Quinn on Nutrition: Everything old-fashioned is new again

January 2, 2017

Items of interest from our past we used to call "old-fashioned." Today they are "retro." And in the field of nutrition, some ideas from the past are worth taking with us into the future.

For example, the Campbell Soup Co. has resurrected a 101-year-old recipe for tomato soup that it plans to distribute on a limited basis, according to an article in Fortune magazine. The reason?

"A return to the old way of doing things in some way mirrors the challenges we see in the food and beverage industry today, as consumers demand cleaner and leaner foods with fewer artificial ingredients and colors," says a spokesperson for the company.

Maybe we shouldn’t emulate everything from the past, however. One major change Campbell made in reviving this retro soup from 1915: significantly cutting the amount of salt from the original recipe.

Some recipes from the past are also high in sugar which is frowned upon by current dietary guidelines. Yet a recent review of over 20 years of research on sugar and health questions whether sugar is absolutely bad for everyone. A person’s lifestyle and overall diet — sitting at a desk gulping down M&M’s and a soda for lunch versus working on a farm and having a slice of cake for dessert — are big determinants of how sugar affects one’s health, according to these researchers’ findings.

Nutrition scientists are also looking at old calories in new ways, according to a recent study in the journal of Food and Function. In looking at how various forms of almonds are processed in the body for energy, researchers from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service reported that whole natural almonds, whole roasted almonds and chopped almonds provide up to 25 percent fewer calories than previously believed. It’s the form in which they are consumed that affects their calorie content, these experts determined.

In this study, almond butter provided more calories (energy) than the same weight of chopped almonds. And the amount of calories absorbed from whole roasted almonds was more than the calories from whole natural almonds. (Roasting nuts makes them more easily digested, contributing more calories, these researchers explain.)

With all the changes ahead in nutrition and life in general, one retro concept that, I predict, will never go out of style is moderation. Too much of anything is never good for us, my grandfather used to say.

Excess alcohol or sugar or you name it — too much can cause us harm. And I doubt new research will ever find that slamming down more than one or two alcoholic drinks in a day or subsisting on sodas and candy bars will result in anything more than poor health results.

Those ideas will never be old-fashioned.




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