How To Save the World with Salad Dressing: and Other Outrageous Science Problems

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Neman, Jammet, and Ru share a glass-walled office close to the entrance. They sit together, their tabletops clean except for three laptops, three pale green Moleskine notebooks, and neatly squared piles of paper, mail, and books such as Derek Thompson's Hit Makers , which someone recently gave Neman to inspire him to think about food the same way "music producers think about making viral content," he says.

From there, they lay out the future of the restaurant industry as they see it. Now, everybody has a phone," says Neman, teeing up their vision: Restaurants need to appeal to consumers who encounter the world through their mobile screens and expect to have food brought to them--at work, at home--without ever needing to look up. To adapt to this new world, most stores' online orders are filled at dedicated salad assembly lines, and then deposited in special pickup areas near the entrance. With their sans serif black type and left- and right-justified imagery, even Sweetgreen's menu boards resemble a mobile Web layout, as if to ease the transition for phone addicts when they finally do look up.

But, argue the founders, none of this sufficiently prepares Sweetgreen for the new world. To do that, they have to blow up the whole idea of a restaurant. How do you think about the experience in the kitchens in a digital way? How do you completely break this notion of what a 'restaurant' is and what a 'menu' is? If you were to break down the three co-founders into the holy trinity of hustler, hipster, and hacker, Neman is most certainly the hustler. The year-old CEO is a fast talker who's prone to making grand pronouncements, often starting with the phrase "At the end of the day" as in: "At the end of the day, we believe modern consumer companies are going to have to own the platform and the content" or "At the end of the day, we want to replace McDonald's as the global iconic food brand".

The hipster of the trio is wavy-haired Ru, 33, who on the day I met him was wearing all black except for bright white Nikes and a belt with little rainbows on it. That leaves Jammet, 34, as the hacker, even if in Sweetgreen's case he's a whiz with salad dressings and vegetable flavor combinations, not machine-learning algorithms or Python. Neman says he first recognized the trouble with scaling Sweetgreen the same way as every other food chain whenever he watched customers mosey along the salad bar.

It served too many conflicting goals at once: Customers had a few moments to pick an option on the menu board above. Employees, meanwhile, had to both cheerfully accommodate these indecisive customers and prepare the food as quickly as possible. Offer too many options and the line moves too slowly and sales volumes plummet; hurry them along and you become Subway.

He came to think of the line as the symbol of Sweetgreen's past. When Neman, Ru, and Jammet started Sweetgreen fresh out of college, the trio's aspirations were campus-size: to build a quick and healthy option for Georgetown students accustomed to wolfing down deli subs at Booeymonger or the "chicken madness" at Wisemiller's Deli. To distinguish their little shop, they renovated a historic old burger joint, hired a fancy architecture firm, and bought veggies from the Dupont Circle farmers' market rather than go through the usual distributors.

The following year, they got schooled in the mechanics of retail. The place they leased had no plumbing, electricity, or space for cold storage. They failed to predict that very few people would buy salad in December. Meanwhile, "our classmates are at these big investment bank jobs, and we're sitting there trying to figure out plumbing in a restaurant," says Ru. It didn't take long for the trio's vision to swell from viable salad shop to a lifestyle brand. In , they hatched the Sweetlife music festival and a Sweetgreen in Schools nutrition program.

From there emerged their Sweetlife brand ethos. Over the next four years, with the help of new professional operators with decades of collective experience at places like Chipotle, Jamba Juice, and Pinkberry, the company added 60 locations. In the press, Steve Case began referring to the fast-growing salad retailer as "the Chipotle of healthy options.

Privately, however, Neman told Case he didn't like that comparison. The founders' vision was now far bigger than that--they imagined the company's sustainable supply chain model could revolutionize the whole world of quick-service food. Ultimately, Case and Neman--who can be indulgent with his brand comparisons--agreed to refer to the company in the future as the "Starbucks of healthy options".

By the fall of , stores were profitable, and the company had 3, employees and a supply chain capable of distributing 67, pounds of organic mesclun, arugula, and spinach every month. The growth had come with some pain--in its rush to expand, Sweetgreen had run afoul of employment regulations and missed bad actions by store managers. Between and , Sweetgreen was sued by its own employees at least three times, with allegations including pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment, and violations of overtime and break regulations.

With discipline, Sweetgreen could soon get on track for an IPO, its operators assured the founders. They also collect a fruit that falls to the ground from tall trees. The inside is kind of chalky and dry. To make it easier to eat, the Hadza pound it into a powder, and sometimes add water to make a sort of smoothie. This is a kind of food processing—but very minimal. While the women and children gather plant foods, the men go out hunting for meat, and searching for honey. Alyssa Crittenden: Honey is the number one ranked Hadza food.

Foragers will go to incredible lengths in order to access honey. Then I cut into the hive and get the honey. Michael Pollan: Imagine if we had to climb a tree every time we wanted a sugar fix from a Coke.

How to Save the World with Salad Dressing

Mahia Shandalua: When we get a large animal, we will skin it, we will start cutting it up. We will roast certain parts right there and eat. Michael Pollan: On days when the Hadza kill a big animal, they eat lots of protein and fat. On other days, they might have mostly sugar or starch. I think that has something to teach us. Michael Pollan on stage: We are at a fork in the road when it comes to food. We have two options. One, surrender to the Western diet, stay on processed food, and junk food, and fast food, and wait for evolution to adapt us to it. It will happen eventually.

It should happen eventually. But there will be so much suffering. Vegetables and fruits. Eat food. Which is to say, eat real food. I call it edible food-like substances. The Western Diet is in the center aisles. Go to the produce section. The healthiest food in the store is in the produce section.

And there are no health claims. You go to the middle of the store where the food is just screaming about its whole grain goodness and there are cereals that are going to like save you from heart attacks. Why is that? The quieter the food likely the healthier the food. Michael Pollan: Saying that we should eat food may sound obvious. But these days, much of the food industry is built on a different idea: that what really matters is eating the right nutrients. Nutrition is one thing. Nutrition science is a science, but nutritionism is an ideology. Michael Pollan on stage: The big premise of nutritionism is that the most important thing about any food are the nutrients it contains, right?

A food is the sum of its nutrient parts, which is basically how science studies food. So take an apple, or take carrots. So that seems kind of, okay, no big deal. But if you accept that idea, that the important thing about a food are the nutrients it contains, you suddenly find yourself dragged along to tenet number two of nutritionism.

And that is the idea that since nutrients are invisible, then it falls to experts to tell us how to eat. And so we have a priesthood that consists of doctors, who we consult about food, and various experts, and writers of books on nutrition and nutrition scientists of all kinds. And we defer to them. Like most ideologies, nutritionism divides the world into good and evil. So that, in the nutrition area, there is always a group of blessed nutrients and a group of evil nutrients. Michael Pollan on stage: Omega-3s, yes.

So those are the blessed nutrients. And on the other side, there is always the evil nutrients we are trying to drive from the food supply. Saturated fat. High fructose corn syrup. Sugar in general. Evil nutrients.

Michael Pollan: You go back to the turn of the last century, around , there was an ideology then that the great evil nutrient was protein. The best-known critic of protein was Doctor John Harvey Kellogg——a member of a Christian denomination called the Seventh-Day Adventists, that promoted vegetarianism. People flocked to his sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, to be cured of the gastrointestinal curse of the day. And constipation was, like, an obsession. Everyone was obsessed with constipation. Michael Pollan: Which Kellogg claimed was caused by bacteria in our colon that thrive on the protein in a meat-heavy diet.

They thought that it released toxins in your gut as it fermented and, and that would lead to cancer and all sorts of things.

Good enough to eat? The toxic truth about modern food | Books | The Guardian

And people did the most insane things under the direction of this pseudo-science. I mean go on all-grape diets for a day and eat 14 pounds of grapes and nothing else. Take yogurt enemas. And you were supposed to chew every bite a hundred times.


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Kellogg asked his brother Will to perform experiments to design healthier foods. They really wanted to dethrone protein, which was the morning meal. Eggs and bacon and sausage. And they thought that carbohydrates were the clean, blessed nutrient. One day in , the brothers stumbled on a discovery they hoped would transform the American breakfast: the flaked cereal—made mostly of carbohydrates. First came wheat flakes. And then Will invented the corn flake——so wildly successful it would make him wealthy. You know, we look back on that and we think this is complete quackery.

Well, I hate to say it, but someone will look back on us in a hundred years, and say much the same thing for a lot of our own nutritional practices. We look at gluten the way they looked at protein. You know, we have millions of Americans now working to remove gluten from their diet. Male announcer archival: Because so many women are concerned about too much saturated fat, a great change in eating habits is taking place in homes all over America.

Michael Pollan: The campaign to reduce fat in our diets is the best example yet of what can go wrong when the science of nutrition gets hijacked by the ideology of nutritionism.


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Woman in commercial archival: Health specialists recommend that children more than two years old begin eating a diet that is lower in fat. Michael Pollan: …when scientists began searching for the cause of what seemed to be a big increase in heart disease. Finding the reason why became an obsession for a Minnesota physiologist named Ancel Keys.

He and his wife Margaret, a biochemist, traveled the world studying heart disease. His studies in Naples made him think that that something was fat. Michael Pollan: Ancel and Margaret first visited Naples in They had heard that working class Neapolitans had less heart disease than their more comfortable neighbors. Sarah Tracy: Those who were more affluent loved their steaks. They loved their rich, creamy sauces. Now amongst the working classes, they were eating lots of pasta, lots of vegetables, lots of fresh fruits, but they were missing the fat that was so common on the dinner plates of the upper crust of Neapolitan society.

Michael Pollan: This sticky substance is something our bodies make and need. But scientists were finding that too much of it in the bloodstream clogged arteries. Sarah Tracy: Scientists could see cholesterol on the interior linings of arteries, especially the arteries of those people who suffered heart attacks. Michael Pollan: Keys and others found that your blood cholesterol level went up the more you ate a particular kind of fat.

Unidentified scientist archival: Saturated fat. Like palmitic acid, stearic acid. They are saturated with hydrogen. Michael Pollan: Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature. We get them most often from meat, milk, butter and cheese. Sarah Tracy: As he looked around the globe, Keys found that the more animal fat, red meat and dairy products, the more heart disease within the population. Michael Pollan: Keys was practicing a statistical kind of science called epidemiology.

He was looking through data about large numbers of people, trying to find patterns. Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, New York University: Epidemiology is very powerful in its way because it identifies trends and potential relationships. Michael Pollan: But based on the strong association Keys saw in his data between heart disease and saturated fat, he advised people to eat less of it.

George McGovern archival: There were some one million people who died in from heart disease…. Michael Pollan: They hear over and over again that animal fat is the problem. And they issue a set of guidelines called the Dietary Goals of the United States. The goals urged Americans to reduce fat to 30 per cent of the calories in their diets.

By eating less meat and less dairy. Because think about it. For the food industry, the mandate to reduce fat was an opportunity to sell new products—low in fat, perhaps, but often high in sugar. Sarah Tracy: The food industry could all of a sudden use low-fat or no-fat as a marketing strategy. Why not buy a highly processed, sugar-laden cookie that is fat-free? I could eat a million. I think I will. Michael Pollan: So the food industry re-engineers the f ood and if you look at it, fat as a proportion of calories in the diet goes down, which sounds really good.

But in fact what happened is fat stayed level and we ate a lot more carbohydrates. And that meant more calories. So we were kidding ourselves, and the industry was helping to let us kid ourselves. Michael Pollan: Prodded by health experts, the industry also encouraged us to switch from butter to margarine.

Michael Pollan: Margarine is made from vegetable oils. They contain polyunsaturated fats, which were touted as blessed nutrients, because some of them can lower cholesterol. But to make vegetable oil hard enough to spread, you have to hydrogenate it. That means injecting hydrogen gas into the oil under controlled temperature and pressure. A process that changes some of the polyunsaturates into a kind of fat called trans fat.

Margarine and other vegetable oil products with trans fat were cheaper than butter, and stayed fresh longer. They became popular in baked goods, deep-frying, and all kinds of processed foods. For decades, we were told they were healthy alternatives to foods with saturated fats. But in the s, scientists discovered that trans fats were in fact not very healthy at all. Although lower in saturated fat. As it turns out people who had more trans fat in their diet had higher rates of heart disease and diabetes. Those margarines were about the worst things that people could be eating.

Now fat is an essential ingredient. You will die without certain fatty acids soIyou need some fat. Essentially, to read this article is to see the entire scientific edifice around the low-fat campaign crumble before your eyes. They reported that replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat did lower the risk of heart disease.

But they noted that while a significant association between saturated fat and heart disease was found in two studies, it was not found in seven others. And they pointed out that as people replaced fat with carbohydrates and sugar, the prevalence of obesity and diabetes grew dramatically. This was a tremendous public health mistake. And that mistake was getting so obsessed with a single nutrient. Cut out the fat. So of course people are confused. Michael Pollan: Scientists now understand that a healthy diet has to do with a lot more than one kind of food or nutrient.

That is, the combination of foods that is the most important determinant of health. We should talk about food. Probably some canned vegetables, rice, sugar, bread, cheese and processed meat. People make decisions based on what they can afford. And sadly, what they can afford, often, is cheap food. Things that will enable you to stretch your dollar as far as possible. Michael Pollan: But all over the country, including here in the South Bronx, people are finding ingenious ways to get real food.

Stephen Ritz in scene: Malik found a home. One for you. Do we want to take all the leaves off the plants? Stephen Ritz in scene: No. Michael Pollan: Teacher Steve Ritz runs a network of food projects——which includes this hydroponic vegetable garden. Stephen Ritz: What we found is that when you give people in low-income areas the opportunity to grow food, they respond resiliently.

Michael Pollan: Ritz got his start growing food back in He had become tired of seeing his students grow fat and become diabetic. With fresh vegetables hard to find in the Bronx, he and his kids got access to a vacant lot——and started growing their own. Stephen Ritz: We were able to transform this space from something that was a blighted area into something that was a productive area, and that made the kids feel good. It made me feel great. Michael Pollan: Ritz now has kids growing vegetables all over the Bronx. Bill Peacock in scene: All right listen up.

This is only their fourth day in the kitchen. All right. Michael Pollan: Ritz learned that JVL Wildcat Academy, a school that gives kids second chances, had a restaurant kitchen and was training kids to become professional cooks. All right? Stephen Ritz: I saw a great commercial kitchen that has kids from troubled backgrounds learning how to cook and be engaged in the food service industry. Michael Pollan: So the basil they grow in the garden goes right into the pesto they make in the kitchen.

And seeing these things actually growing. Makes a big difference. All right, listen up. We are coming towards time to eat. Now everybody is going to cook their own plate of pasta. Have fun. There you go. Bill Peacock: The salad was a big winner today, which was surprising because these kids have never eaten anything like this.

Never knew that a green can have a peppery flavor. Never knew that a green could have a soft, subtle flavor. Very nice. All right, grab your salad, get yourself an iced tea and enjoy your meal. Bill Peacock: The fact that all those kids shoved that lettuce in their mouth today was only because they grew that lettuce.

Stephen Ritz: If you expose people to locally grown, healthy food, they tend to like it. They really do. Michael Pollan: But the big food companies, of course, still provide most of the food people eat. Colin Garner, Rice Bran Technologies: The IFT brings together all manner of companies, from the small to the medium to the huge multi-billion dollar corporations. If you want something fresh you could go to the bottom of the garden. Michael Pollan: People from companies like Kraft and General Mills come here to see what food scientists are developing for tomorrow.

Or gluten-free pizza, whose crust has no wheat, and is made instead from a byproduct of cheesemaking called whey. Polly Olson, Davisco Foods: The gluten-free industry has gone crazy. It tastes like the real pizza crust that would have wheat in it. Adam Waehner, Cargill: The theme of our exhibit this year is around childhood nutrition. We understand, or, recognize that obesity is a concern in the United States and that more and more people are looking for more healthful alternatives to the food choices.

The company is showing how some of these ingredients could be used to take advantage of the growing interest in healthier eating. You get three grams of fiber per serving. Next, we have a chewy chocolate chip granola bar. This contains whole grain corn so you can get some added fiber there as well. But when it comes to health, the claims manufacturers use to sell their products are frequently confusing, if not deceptive. Michael Pollan on stage: A trip to the supermarket has become kind of a journey through a treacherous landscape.

I mean, what are we to make of a product like Splenda with fiber? So it allows you to have this amazing thing, never before tasted in the history of mankind, which is high-fiber coffee. They were advertising these products as helping everything from, uh, your heart to your prostate, to—and I kid you not—erectile dysfunction, this drink right here. They got in a little hot water for that because they tested it. They—they performed these experiments on, rabbits. And some animal rights people got very upset. But the thing that struck me is, do rabbits have this problem?

You think about people trying to make good choices in the supermarket and finding themselves not losing weight, not improving their health, and you wonder why. Well, look at yogurt. We give it to our kids in huge amounts. This is Yoplait. This is one of the first of the very successful yogurt brands. Talk about a confused message.

Yoplait, Coca-Cola—obviously, this is the better choice, right? But if you look at how much sugar is in this, there is exactly the same amount of sugar in these two things. This is the latest sugar delivery system. And so we feel good about not giving our kids soda, but we give them this instead. How can you tell the difference between food and edible food-like substances?

And that part of my overall food guidance is in some ways the most controversial. Mostly plants. Why do I say mostly plants? Meat is healthy food. Humans have eaten meat for a very long time with great pleasure. Michael Pollan on stage: Every additional daily serving of vegetables and fruit reduces your risk of stroke by 5 percent and your risk of heart disease by 4 percent.

We only eat about between two and three portions of vegetables and fruit in this country. If we up that by just one more, that would save 30, lives and five billion dollars in healthcare costs. But we are going to police them away from our vegetables, right? Michael Pollan: At a day camp in Sunnyvale, California, Stanford scientist Christopher Gardner is exploring what it takes to get children to eat more vegetables.

What are the barriers? What are the things that get in the way? Is it a peer pressure thing? Is it really a taste thing? Is it familiarity? Asha in scene: So today we have garlic basil hummus and we also have lemon cucumbers, green beans and corn. You can try the raw veggies by themselves. You can dip them into the hummus. Michael Pollan: To make that jump easier, in the cooking assignment that culminates the week, the kids have been told to use three different vegetables to make…pizza.

Christopher Gardner : One of the main points of the camp is to get the kids connected with food. Erin Bird in scene: So yesterday we came up with a list. We have squash, peppers, kale, green beans, cucumber. Eggs is not considered a vegetable but it can be an additional topping to your pizza. I have cheese, a mixture, we cooked onions, peppers, and garlic together so I have that on my pizza. Michael Pollan: When people eat a plant-based diet their whole lives, the benefits are impressive. Here in Loma Linda, California, many people belong to the same religious denomination that the Kellogg brothers did: the Seventh-Day Adventists.

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Michael Pollan: Founded back in the nineteenth century, the church has always emphasized healthy living. Michael Pollan: Today, Adventists have the longest life expectancy of any group in the United States. Carol Nelson, 92 years old: We feel that our bodies are the temple of God. And we owe it to ourselves and to our community to keep up our health. Carol Nelson: We have at least two or three people who are a hundred years old here.

And they seem to get along very well. I walk 4 miles a day. I used to walk outside.

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But now I walk in the villa here. So I go back and forth 24 times in the morning. Michael Pollan: Almost all Adventists abstain from smoking and alcohol. And about fifty percent of them are vegetarians. Richard Nelson, 94 years old: I could say the same thing. Studies show that the more red meat you eat, the greater your risk of getting heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. And very consistently replacing red meat with other protein sources turns out to be related to lower risk of mortality from these diseases. Michael Pollan: In Cleveland, researchers have made a new finding that they think might explain some of the risks of red meat.

Stanley Hazen is a cardiologist. Stanley Hazen, M. So we tried to essentially reverse engineer, where did it come from? Michael Pollan: The answer pointed to red meat, which contains a substance called carnitine. Bacteria in our intestines feed on carnitine, and help turn it into TMAO. Hazen found that the more TMAO there is in our bloodstream, the more likely we are to develop heart disease. Michael Pollan: In mice, higher levels of TMAO made the sticky deposits of cholesterol called plaque more likely to form in their arteries.

If you have a low TMAO level, you end up having less plaque. Based on our findings, I have not stopped eating red meat but I have decreased the amount and also the frequency. So now instead of having it multiple times a week I try to have it at most one time a week. It could be the carnitine. Or the kind of iron in it. Or the saturated fat. Or the problem may simply be that meat crowds plants out of our diet. He and his wife Carmen, who both grew up in Adventist homes in Barcelona, follow a vegetarian diet.

Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Thomas M. Who said that physics has to be dull? In this rip-roaring science puzzle adventure, Byrne and Cassidy put the reader in the driving seat. Is a truck containing a bird lighter when the bird is flying or on a perch? Why does the stream from a tap get increasingly thinner?

Can you speed up light? Is time travel possible? Featuring a cast of odd-ball characters and a laugh-out Who said that physics has to be dull? Featuring a cast of odd-ball characters and a laugh-out-loud storyline, Byrne and Cassidy explain the basic principles of modern science and guide the reader in working out the rest. With thirty stimulating mindbenders of varying difficulty, including detailed clues and answers for each problem, How to Save the World with Salad Dressing is the perfect book for anyone with an interest in science or mathematics.

Thomas Byrne is a fledgling genius and professional puzzle writer. Thomas Cassidy is former teacher and Oxford University Physics graduate. He is married to a Texan and spends much of the year in Austin. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. More Details Friend Reviews.