutrition Department — and an ad hoc member of SRF's board.
"A different standard" for different studies
Glantz, Kearns and Schmidt say many of the articles examined in the review were hand-selected by SRF, and it was implied that the sugar industry would expect them to be critiqued.
13.7: Cosmos And Culture
Obesity And The Toxic-Sugar Wars
In a letter, SRF's Hickson said that the organization's "particular interest" was in evaluating studies focused on "carbohydrates in the form of sucrose."
"We are well aware," one of the scientists replied, "and will cover this as well as we can."
The project wound up taking longer than expected, because more and more studies were being released that suggested sugar might be linked to coronary heart disease. But it was finally published in 1967.
Hickson was certainly happy with the result: "Let me assure you this is quite what we had in mind and we look forward to its appearance in print," he told one of the scientists.
The review minimized the significance of research that suggested sugar could play a role in coronary heart disease. In some cases the scientists alleged investigator incompetence or flawed methodology.
"It is always appropriate to question the validity of individual studies," Kearns told Bloomberg via email. But, she says, "the authors applied a different standard" to different studies — looking very critically at research that implicated sugar, and ignoring problems with studies that found dangers in fat.
Epidemiological studies of sugar consumption — which look at patterns of health and disease in the real world — were dismissed for having too many possible factors getting in the way. Experimental studies were dismissed for being too dissimilar to real life.
One study that found a health benefit when people ate less sugar and more vegetables was dismissed because that dietary change was not feasible.
Another study, in which rats were given a diet low in fat and high in sugar, was rejected because "such diets are rarely consumed by man."
The Harvard researchers then turned to studies that examined risks of fat — which included the same kind of epidemiological studies they had dismissed when it came to sugar.
Citing "few study characteristics and no quantitative results," as Kearns, Glantz and Schmidt put it, they concluded that cutting out fat was "no doubt" the best dietary intervention to prevent coronary heart disease.
Sugar lobby: "Transparency standards were not the norm"
In a statement, the Sugar Association — which evolved out of the SRF — said it is challenging to comment on events from so long ago.
"We acknowledge that the Sugar Research Foundation should have exercised greater transparency in all of its research activities, however, when the studies in question were published funding disclosures and transparency standards were not the norm they are today," the association said.
"Generally speaking, it is not only unfortunate but a disservice that industry-funded research is branded as tainted," the statement continues. "What is often missing from the dialogue is that industry-funded research has been informative in addressing key issues."
The documents in question are five decades old, but the larger issue is of the moment, as Marion Nestle notes in a commentary in the same issue of JAMA Internal Medicine:
"Is it really true that food companies deliberately set out to manipulate research in their favor? Yes, it is, and the practice continues. In 2015, the New York Times obtained emails revealing Coca-Cola's cozy relationships with sponsored researchers who were conducting studies aimed at minimizing the effects of sugary drinks on obesity. Even more recently, the Associated Press obtained emails showing how a candy trade association funded and influenced studies to show that children who eat sweets have healthier body weights than those who do not."
As for the article authors who dug into the documents around this funding, they offer two suggestions for the future.
"Policymaking committees should consider giving less weight to food industry-funded studies," they write.
They also call for new research into any ties between added sugars and coronary heart disease.
“The Big Mon” Jerk Burger RecipeFor this burger recipe I channel my inner Bob Marley to bring a taste of Caribbean vibes to the grill. I start with 80/20 ground chuck formed into big 1/2 lb burger patties. Each one is seasoned with AP Seasoning (you can use salt & pepper) and my Jammin’ Jerk Seasoning (you can use any jerk seasoning) and grilled directly over charcoal. Just when the burgers are almost done, I brush the top with a sweet and spicy jerk sauce and let it caramelize over the top. To keep the island vibes going I also grill fresh pineapple spears that I season with a mixture of dark brown sugar and more jerk seasoning. The grill brings out extra sweetness in the pineapple and gives it a slightly smokey taste. The pineapple is then chopped and mixed with diced onion, sweet bell peppers, parsley, and cilantro. It’s awesome on this burger but you can also serve it as a dip, or use it to go along with other dishes as well. (served over grilled chicken or pork chops would be fantastic). To finish out the Jamaican flavor I kick up mayo to create what I call my Calypso sauce. It’s mayo, ketchup, scotch bonnet pepper sauce, and a few seasonings. This sauce brings the Caribbean heat to the dish but the creamy mayo keeps it in check so you get a little burn. You can use as much or little of the scotch bonnet pepper sauce as you like. To build the burger I spread the Calypso sauce on the bottom half of a sesame seed bun. It’s topped with lettuce, sliced tomato, and pickles and then the burger. For extra jerk flavor I drizzle on a little more jerk sauce and then pile up the pineapple relish on top. Finish it off with a little more Calypso on the upper bun and you have one Caribbean burger that will have you swaying to the Jamaican beats! Serve it will a cold red stripe beer or a big glass of Rum Punch and it will make your summer better! Print
Big Soft Sugar Cookies
These light, puffy sugar cookies will be your family's new favorite.
Recipe by Sugar Hero
Preheat oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In medium bowl, whisk or sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In bowl of large stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar. Beat on medium speed for 1-2 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Add egg, vanilla, sour cream and creamer, mixing until well combined.
Add flour mixture while mixer is off. Mix on low speed until almost combined and just a few streaks of flour remain. Stop mixer and finish mixing by hand using a rubber spatula, being sure to scrape bottom and sides of bowl well.
Scoop dough out into golf-ball sized scoops onto baking sheets—you should get about 20 cookies. Bake for 16-18 minutes, until cookies are puffed and just starting to take on color around the edges.
Let cookies cool completely before frosting.
To make frosting, beat butter on medium using an electric mixer, until creamy and light in color (about 1 minute). Add powdered sugar, 3 Tbsp creamer, vanilla and salt, mixing until light and fluffy. If frosting is too thick, slowly stream in remaining spoonful of creamer, a little at a time, until you reach desired texture.
Put a generous dollop of frosting on top of each cookie and spread around evenly overtop. Finish with a big pinch of sprinkles or other decorations.
For best taste and texture, store in airtight container and enjoy within 2-3 days. Cookies and frosting can both be made in advance, and cookies can be stored in freezer for up to 2 month. Frosting can be frozen for 2 months or refrigerated for 2 weeks. Make sure to store with plastic pressed tightly to the top so it doesn’t form a crust. Allow it to come to room temperature and re-whip before using.
Because the banana filling has to set in the fridge to set, this makes banana cream pie the perfect make ahead dessert! Make this recipe the day before, then when you are ready to serve, quickly whip up some whipped cream. Seriously could it get any easier than that?
Freezing Banana Cream Pie
Alternatively, you can freeze this pie to make up to 3 months in advance! Simply make the recipe as directed up until it has set in the refrigerator. After it is set, cover with another couple of layers of plastic wrap and foil, then freeze away!
To serve, defrost in the fridge for 24 hours. Make whipped cream, top pie, and serve!