Eat the Rainbow

Have you heard lately to “eat a rainbow” or eat a more plant-based diet?  Following this excellent advice, and eating a variety of colorful plant based foods is a great way to benefit from substances called phyto chemicals, in addition to more known varieties of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Phyto chemicals are compounds in plants. Phyto means plant in Greek; these substances are found in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. They give plants their color, flavor and aroma. It is thought that there are thousands of different chemicals and scientists are just starting to discover the roles these substances may play.

Much of the current evidence on the benefits of phyto chemicals has come from observing people who eat mainly plant based diets. These people have been shown to have significantly lower rates of certain types of cancer and heart disease. Eating a diet that is mostly plant based is recommended by the American Institute for Cancer Research. for example. Although currently there is no conclusive evidence that anyone specific phytochemical is guaranteed to reduce disease risks,  promising evidence indicates that phyto chemicals may have the potential to:

  • Aid the function the immune system
  • Protect cells in DNA from damage that may lead to cancer
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Slow the growth rate of some cancer cells
  • Help regulate hormones

The chart below shows some examples of specific vital chemicals and their potential benefits, along with some of the foods in which they are found.

PhytochemicalFoodsPotential Benefit  
CarotenoidsCooked tomatoes, orange squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoliInhibition of cancer growth
FlavonoidsBerries, citrus, apples, coffee, tea, walnutsFights inflammation, decreased damage to DNA
AnthocyaninsBerriesHelp lower blood pressure
IsothiocyanatesBroccoli, cauliflower, kalePrevention of heart disease, cancer
Lutein and zeaxanthinDark, green leafy greens, spinach, chardMaintains eye health

Each plant food has many different phyto chemicals; there are more than 100 phyto chemicals in a carrot alone. It’s important to note that though there will never be just one vital food ingredient, herbs are nutrients that you need to include in your diet for great health benefits. All of these vital chemicals have different functions in the body and many of them complement one another . Evidence shows that taking phyto chemicals in supplement form may not provide the same benefits as eating the whole plant foods, because phyto chemicals in supplements may not be as easily absorbed by the body as those from food sources. Therefore, it is doubtful that taking supplements to obtain these compounds may not be efficacious.

So remember to eat the rainbow when possible to provide the different properties each of these foods provide. Most of the time, try to fill two-thirds of your plate with plant-based foods.

Century of Food 1960 – 1969

A Century of Food 1960 – 1969

In 1945, an American woman went to Paris with her husband. While there, she attended the Cordon Bleu cooking school and became very fascinated with French cooking. She was eager to share her fascination with others back in America, so when she returned she ended up writing a cookbook. In 1961, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child was heralded by critics and housewives alike. But her TV show, The French Chef, which aired from 1963 to 1967, made her America’s first true celebrity chef. She inspired a generation to see the act of cooking as a joy and an art
In the United States. She alone is credited with restoring our culinary culture after a decade in the 50’s of processed food and a trend away from home cooking. She introduced us to the luxuries of butter, cream and cognac. The newly affluent were eager to try to attain culture and she made it very approachable. We were introduced to Cog au Vin, Boeuf Bourguignon, Mousse au Chocolate and Duck a l’Orange.  The 1960s decade was  stormy  shaped by the clash of conforming tradition and radical change. WWII rationing was a distant memory; 50s casseroles were old & boring. The late 60’s brought social unrest with growing frustration over the Vietnam War, assassinations of a President (JFK), a civil rights leader (Martin Luther King), and a political candidate (Robert Kennedy).

Asian Invasion

The 60s encouraged showy, complicated food with French influence (Julia Child, Jacqueline Kennedy), suburban devotion (backyard barbecues), vegetarian curiosity and ethnic cuisine (soul food, Japanese Steak houses). This was also the decade of flaming things (fondue & Steak Diane) and lots and lots of junk food (aimed at the baby boom children). “Average” suburban families patronized family-style restaurant chains like Howard Johnson’s. The first Wendy’s restaurant opened in 1969.

Immigrant dishes changed from the traditional Chinese, Italian dominance to that of Vietnam and Laos after the Vietnam War. The Asian food invasion began in California Gold Rush days, but this Asian food provided more variety than before. Asian immigration more than quadrupled by 1970. Some dishes brought new flavors like a Vietnamese beef soup called pho, deep-fried spiced potato-stuffed samosas from India, and preserved Korean vegetables called kimchi.  Japanese food prepared at the table became “trendy”.

Interestingly, immigrant food was class conscious. Mexican food was considered low class, but Indian cuisine with fewer immigrants is admired. That is more likely due to the Indian immigrants are nearly 60% professionals, says Krishnendu Ray, a professor and author of The Migrants Table: Meals and Memories in Bengali-American Households.

Many Cuban people, namely the educated upper classes moved to America after Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 and brought their cuisine with them. Like other Caribbean countries, staples were black beans and rice, and plantains. They also like pork marinated in vinegar and orange juice and stewed with onions; chicken roasted with garlic; and tropical fruit drinks, especially with rum. The Bacardi family also migrated to America after the rum industry was nationalized in Cuba.

The Revolutions

Millions of people in the world were starving. Technology’s answer was food that was genetically engineered like soy and dwarf rice that had a short growing time, a phenomenal yield and would grow anywhere in Asia. It could produce two crops a year and yielded more rice per plant. This was the beginning of the Green Revolution. People began to eat more consciously after the book by Rachel Carson, Silent Spring was published. Her book spoke of the consequences of using pesticides which led people to be more aware about where food comes,

The Blue Revolution involved aquaculture or fish farming. Both these revolutions have pros and cons, critics and proponents. Aquaculture nevertheless is probably the world’s fastest growing form of food prodution and some believe that by 2030, aquaculture will supply most the fish people eat.

Counterculture Cuisine

Some people took it a few steps further by growing their own fruits, vegetables and herbs, milked farm animals and revolted against white foods – Minute Rice, Cool Whip, instant potatoes, white sugar, white bread. Hippies dominated the culture and brought with them a return to unprocessed foods. They baked their own bread, made peanut butter tahini and hummus, ate brown rice and brown eggs. They brought to our attention cooperatives, vegetarianism, and fresh food markets and health food stores. Food quickly evolved from French cooking to “back to the earth” attitude. Earth Day was first celebrated to raise environmental issues on April 22, 1970.

Thin Is In


In the 1960’s overabundance, fast foods and processed foods led to the beginnings of the obesity problem in America. On the diet front, Jean Nidetch and several friends met in her apartment in 1961 to counsel each other about dieting. Her support group eventually became Weight Watchers. The sugar free soft drink Tab is introduced in 1963. In 1967, Twiggy, 5’7” and weighing just 92 pounds becomes a supermodel and influenced thousands of young women to rethink their body image to try to meet her standards. The slogan “thin is in” quite possibly led to a resurgence of eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia that saw its roots in the Victorian days of the 19th century.


Linda Civitello, Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People, 2nd Edition.

Carolyn Wyman, Better Than Homemade: Amazing Foods That Changed the Way We Eat, 2004

Susan Yager, The Hundred Year Diet: America’s Voracious Appetite for Losing Weight , 2010

What’s Better Than Sliced Bread?

The earliest barley bread appeared in about 10,000 BCE;  it was a flatbread less than one inch thick and required no slicing. Later, wheat, and leavening agents were introduced, making much larger loaves  that needed to be torn in half by hand or sliced with a knife.

But it took until the 20th century for things to change:

Otto Rohwedder had an idea; however,  nobody wanted his machine. The Davenport , Iowa salesman had worked on a device for slicing loaves of bread for more than a decade, but bakers were dubious. They protested that the bread would go stale, that consumers only wanted their loaves whole, or that it just wouldn’t work.

Then in 1928, Frank Bench, who owned a small bakery in Chillicothe, Missouri., decided to give it a try. Richard, Otto’s  son who was 13 years old at the time fed the bread through the very peculiar looking machine.  It quickly became popular. The ladies liked and wanted it, he recalls, and the sales at Bench’s bakery increased by 2000% in just a few weeks. But there was a problem with the bread drying out. Otto had first tried hatpins which joined several slices to each other. He soon discovered that this method was not practical.

An idea gathered more steam when a St.  Louis Baker named Gustav Papendik created a machine that not only sliced the bread but wrapped it, too, keeping the slices from drying out.

The beginning of the 20th century marked a turning point for home kitchens. More than 2/3 of American homes had electricity by the end of the 1920s, and as hired help left for factories or other jobs, home makers looked to electrical appliances like the toaster (invented at least a decade earlier) to ease their kitchen workload.

The bread symbolic of this period was Wonder Bread. This originally unsliced bread was first baked by the Taggart Baking Company of Indianapolis about 1920. Taggart was later acquired by Continental Baking Company in 1925. Wonder Bread was produced at a full-scale bakery at the New York World’s Fair in 1939 and was the sponsor of popular radio programs. In 1941  Wonder Bread was advertised as “enriched” with vitamins and minerals and advertised on children’s radio programs with the tag line in the 50’s – “Wonder Bread Builds Strong Bodies 8 Ways”, In the 1960’s, when backlash arose against overly refined food products, Wonder Bread became a prime target for criticism.

Lately there’s been a movement back toward the old way; artisanal unsliced. The way we try to make bread now gives it a much “wheatier”  flavor. Now we are more concerned about the content of our bread as “whole grains” as part of a healthy diet rather than what form it is.   White bread has now become a diet “villain.” And no one was ever quite sure how Wonder Bread built bodies 8 ways.

 Source: The Greatest Thing, Period. Betsy Querna, U.S. News and World Report, August 15 – 22, 2005

Source: Sliced Bread: The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, Edited by Andrew F. Smith, 2007.

Does Snacking Cause Obesity?

The obesity epidemic continues to roar on with the latest stats reporting that Americans have never been heavier than they are now. One culprit that is often cited is our incessant habit of snacking – with some people eating two mini-meals (snacks) a day in addition to three traditional meals. Due to our unhealthy food supply (e.g. processed foods), these foods will tend to contain the three villains for weight gain: salt, fat, and sugar.

Two studies from the American Dietetic Association suggest that people who snack are leaner than those who don’t. It’s important to realize that in reality, these people were more health conscious and actually ate fewer calories overall. So is is quality or quantity? I vote for quality here. So if you snack, choose wisely. Also, the American Dietetic Association now called the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) tends to favor research that supports the food industry (my opinion). “During the fiscal year 2015, the organization received $1.1 million in corporate sponsorships from companies like General Mills and PepsiCO via donations, joint initiatives, and programs. ” Source Wikipedia.



A Century of Food – the 1950’s

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Author: Sally J. Feltner, MS, PhD

An Attack on Gastronomy

The 1950’s brought a renewed hope for the country after two decades of Depression and War. However, food historians deplore the state of the cuisine during this period – it mainly consisted of processed foods which many blame for this anti-gastronomic desert. In addition, the rise of the fast food industry, i.e. hamburger chains that sprouted up along side the newly build national highway system did not offer any better fare. Freeing Mom from the kitchen seemed to be the dominant theme as appliances and prepared foods became the ‘norm”.

TV Dinners

After WWII, America’s economy boomed, women entered the workforce as never before and food got a little strange. Housewives spent less time in the kitchen, so food companies came to the rescue with a buffet of processed foods. Foods were purchased in a can, package or pouch. Soups were available as liquids or in dry form. Tang landed on supermarket shelves and frozen dinners laid on trays in front of TV sets. TV dinners were introduced in 1953 by Swanson and with a flick of a wrist you could turn back the foil to display turkey in gravy, dressing, sweet potatoes and peas ready in about 30 minutes – all with no dishes to wash.


Better Living Through Chemistry

“Better Living through Chemistry” was the slogan of the times along with “I like Ike” referring to the popular Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 5-star general from WWII winning the U.S presidency from 1953 to 1961.
This change in processing came from the demand of the Army during WWII to provide needed ready-to-eat meals. The food industry responded by ramping up new technologies in canning and freeze-drying to feed the troops. The marketing of these foods presented a challenge, however. At first, many of them were less than palatable, so food companies hired home economists to develop fancy recipes and flooded magazines, newspapers and TV with ads to broadcast their virtues. Actually the first cake mix was available in 1931, but was met with disdain due to the use of
dehydrated eggs, e.g. Women later would respond more favorably if they could crack their own eggs into the batter so they would feel like they were doing something positive in the kitchen.

June Cleaver

People rushed to buy appliances, houses, cars, dishwashers, washing machines, dryers and backyard barbecue grills and new home freezers.  They also bought television sets in record numbers and watched shows that represented their new idealized lives like Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It to Beaver. Beaver’s mother, June Cleaver was depicted as a housewife freed from household chores and often was serene and perfectly dressed with pearls and high heels pushing a vacuum cleaner and putting meals on the family table.

Fast Food Nation

The birth rate soared and created what is known as the Baby Boomer Generation. Fifty million babies were born from 1945 to 1960. Food marketing shifted to kids with Tony the Tiger and fish sticks leading the campaign. Fast food had its beginnings strengthened in 1955 when Ray Kroc bought a hamburger stand from the McDonald’s brothers in San Bernadino, California. Disneyland opened in 1955 and was so popular they ran out of food on the first day.


The Seven Countries Study

In 1958, the American scientist, Ancel Keys started a study called the Seven Countries Study, which attempted to establish the association between diet and cardiovascular disease in different countries. The study results indicated that in the countries where fat consumption was the highest also had the most heart disease. This suggested the idea that dietary fat caused heart disease. He initially studied 22 countries, but only reported on seven: Finland, Greece, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, United States, and Yugoslavia.

The problem was that he left out:

  • Countries where people eat a lot of fat but have little heart disease, such as Holland and Norway and France.
  • Countries where fat consumption is low but the rate of heart disease is high, such as Chile.

Basically, he only used data from the countries that supported his theory.
This flawed observational study gained massive media attention and had a major influence on the dietary guidelines of the next few decades, i.e. cut the fat out of our diets.


The First Artificial Sweetener

In the diet world, Saccharin was manufactured in granules and became a popular sugar substitute for dieters. It was first produced in 1878 by a chemist at Johns Hopkins University, but became popular after sugar shortages in WWI and WWII. In the United States, saccharin is often found in restaurants in pink packets as “Sweet’n Low”. It was banned later but it remains on the market today. The basis for the proposed ban was a study that documented an increase in cancer in rats being fed saccharin. The “Delaney clause” of the Food Additive Amendments to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act states that no substance can be deemed safe if it causes cancer in humans or animals. In suspending the proposed saccharin ban, Congress ordered that products containing the popular sweetener must carry a warning about its potential to cause cancer. The FDA formally lifted its proposal to ban the sweetener in 1991 based on new studies, and the requirement for a label warning was eliminated by the Saccharin Notice Repeal Act in 1996.

Timeline: The 1950’s

1950 In Quincy, Mass., Bill Rosenberg changes the name of his doughnut shop to Dunkin’ Donuts. In 1955 he sells his first franchise.

1951 former Marine Glen Bell, 28, introduces the first fast food taco at his hamburger and hot dog stand in San Bernardino California. Bell, looking for unique product spots tacos at an area restaurant. He comes up with a contraption that will hold tortillas in hot oil to form the now classic U-shaped taco shell, enabling him to fried tortillas and offer fast Mexican fare.

1951 The defense industry needs aluminum for the Korean war effort, so Reynolds curtails production of it for home use. By 1953, it back in production and Saran Wrap is introduced.

1952 Col. Sanders sells its 1st first Kentucky fried chicken franchise.

1952 Lipton food company Rolls out a dehydrated onion soup mix that will earn its fame as a base for onion dip: two envelopes of the mix +1 cup sour cream. Lipton eventually prints the recipe, “California Dip” on the package.

1953 Fritos introduces the Frito kid, a mascot the company uses until 1967.

1954 the C. A. Swanson Company has a problem: the holidays are over but they still have railroad cars full of frozen turkeys. Employee Gerry Thomas has an idea (although fellow workers nearly laughed him out of the Omaha plant): package the turkey along with some dressing, gravy, corn bread, peas, and sweet potatoes into partitioned metal trays. Sell it frozen, and consumers could heat it up for dinner: his name for the leftover meal: TV dinner. Swanson made 6000 of the $.98 meals. Within a year, they had shipped 10 million more.

1954 The first Burger King opens in Miami. A burger is $.18, as is a milkshake. The whopper is introduced in 1957 and sells for $.37.

1954 Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine it Is proven safe an effective, And the first successful kidney transplant is performed.

1955 Milk shake- machine salesman Ray Kroc tries to persuade Dick and Mac McDonald (owners of the original McDonald’s in California to franchise their concept. They aren’t interested, but they tell Kroc to go ahead and try his hand. Kroc opens his first restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois and eventually buys out the McDonald’s.

1956 More than 80% of US households have refrigerators. By contrast, only eight percent of British households have refrigerators.

1957 Better Homes and Gardens prints its first microwave cooking article.

1957 Margarine and sales take the lead over butter.

1958 Eighteen – year- old Frank Carney sees a story in the Saturday Evening Post about the pizza fad among teenagers and college students. With $600 borrowed from his mother, he opens the first Pizza Hut in Wichita Kansas.

1959 Hagen – Dazs ice cream is introduced.

Table of Trends 1990 to 2020: A lot has changed in the food world since the end of the 1990’s. The last 20 years are reflected upon by the following Millennium Timeline

Diet Obsession FatCarbs
Key Curiosity Cholesterol LevelsOur Microbiomes
“It Foods Salmon, Broccoli, Dark Chocolate, Salsa Cauliflower, Chickpeas, Meatless meats, Quinoa
BuzzwordsMediterranean, Heart-healthySustainability, Plant-based, Food Waste, Organic
“It” GadgetsBread Maker, Food processorsAir Fryer, Insta-Pots
Signature DishesChicken Caesar Salad, Chocolate Lava Cakes, BBQ Chicken Pizza Avocado Toast, Grain Bowls, Smoothies
Drinks of choiceWhite Wine Spritzer, Diet Coke Kombucha, Micro-breweries, Diet Coke
SuperfoodsFat-free Everything, Olestra, Snack-Well CookiesKale, Avocados, Leafy Greens, Probiotics
Weight Loss Slim Fast, Atkins, Weight Watchers Keto, Paleo

Decades of Food Milestones 2000 – 2020 : Eating Well Magazine, October, 2020

2002 Low carb guru Robert Atkins, MD, releases Doctor Atkins New Diet Revolution, reawakening the “bread basket shame” people felt 30 years earlier, when his first diet revolution was published. In other news, organic labels finally have teeth. The USDA national organic programs, Certified Organic Labeling, rules, some 12 years in the making, go into effect.

2003 “Fermentation fetish” Sandor Katz publishes Wild Fermentation , inspiring millions of sauerkraut, Kimchi,  kombucha, and sourdough and health enthusiasts. Fermented foods are rich in probiotic bacteria so by consuming fermented foods you are adding beneficial bacteria and enzymes to your overall intestinal flora, increasing the health of your gut microbiome and digestive system and enhancing the immune system.

2004 Facebook arrives, and enabling you to share what you had for breakfast with 1000 of your closest friends.

2006 in April, Michael Pollan releases the Omnivore’s Dilemma, making terms like food system, high fructose corn syrup an Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) dreaded household words.

2007 The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) was a United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) research initiative to improve understanding of the microbial flora involved in human health and disease. Launched in 2007, the first phase (HMP1) focused on identifying and characterizing human microbial flora. The second phase, known as the Integrative Human Microbiome Project (iHMP) launched in 2014 with the aim of generating resources to characterize the microbiome and elucidating the roles of microbes in health and disease states. Source: Wikipedia

2008 Chobani launches and the cult of Greek yogurt begins. Now we no longer have to strain regular yogurt through a coffee filter to make it. And in a recession driven effort to cut costs, Los Angeles chef Roy Choi rolls out his Kogi barbecue truck. The food truck era is born.

2009 The White House kitchen garden is planted in March , interest in vegetables and sustainable eating skyrockets. Gluten free foods become a thing with $1.56 billion dollars in US sales, and projections of continuing breakneck growth.

2010 Welcome, instant pot! Now we can cook slow, fast or steam vegetables, make rice.

2011 in June, the USDA replaces the Pyramid guide with My Plate, where vegetables and fruits fill half the dish and nudge grains to a smaller portion. First lady Michelle Obama announces it. Instagram arrives.

2012 Blue apron and other meal kit delivery services kickoff, making home cooking as easy as opening a box.

2013 Jay-Z announces he’s doing a 22 day vegan challenge. Veganism officially becomes cool.

2016 Restaurant delivery services go mainstream: 50% of Americans report using apps like Grubhub and DoorDash to purchase meals from casual dining outlets, with 26% ordering at least once weekly.

2017 The Regenerative Organic Alliance releases its Regenerative Organ Certification Program, which incorporates soil health, animal welfare, and social justice in its eligibility criteria.

2018 Plant based milk sales have exploded, growing 61% in the last five years. The dairy industry is disturbed.

2019 The Eat Lancet Commission releases its food in the Anthropocene report in January, linking our red meat and sugar heavy diets to climate change, and recommending we slash our consumption and eat more plant- based foods.

And now ,  Googling “nutrition” today gets over 1 billion hits but alas, 72% of Americans are overweight or obese based on Body Mass Indexes. Obesity becomes a risk factor for infectious disease, primarily COVID-19.  It has been estimated that by 2050, there will be 4 billion people globally that are either overweight or obese if current trends continue.

2020 (The Year Everyone Wants to Forget) – Covid- 19 sweeps the world. Many Americans line up for miles at food distribution sites. Restaurants shutter, or take out models, and small businesses teeter. Yet perseverance is everywhere, chefs, nonprofits, entire communities find ways to offer hope, and nourishing food.