WTF Fun Fact 13269 – Eating Healthy is Hard

On some level, eating “healthy” is pretty straightforward. We all know that fruits and vegetables are good for us and processed food is bad. And for the most part, we own our decisions, even when we don’t like the outcome. But when you dig a little deeper, eating healthy is hard – really hard. Especially since “healthy” food guidelines change and quality food options aren’t readily available or affordable to everyone.

So maybe it’s not such a surprise that 52% of Americans surveyed in the 2012 “Food & Health Survey: Consumer Attitudes toward Food Safety, Nutrition & Health” found that doing taxes seemed easier than figuring out how to eat healthily.

Why healthy eating is hard

The 2012 study is over 10 years old now, we’ll grant you that. But if anything, nutrition is even more confusing these days with new studies coming out every week to tell us that what we were told was good for us a few years ago (a glass of wine, anyone?) is not slowly killing us.

The poll was commissioned by the International Food Information Council Foundation. It was conducted during the month of April with 1,057 American subjects ages 18 to 80 who were polled online. They were asked about “their health, diet, influences on food selection, and related knowledge and beliefs.”

People showed a large amount of confusion over healthy eating in general, most of which traces to the shortcomings of the food industry. The bit about taxes comes from a specific question:

Which do you think is harder to do well?
1) Figuring out how to do your own taxes – 48%
2) Figuring out what you should and shouldn’t eat to be healthier – 52%

People who said taxes were less confusing were more likely to be men (55%), those without a college degree (56%), those whose BMI put them in the overweight or obese range (60%), and those who had heart disease or high cholesterol (59%), or high blood pressure (57%).

Other interesting findings included:
– Americans believe their physical activity and sleep have more of an impact on their health than their diet.
– Half of Americans feel that enjoying their food is more important than worrying about what’s in it.
– Only 20% weren’t trying to do anything to change their weight.
– Only about one in seven Americans correctly estimate the number of calories they need to maintain their weight.

Let’s face it, the nutrition landscape is hard to navigate!

The latest American food survey

The 2022 survey is a bit different. More consumers than ever are trying to decipher food labels. And while more consumers than ever are concerned about the environmental impact their food has, it still doesn’t always translate to eating healthier.

Food choices aren’t just about knowledge. We also make them based on availability, price, emotion, and other values.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Americans Find Doing Their Own Taxes Simpler than Improving Diet and Health” (pdf) — Food Insight

WTF Fun Fact 13265 – Loud Music in Restaurants

Have you ever noticed loud music in restaurants during prime dinner or drink hours or on popular nights for socializing? Well, there’s a reason for that. Loud music makes us eat and drink more and do it faster.

Why is there such loud music in restaurants?

Restaurants often play music that is louder and faster-paced during peak hours, such as Friday and Saturday nights. This is done to create a sense of energy and excitement, which can lead diners to eat faster and order more food and drinks.

Studies have shown that loud music can increase consumption by up to 25%.

One study from France (cited below, from EurekAlert) showed how it works:

“Researchers discretely visited two bars for three Saturday evenings in a medium-size city located in the west of France. The study subjects, 40 males 18 to 25 years of age, were unaware that they were being observed; only those who ordered a glass of draft beer (25 cl. or 8 oz.) were included. With permission from the bar owners, observers would randomly manipulate the sound levels (either 72 dB, considered normal, or 88 dB, considered high) of the music in the bar (Top 40 songs) before choosing a participant. After the observed participant left the bar, sound levels were again randomly selected and a new participant was chosen.

Results showed that high sound levels led to increased drinking, within a decreased amount of time.”

Creating ambiance

Restaurants use a variety of strategies to create a certain ambiance and atmosphere for their customers. Music is one of the most effective tools they have. While music can certainly enhance the dining experience by creating a mood or setting a tone, it can also have a subconscious impact on how much and how quickly we eat.

For example, one study found that diners who were exposed to loud, fast-paced music ate their meals more quickly. They also drank more than those who listened to slower, softer music or no music at all. Another study found that diners who were exposed to music with a tempo of 130 beats per minute (the same tempo as many popular dance songs) consumed more food and drinks. People consumed less when they listened to music with a slower tempo.

This effect is not just limited to music. Other environmental factors such as lighting, decor, and the color of the plates and walls can influence our eating habits. People tend to eat less when they are in a relaxing environment with dim light and muted colors.

So next time you’re dining out on a busy night, be aware of the music. It might be influencing your eating habits more than you realize!

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Loud music can make you drink more, in less time, in a bar” — EurekAlert

WTF Fun Fact 13262 – National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day

March 1 is National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day in the United States. This day is dedicated to celebrating the delicious and versatile spread that can be used in a variety of sweet and savory dishes.

What is National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day?

National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day is a day dedicated to celebrating one of the most beloved spreads in the world. Peanut butter was first introduced in the US in the late 1800s. Since then, it has become a staple in many households and a favorite with chocolate on by the spoonful alike.

On this “holiday,” people around the country celebrate by enjoying their favorite peanut butter treats. Some people might make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, while others might bake peanut butter cookies or whip up a batch of peanut butter pancakes. Many restaurants and bakeries also offer special deals and discounts on peanut butter treats on this day.

The history of PB

Peanut butter dates back over 120 years. The first patent for peanut butter was granted in 1884 to a Canadian man named Marcellus Gilmore Edson. Edson developed a process for milling roasted peanuts until they became a paste. However, peanut butter did not become widely popular until the turn of the 20th century when several inventors, including Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, developed commercial machines for making peanut butter.

One of the key figures in the history of peanut butter was George Washington Carver. The American botanist and inventor was born into slavery in the mid-19th century. Many credit Carver with developing new uses for peanuts, including peanut butter, and promoting the crop as an alternative to cotton for farmers in the southern United States.

During World War II, peanut butter became an important food item for soldiers, as it was high in protein, easy to transport, and did not spoil easily. The popularity of peanut butter continued to grow throughout the 20th century. Today, it is one of the most popular spreads in the world.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Looking For a Reason to Party? There’s a (Peanut) Day for That!” — National Peanut Board

WTF Fun Fact 13259 – The Haribo Gummy Exchange

Are we alone in mistakenly thinking Haribo was a Japanese candy company? Well, in any case, Haribo is a German company, founded in Bonn over a century ago. They have a fun annual tradition at their German headquarters, allowing children to bring in acorns and chestnuts once a year and exchange them for gummy bears, or gummibärchen (which are actually labeled “Goldbears” – another thing we failed to ever notice). The Haribo gummy exchange has been going on since 1936.

What is the Haribo gummy exchange?

Haribo will hold its 80th+ gummy exchange this year (2023) at its facility in Grafschaft, Germany. (It would be its 87th year, but Haribo canceled the exchange at least once during the COVID pandemic). Over a weekend in October, kids (and adults, it appears) can bring in all the acorns and chestnuts they can gather and get candy in return. People come from all around the area with wagons and laundry bags and baskets full of nuts, which Heribo employees weigh on “golden gummy bear scales.”

People wait for hours to make their exchanges. In 2009, over 20,000 people showed up – a record. That year, they collected 150 tons (about 300,000 pounds!) of acorns and 260 tons of chestnuts. Dozens of Haribo employees supervise the festivities which culminate in the final weighing of the nuts.

What happens to the nuts?

While there may be a few cavities as a result, the gummy exchange is for a good cause. According to (a translation of) Germany’s General Anzeiger news publication:

“The fruits of the forest are weighed and then exchanged for pre-packaged Haribo products at a ratio of 10:1 (chestnuts) and 5:1 (acorns) according to the number of kilograms. Only chestnuts and acorns without shells will be accepted, the company said. The chestnuts must be separated from the acorns for weighing. The chestnuts and acorns are then donated to animal and game parks in Germany and Austria for feeding during the winter season.”

Clearly, there’s a bit of work to do before kids can cash in and get their gummy candies.

In some years, lines of nearly half a mile have formed for the event!

In the past, Haribo held the event at the company headquarters in Bonn. But they relocated to Grafschaft in 2018.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Haribo to hold its annual exchange: chestnuts for sweets” — General Anzeiger Online

WTF Fun Fact 13254 – Eating Herring on Ash Wednesday

Did you know this random historical fact about Mardi Gras week? One of its many traditions is eating herring on Ash Wednesday!

Why do people eat herring on Ash Wednesday?

In some countries, it is traditional to eat herring or other salty fish on Ash Wednesday. Some believe the salt helps absorb the alcohol consumed on Mardi Gras, the day before Ash Wednesday.

The tradition is particularly popular in Germany and other European countries. There, they believe that eating herring can help to prevent a hangover.

However, there is little scientific evidence to support this claim. It remains unclear how effective eating herring actually is in preventing a hangover. Nonetheless, the tradition persists as a quirky and amusing part of Ash Wednesday in some parts of the world.

Other random traditions

In addition to the tradition of eating herring or other salty fish on Ash Wednesday, there are other quirky traditions from around the world.

In some parts of England, it is traditional to eat pancakes on the day before Ash Wednesday. It’s actually known as Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day. Historians believe this tradition originated as a way to use up rich ingredients like eggs, butter, and sugar before the fasting period of Lent began.

In Germany, it is traditional to burn old branches or tree trunks on Ash Wednesday. Germans call this custom “Strohfeuer,” which translates to “straw fire.” Burning old branches is meant to symbolize the burning away of sins and a new, fresh start.

In some parts of the Philippines, it is traditional to attend a “Pabasa.” This is a 24-hour recitation of the passion of Christ. The Pabasa is often held in a private home or chapel and is accompanied by singing and other forms of devotion.

What is Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day. It marks the start of the season of Lent, which culminates in the celebration of Easter. It falls on the first day of Lent, which is always a Wednesday, and is observed by many Christian denominations, including Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, and Methodists.

The name “Ash Wednesday” comes from the practice of marking the foreheads of worshipers with ashes. People make the ashes by burning the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. They are a symbolic reminder of the mortality of human beings and the need for repentance and forgiveness.

Ash Wednesday and Carnival traditions that culminate in Mardi Gras have always been linked. These mark the end of the revelry and the beginning of the penitential season of Lent.

Ash Wednesday and the traditions of Carnival and Lent evolved together over time. The earliest references to the observance of Ash Wednesday date back to the 8th century. In fact, we can trace the roots of Carnival back to ancient Roman festivals celebrating the coming of spring. Over time, these two traditions became intertwined and evolved into the celebrations we know today.  WTF fun facts

Source: “‘Haringhappen’: the Dutch tradition of eating raw herring” — Aronson Delftware

WTF Fun Fact 13238 – Coffee Not the Second Most Traded Commodity

Sometimes the “fun fact” is that an often-repeated piece of information is just not true. For example, you’ll see plenty of otherwise reputable sources state that coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world behind oil. But it’s not. Not even close.

Why do we think coffee is the second most traded commodity?

Well, in short, we think coffee is the second most traded commodity (after oil) because it’s been published as fact so many times. Representatives from Starbucks even reported it to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Coffee is incredibly important, however.

The website Perfect Grind Daily looked into the truth behind trade and found that “coffee is neither the world’s second-most traded product nor the world’s second-most traded commodity.”

“According to MIT’s Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC)coffee is the world’s 98th most-traded product. Green coffee comes in at 114, while roasted coffee ranks 301st. (All data appears to be from 2015.) Sure, we’re talking about products here. But there are plenty of commodities above coffee in this list: oils, metals, crops…”

They even found that “coffee isn’t even the world’s second-most traded agricultural product. That would be wheat, at position 70, after soybeans at number 54.”

The data isn’t there

Plenty of people have tried to explain and justify the claim, but the evidence just isn’t there, even if you look at future contracts.

However, it may be the case that coffee was once the second most traded product or commodity from a specific country or region (likely Latin America) at some point in the past, but it’s unclear which one and if the math works out by volume or by value.

If it is indeed true for Latin America, the data would be old anyway. You’d have to go back to the 1970s for coffee to potentially come in second place.

According to Politifact, some people have tried to set the record straight.

“Science writer Mark Pendergrast included the errant claim in his 1999 book Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World. Ten years later, he wrote a correction (and fixed the error in the second edition).”

Pendergrast isn’t the only person to admit he was wrong or try to later debunk the myth. However, it’s a fun fact to throw out there. And once you say something catchy, it has a way of taking on a life of its own.

No matter how much people try to correct themselves, the myth lives on. But now you know the truth.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Coffee Isn’t World’s 2nd-Most Traded Commodity (But It’s Important)” — Perfect Daily Grind

WTF Fun Fact 13217 – The Origin of the Taco

The exact origin of the taco is unknown, but we do have a best guess. What might surprise you is that tacos are a relatively new creation.

The first recorded reference to the word ‘taco’ was in the early 19th century in Mexico. The word “taco” is derived from the Nahuatl (Aztec) language, and has multiple meanings. It can be used to refer to a plug, a wedge, a tool, or to wrap something. The first taco was likely a soft corn tortilla filled with beans, chiles and tomatoes.

Studying the origin of the taco

Believe it or not, there is a taco expert. Granted, many of us consider ourselves expert taco eaters, but Jeffrey M. Pilcher, professor of history at the University of Minnesota, has actually studied the origin of the taco for 20 years.

According to Smithsonian Magazine (cited below), “he has investigated the history, politics, and evolution of Mexican food, including how Mexican silver miners likely invented the taco, how Mexican Americans in the Southwest reinvented it, and how businessman Glen Bell mass-marketed it to Anglo palates via the crunchy Taco Bell shell.”

In case you didn’t catch that, Taco Bell is the creation of a guy named Glen Bell.

Pilcher is the author of an entire book on tacos called Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food (Oxford University Press). He also edited The Oxford Handbook of Food History and wrote The Sausage Rebellion: Public Health, Private Enterprise, and Meat in Mexico City, 1890-1917, and Que vivan los tamales! Food and the Making of Mexican Identity.

How did today’s taco come to be?

The term taco made its way to the United States in the late 1800s, when the popularity of Mexican cuisine began to rise. At first, the term was used to refer to the food item itself – the taco – but, in the early 1900s, it began to also be used as a descriptor for other foods, such as burritos, enchiladas, and tostadas.

Taco quickly grew to become an integral part of American culture. Americans embraced the taco as their own, adding their own unique ingredients and flavors, such as beef, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese.

Pilcher notes:

“The first mention that I have seen [in the U.S.] is in 1905, in a newspaper. That’s a time when Mexican migrants are starting to come—working the mines and railroads and other such jobs. In the United States, Mexican food was seen as street food, lower-class food. It was associated with a group of women called the Chili Queens and with tamale pushcarts in Los Angeles. The Chili Queens of San Antonio were street vendors who earned a little extra money by selling food during festivals. When tourists started arriving in the 1880s with the railroad, these occasional sales started to become a nightly event.”

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Where Did the Taco Come From?” — Smithsonian Magazine

WTF Fun Fact 13204 – Types of Cheese in the World

Believe it or not, there are over 1,800 types of cheese in the world. actually has a catalog of 1,830 cheeses you can search!

How can there be so many cheeses in the world?

There are so many types of cheese in the world because cheese-making is an ancient craft. Humans have been making cheese for thousands of years in many different cultures and regions. The process of making cheese is relatively simple. It only requires milk, cultures, rennet, and salt. But there are many variations on this basic recipe.

Different types of milk, cultures, rennet, aging, and processing methods result in a wide variety of textures and flavors.

Additionally, different regions have developed their own unique cheeses based on the availability of milk and the local culture and traditions. The use of different herbs, spices, and other ingredients also contributes to the diversity of cheese.

Additionally, the development of new technology and techniques in cheesemaking also allows cheese makers to experiment and create new types of cheese.

What are the different types of cheese?

We can make cheese from the milk of various animals, including cows, goats, sheep, and buffalo, and it comes in a wide variety of textures and flavors.

Some types of cheese, such as cheddar and gouda, can be aged for several years, which gives them a sharper flavor and a harder texture. Other types, such as feta and brie, are typically aged for a shorter period of time and have a softer texture and a milder flavor.

According to Wisconsin Cheese (cited below): “Many different types of cheese are named after or associated with the place they were first made. Parmesan cheese, for example, originates from the area around Parma, Italy. Gouda was first traded in the Dutch town of Gouda. And cheddar cheese originated in the English village of Cheddar in Somerset.”

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Different types of cheese” — Wisconsin Cheese

WTF Fun Fact 13202 – Almonds and Peaches Are Related

Almonds and peaches are two great things that go great together. In fact, we feel hungry just thinking about it (with some vanilla ice cream, perhaps). Anyway, it turns out that they’re not just tasty together, but almonds and peaches are related.

How are almonds and peaches related?

Almonds belong to the family Rosaceae, and the genus Prunus, which also includes other stone fruits such as plums, apricots, cherries, and nectarines. Peaches also belong to the family Rosaceae and the genus Prunus, but they are in a different subgenus and species.

The Rosaceae family is a large and diverse group of plants that includes many economically important fruit trees and shrubs. The family is characterized by having flowers with five petals, sepals, and numerous stamens.

So, almonds and peaches are related in the sense that they are both in the same family (Rosaceae). To top it off, they also belong to the same genus (Prunus).

Genetic relatives

While they are both healthy and delicious, the similarities between the two foods seem to end there. They certainly don’t look alike and one is classified as bitter while the other is sweet.

But according to CRAG News (cited below), which comes from the Centre for Research in Agricultural Genomics:

“The comparison of the genome of the ‘Texas’ almond tree variety…and the peach tree genome places the divergence of both species six million years ago. The results are consistent with the existing hypothesis that places the existence of a common ancestor of these Prunus species in the center of Asia and the subsequent separation of two populations that was brought about when the Himalayas massif was lifted. This geological phenomenon would have left both populations of Prunus exposed to totally different climates in which both species would evolve: the almond tree in the arid steppe of the center and west of Asia and the peach tree in the subtropical climates of the East, in the area that is now South China.”

In other words, these trees are now much more distinct from one another because they adapted to different climates. The genes that changed places on their chromosomes are known as “transposons.” They move around in order to help organisms adapt better to their environments (among other things).

 WTF fun facts

Source: “The sequence of the almond tree and peach tree genomes makes it possible to understand the differences of the fruits and seeds of these closely related species” — CRAG News