Enough with the apples!

RedAppleWhat is it about apples?  They’ve apparently been declared the official symbol of health.  Is there a health, diet or nutrition website that doesn’t have a cheery apple in the logo?  They’ve become a cliché.

Not that there’s anything wrong with apples.  They’re handy and widely available.  They make great pie.  It’s just that they’re pretty limited, nutritionally speaking.  As far as fruit goes, apples aren’t particularly high in any vitamins or minerals.  The main claim-to-fame is pectin, a soluble fiber popular in cholesterol-lowering diets.  Plenty of other foods are far more nutritious, so why don’t we see those everywhere?

  • Glass of milk: not as photogenic, plus milk is politically incorrect in certain circles
  • Whole grain bread: also politically incorrect thanks to gluten phobia
  • Orange: they tend to be more uniform in appearance, so not so visually interesting
  • Steak: a viable symbol for Paleo websites only
  • Tofu: no visual interest in a plain piece of tofu

Apples are recognizable and cute.  Plus everyone uses them in logos, so there’s a group-think effect.  Health symbol peer pressure.  If you don’t use an apple, people won’t understand what you’re about.

There’s another angle on this symbolism: the obsession with using fruit in general.  Even vegetables are ignored when it comes to logos and healthy symbols.  One possible explanation: fruit shapes are usually very simple and easily recognizable.  They come in bright colors.  Plus we’re bombarded with the message “Eat more fruits and vegetables”, so when we see a logo or website with fruit, we conclude we’re getting good health information.  It’s become a quick way for an author or website to scream signal “I’m about health!”  They may be about health, but they’re also not very original.

Here’s another annoying cliché: “The Skinny on Fat.”  This phrase was semi-clever the first time it was used, probably 30 years ago.  Now it’s not clever anymore.  Search the term and you get 36 million hits.  It’s been popping up again recently, thanks to the new US Dietary Guidelines, which have de-emphasized the role of fats as nutritional bad guys.  And like nutritional catnip, people can’t resist using that word “skinny”.  It conjures an image of someone who is fashionably svelte and — we conclude, perhaps inaccurately — healthy.

What better combination of healthy-ish phrases than “skinny apple”.  If you search it, you mostly come up with recipes, such as this important contribution to healthy eating: Skinny Caramel Apple Dip.  Great, you can insult douse your poor apple slices in sugary-sweet goo.  Now that’s what healthy eating is all about.  Not.

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