The Changing Vocabulary of Food

By Kate Prengaman

Sometimes, it feels like there is too much advice for healthy eating. Health food fads like gluten free, or low sugar, or whole grain or eating only local, seasonal food have all become pretty popular recently.  Fads like low fat and no carbohydrate diets seem to be fading out in the enthusiasm for the new trends.  I recently discovered Google’s ngrams viewer, a tool that you can use to view the frequency of word use in a large subset of all of the books published every year. Search for a specific word that represents a cultural idea, like “low fat diet” and you can use the graph of it’s frequency to know when it became a popular.  I wrote a larger post about the science of the ngram tool, you can read it here.

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How “good” is garlic?

By Emily Eggleston

Tis the season of new year resolutions. Health supplements, gym memberships, and cross trainers are probably flying off the shelves as I type. Thus it is also the season to be wary of hype, particularly regarding dietary claims. This is the perfect opportunity to bring up my fragrant friend, garlic. There is a wide range of positive health claims associated with eating garlic. People have ventured that garlic might help with everything from controlling acne to fighting cancer. The laundry list of garlic health claims includes: suppressing tumor growth, promoting cardiovascular health, reducing LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and thinning blood. Many garlic advocates mention in one way or another that garlic has a very long history of culinary and medicinal use, seemingly justifying their health claims with the fact that garlic has been eaten for thousands of years. Some garlic promotion can get a bit, er, sensational. For instance one website suggests that garlic is “possibly the number one healing plant known to Man.” Here’s what a few scientists have to say about garlic:

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