Another year has come and gone, and so have a some of the hottest health food trends — or have they? What’s here to stay and what’s run its course?
Here, I share my roundup of the year’s top trending health foods and make predictions for what’s to come in 2017.
Some might say this food trend has been overdone, but I’d say it’s been a matcha made in heaven (sorry, I can’t help it, food puns and nutritionist are a natural fit). For thousands of years, matcha has been used by Buddhist monks to increase their concentration and focus during meditation. So, imagine the benefits that the average individual could obtain by consuming matcha on the regular.
Matcha is rich in L-theanine, which can reduce stress, help the brain relax, and increase mental focus. Unlike caffeine found in other substances, such as coffee, L-theanine provides focus and energy, while helping the body prevent burning out. In this way, matcha has quickly become a go-to for those with busy schedules, to keep them fuelled and energized all day long.
This green tea powder is also rich in antioxidants, which can help to protect against free radical damage and have shown to promote fat-burning. It’s great for at the office, while studying, or pre-workout. Perhaps more commonly consumed as the tea on its own or in latte form, matcha also made appearances this year in smoothies and in updated baked goods.
Traditionally a salad of lightly soy-cured raw tuna with vegetables dressed with sesame seeds, scallions, and ginger — all atop a bed of sushi rice — poke (pronounced po-kay) entered the mainstream this year, and it did so with a bang! Perhaps most praised for its versatility (you can literally add any toppings to a poke bowl) and its generally nutrient-rich profile (it’s high in omega-3s and low in cholesterol), this Hawaiian dish with Japanese influences first made an impact as dished out by local food trucks.
Today, the trend has really caught on and more stand-alone eateries are serving up their own variations of this healthy and delicious street food. Expect to see more variations of poke bowls in the new year, like vegetarian tofu poke or this beet alternative.
Fact: According to the Google Food Trends report, turmeric was the #1 searched food trend in 2016. And, this should really come as no surprise, since this ancient spice commonly found in Asian cuisine boasts some of the most powerful health benefits. The most popular use of turmeric this year was perhaps as part of the many golden milk recipes gracing the pages of every healthy food blogger’s website, but it also made appearances in smoothies, salad dressings, and sprinkled on roasted root vegetables.
Curcumin, the active component of turmeric, which gives this hearty root its vibrant yellow pigment, has shown significant anti-inflammatory benefits in multiple studies. These anti-inflammatory effects have shown to improve and even reverse the effects of rheumatoid arthritis, as well as inhibit tumour growth.
Whether you’re including this superfood as part of a soup, stew, or even a tea, be sure to include black pepper, as this increases the bioavailability of the curcumin, making it more easily absorbed for use in the body.
Detoxification, better digestion, increased energy, and improved metabolism: These are just a few of the many health benefits of kombucha, the fermented tea beverage taking the health food world by storm. Kombucha is becoming increasingly popular and this year, more bottles were brewed and kegs were tapped.
This fizzy, much healthier alternative to soda made appearances in cocktail recipes and even more exciting, as a great alternative to those who don’t consume alcoholic beverages. Except unlike the typical happy hour cocktail, this spritzer will leave you full of beneficial bacteria and enzymes that can promote healthy digestion, increase energy, and even rev up metabolism. And, with more and more people making their own kombucha at home, it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing even more DIY fermented products. I’m seeing a lot more ferments in 2017! Or maybe that’s just because I’ve got a kitchen full of sauerkraut and kombucha in the making.
Okay, it’s really “avocado anything and everything” — avocado smoothies, avocado pudding, avocados mashed into a pulp and calling it guacamole — but that avocado toast? Never mind only savouring this fat-fuelling breakfast at home; many restaurants got on the avocado toast train this year and they don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. And, quite frankly, I’m okay with that.
Also Read: 11 Quick And Easy Avocado Recipes
Aside from being absolutely delicious, avocados are loaded with heart-healthy fats and fibre. They also contain more potassium than a banana, and they’re packed full of B vitamins, which can help increase our energy and are important in supporting good adrenal health. Basically, the healthy fats and vitamin-B composition of avocados make them key for helping to reduce stress. Avocados also contain vitamins C, E, and K, which together can help boost immunity, fight off free radicals, rev up metabolism, and promote healthy skin, hair, and nails. Which reminds me, let’s not forget the use of avocados in DIY face mask recipes and as a deep conditioning treatment for your hair.
Moringa is one of the newer, more obscure trending foods of the year, but has quickly risen to the top thanks to its rich nutrient profile. Perhaps best known for containing powerful antioxidants that can protect against free radical damage and even help to prevent cellular breakdown, moringa is also a great energy enhancer (as well as libido booster!).
Moringa can help to ease inflammation in the body, and it is also anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, and wound healing. This super plant is most commonly found in powder form, which is is why this year it was found thrown into smoothies or as part of the increasingly popular immunity-boosting morning elixirs and plant-based lattes.
Did you know that mushrooms can help to strengthen the immune system and protect against bacteria, viruses, and even some cancers? Despite their otherwise lacklustre appearance, mushrooms are actually high in antioxidants, which is probably why they were popping up everywhere this past year, particularly in more supplemental form (such as powders and tinctures). They’re also an excellent source of B vitamins, which the body needs to convert glucose into energy, and can therefore increase our metabolic rate/metabolism.
Cooking mushrooms helps to break down their nutritional constituents, making them more bioavailable for nutrient absorption. And, mushrooms are catching on. In fact, foraging for one’s own mushrooms is an activity that I only see becoming more popular in the new year, especially since celebrities are already taking flight with this exciting hobby.
Are you seeing a trend within this list of trends? Perhaps, “traditional” foods, a.k.a., foods prepared and consumed by our ancestors? Well, this one is no different. Bone broth, as it is becoming popularized, is centuries old and as many foodies would argue, is merely glorified stock. Whatever you want to call it, though, bone broth has quickly become a revered health food thanks to its incredibly rich mineral content.
Bone broth contains compounds that support and help to maintain the integrity of cartilage within the body. Plus, bone broth has high electrolyte content, including calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Collagen, however, is perhaps the most well known component of bone broth, as it helps to form connective tissue in the body and can actually help heal the digestive tract and improve nutrient absorption. So, call it what you will, but with its numerous health benefits, bone broth is here to stay.
Though activated charcoal first appeared on the health and wellness scene some time ago, it really made an impact this past year, as we found it in everything, from smoothies and juices to face masks and teeth whitening treatments. So, what is it about this pitch-black powder that makes it so worthy of mention? Activated charcoal is considered “activated” due to its negative charge, which means that it presumably has the capacity to bind to positively charged ions (ie. toxins) and remove from the body. Whether ingested or used topically, activated charcoal is one of the most powerful substances that can draw toxins from the body. In this regard, it is important that any use of activated charcoal is done under the supervision of someone who really understands the effects of this substance.
So, while we may continue to see this detoxifying substance in food and beauty products — and although many of these products likely don’t contain a particularly high amount of activated charcoal — do your research and make sure that the dosage is safe for your individual use.
To say that smoothie bowls were one of the top health food trends of 2016 would be an understatement. These bad boys dominated every foodie’s social media feed, and those are just the ones I follow! I think the whole “world domination by smoothie bowls” started with the acai bowl trend, then followed banana ice cream (or “nice cream,” as the Instagrammers called it, and which many would argue isn’t ice cream at all). Shortly thereafter, all different kinds of smoothie bowls started popping up out of nowhere. Now, smoothie bowls have become one of the easiest — and day I say, prettiest — health food trends to whip up in the kitchen in no time at all (and snap a photo that’s entirely Instagram-worthy before chowing down).
Also Read: 5 Skinny Ingredients For Your Next Smoothie
So, what do we have to look forward to for health food trends in 2017? Well, I think more energizing morning elixirs and calming nighttime tonics are in order. A spin off from the past year’s bone broth, collagen will be sneaking its way into other recipes and food products. Ultimately, I think there will be a lot more focus on “functional foods,” defined as foods that have increased nutritional benefits, often combatting and even overcoming illness and diseases. Think: more nutrient-dense superfoods and even more mainstream education and awareness surrounding them.
The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, Michael Murray, ND
Eat Dirt, Dr. Josh Axe