As a reformed salty snack fan, the potato chip was always my favorite. But even back in the day, the potato chip was bad for you. For starters, the potato itself has always been a C-list vegetable. Factor in the salt and oil, and it’s clear that the Betcha-Can’t-Eat-Just-One guy was always a serious drain on your health.
There have been some attempts at making our old friend a little healthier, but by and large the food processing industy has worked harder in the other direction transforming the potato chip from bad to evil. The big companies and their army of food scientists work round the clock to hook us on unhealthy foods. Michael Moss details the chip’s descent in his book Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.
Using the industry’s jargon, Moss teaches us that is starts with the salt that triggers the “flavor burst” which hits the brain’s pleasure center and tells us to keep-on-eating. This is joined by the “mouthfeel” of the fat from the oil, which is transmitted from the roof of your mouth to your brain. Lastly, is the “bliss point” provided by the right amount of sugar that comes from the potato itself. Yes, the evil chip has the salt, sugar, fat trinity which the companies manipulate to make our processed foods ever more addicting.
I don’t think the potato should be the fall guy in this story. After all, for many smart eaters a potato with a little fat of your choice is the centerpiece of a low-calorie lunch or dinner. The food companies, well, they’re just catering to our consumerist needs, trying to give us the great tasting products we crave. And, of course, we’re not going to take the fall. Eating is one of life’s little pleasures, please don’t deny us one of the permissible passions.
Perhaps the upcoming release of “The Brevedy 3 Minute Diet” will provide a path for the food, fit, or fat tragedy before us.