Nutrition and diet have never been so “hot.” It’s easy to get caught in the swell of enthusiasm, jumping onto every diet-trend bandwagon, from intermittent fasting to ketogenic diets. Elizabeth Somer, registered dietitian and author of numerous books, including Eat Your Way to Happiness. stopped by to let us know what can we expect this year when it comes to trends and which ones are worthy of our attention.
1. Every year has its own trends. Most of which seem to come and go. What is different this year?
What makes this year’s trends different are two themes: 1) an emphasis on the environment and 2) taking a good thing to the next level.
Trend #1: Fight Food Waste
More than 1.3 billion tons of food are tossed every year. With the environment on many people’s minds these days, this waste really needs to stop. To cut back on the amount of food you throw away, start planning your meals, shop from a list, and don’t impulse buy items you probably won’t eat. Also, scan your cupboards and donate unwanted or unused items, like canned goods, to the local food bank.
Trend #2: Plant-based diets
Plant-based eating patterns focus on foods such as fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. It doesn’t mean you are vegetarian or vegan who never eats meat or dairy. It means you are choosing most of your foods from plant sources.
Not only is this good for the planet, since it cuts down on carbon emissions, but these diets improve health. For example, The Mediterranean diet is founded on plant-based foods; it also includes small amounts of fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt, with meats and sweets even less often. This eating style, as well as vegetarian diets, has been shown in hundreds of studies to reduce the risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, certain cancers (specifically colon, breast, and prostate cancer), depression, and in older adults, a decreased risk of frailty, along with better mental and physical function.
Trend #3: Sustainability
As sustainability continues to be a main focus and concern, many people are turning to a more environmentally-friendly type of protein: grass-fed, pasture-raised, and organic. Over the past five years, U.S. sales of grass-fed beef increased from $17 million to $272, doubling every year. Even those leaning toward a plant-based eating plan, but want to include a little meat in their diets, may want to choose small portions of grass-fed beef, organic eggs, and more. At the same time, efforts to improve air pollution, support plant welfare, restore soil health and embrace regenerative agriculture will emerge as crucial elements of sustainability programs.
Free Range Eggs: There is no legal definition or standard for this term. The color of the yolk is affected more by the addition of marigold petals or alfalfa to the hen’s diet, not whether or not the hen saw sunlight. (Also called “free-roaming”)
Organic Eggs: These eggs are from hens fed organic feed, allowed access to the outdoors, and that live in a cage-free environment. No antibiotics were used, except during an infectious outbreak in the flock. There is no conclusive evidence that organic eggs are more nutritious.
Trend #4: An end to plastic in packaging?
As part of the sustainability movement, people are thinking differently about plastic. Experts predict that bio-based packaging materials will be a key element in the next generation of responsible packaging. This year, we should also see improved access to recycling and more incentives for people to recycle packaging.
Trend #5: Gut health
Microbiome is the new buzz word in the nutrition community. It reflects the community of microbes in a person’s intestines. Maintaining a healthy gut environment affects the circulatory, hormonal, immune, and even appetite systems, possibly lowering the risk for everything from heart disease, allergies, colds, and diabetes to food cravings and obesity.
Your microbiome is influenced by a wealth of factors, many within your control, including your diet, exercise, medication use, alcohol intake, as well as where you live, your pets, age, and gender. Probiotics, or healthy bacteria in some foods, such as yogurt and kefir, are a benefit to promoting a healthy microbiome. Skip the fruited and flavored varieties and make sure the label lists at least 5 different strains of bacteria. If all it says is “contains live cultures,” then put it back on the shelf.
Trend #6: Personalized supplements
While most people know they benefit from a daily multi vitamin and mineral to fill in the gaps on the days they don’t eat perfectly, finding a quality product is not easy. Most multis are designed as a one-size-fits-all and typically are poorly formulated using less-than-optimal forms of the vitamins or minerals.
Taking this trend to the next level is personalized supplements that tailor a supplement program to a person’s unique health needs. If it is a quality product, it will take into account a variety of factors from gender, age, physical and emotional health status to sleep patterns, medication usage, and activity level. Only top quality nutrients should be chosen that have high bioavailability and are supplied in the right amounts and ratios to each other. As a result, buyers can rest assured they are getting the highest quality nutrition for their health today and down the road.
Trend#7: Shake the Sugar - added sugar that is
Sugar has been on the hotseat for a few years now. This year, the pressure goes up a notch. There never has been a problem with natural sugars in real foods, such as whole fruit, carrots, or low-fat milk (except for diabetics). To clarify the issue, you will see a stronger emphasis on ADDED sugar this year.
According to the USDA and numerous national nutrition surveys, Americans are averaging about 28, and as much as 50, teaspoons of added sugar every day or 100 pounds or more every year for every man, woman, and child. At the least, that is 440 empty calories a day that few of us can afford to swallow.
Bottled sweetened beverages lead the troops as being the primary source of added sugar, averaging about 10 teaspoons per 12-ounce serving. It’s obvious that frosted flakes, soft drinks, and jelly beans have sugar. But pounds of sugar in American diets come from processed foods that aren’t even sweet, from canned chili, frozen turkey entrees, pizza, peanut butter, and bread to hot dogs, spaghetti sauce, baked beans, canned soups, and salad dressings. For example,
1.Weight Watchers Smart Ones Teriyaki Chicken and Vegetable Bowl has more than 3 teaspoons.
2.Simply Asia Pad Thai noodles has 7 teaspoons.
3.Pop Tarts have more than 8 teaspoons.
4.Yoplait Fruit Smoothie has more than 10 teaspoons.
5.General Mills Oatmeal Crisp cereal has 5 teaspoons and Kellogg Smart Start has more than 4 teaspoons (compare that to Cocoa Puffs, which has less than 3 teaspoons)
A goal this year is to start reading labels! Keep in mind that 4 grams of sugar equals a teaspoon. So, a label on a can of baked beans that says a serving contains 20 grams of sugar means 5 teaspoons!
Trend #8: Lutein
Lutein (and zeaxanthin) are compounds related to beta carotene that are found in dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale. These foods have been labeled “super foods” for some time, but we now know they do much more than just provide antioxidants.
These two compounds cross the blood-brain barrier and the blood-retina barrier to form macular pigment (MP) in the eye. There they act as internal sunglasses absorbing blue light, which otherwise would damage the macula and lead to ARMD. As little as 10 milligrams of lutein daily and 2 milligrams of zeaxanthin daily (the amount found in 1 /2 cup of cooked spinach) raises blood and ocular tissue levels of lutein and reduces the risk for vision loss. Even if vision problems develop, the disease is less likely to progress to advanced stages when lutein and zeaxanthin intakes are high. With cataracts and macular degeneration being the top two causes of vision loss in this country, you will once again see emphasis on greens this year.
Trend #9: CBD-infused foods
Cannabidiol (CBD) is an ingredient derived from the cannabis plant that is non-psychoactive, but is said to offer relief from pain, anxiety, and depression, while having anti-inflammatory properties. Last year it was spotted in tinctures and beauty products. This year, CBD will break into the food category, mostly in not-so-healthy hard candies, gummies, and soda. But, don’t be surprised if you see it in other items, such as salad dressings.
Trend #10+: A few trends aren’t worth the effort: Ketogenic snacks and Intermittent fasting
Ketogenic diets have been used for years to treat epilepsy in children. They show benefits in the short-term for weight loss and diabetes management, but they are difficult to stick to, which might explain why people almost always gain back the weight. They also are high in saturated fat, meat, and other foods known to increase the risk for heart disease, dementia, and cancer.
Intermittent fasting. Lots of studies on fat rats show that intermittent fasting works. The rats lose weight and their blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugars improve but they are rats, not humans. Studies in humans, show that intermittent fasting is safe and effective, but no more effective than any other diet. In other words, people lose weight initially. However, because many people find it difficult to fast, they eventually go off the eating plan and gain back the weight.