New food trends are continually hitting our grocery store shelves. In the past we may have noticed new food items while shopping that we had never heard of before. Now with social media, you don’t have to be in the grocery store to learn about all the new food trends because you are bombarded with it on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Things like chia seeds, quinoa, root beets, gluten free foods, bone broth and GMO free foods have been among the health food trends over the past few years. As I’m sure you have noticed, some of these food items are “in” for a while and we never hear of them again or they stick around for the long haul. 2016 was no different in the health food industry. Here are some of the health food trends we saw in 2016 and whether you should keep them around in 2017.
One of the most popular things to hit our Instagram feeds this year was avocado toast. What is it? Exactly what it sounds like. Take a sprouted grain or whole wheat toast and top it with either sliced or spread avocado. You can keep it this simple and basic or you can spruce it up with a ton of different toppings like eggs, vegetables, or even just a little bit of salt and pepper.
So is this trend a healthy food to add to our diets? This mix of healthy carbohydrates from the whole grains in the toast and healthy fat from the avocados can be a very filling and nutritious snack. One thing we learned this year is that not all fats are created equal and the spotlight has been put on those foods with the most star power, avocados being one of them. In addition to providing monounsaturated fats, which we have long known to be a heart healthy fat, avocados also are loaded with tons of fiber, vitamins, and minerals such as potassium, vitamin K, pantothenic acid and copper making avocados a nutrient dense food. As mentioned before, avocados can also be very satiating due to the high amount of healthy fat and fiber it provides.
Here is where the tricky part starts. One thing to keep it mind is that everyone’s nutrition goals are different. Just because something has healthy properties does not mean it will fit into everyone’s diets equally. For example, everyone’s fat needs are different, so where one person may be able to fit an entire avocado a day into their diet, another person may only be able to fit a fourth of an avocado in. Key here is not only moderation as always, but knowing what your goals are and what your body needs.
If you don’t follow health and fitness Instagramers then you may have only heard about matcha from Starbucks Matcha Latte. Matcha is grown, produced, and consumed for the most part in Japan and is the product of finely powdered dried green tea leaves. Most people utilize green tea leaves by steeping the leaves in hot water and then the leaves are discarded. However, those who utilize matcha are consuming the actual leaves. Traditionally a small amount of matcha is mixed
with hot water and whisked with a bamboo brush until it froths. Because you are consuming the actual tea leaves, you are consuming a more concentrated source of all the phytochemicals and nutrients in the leaves, including polyphenols and L-theanine, than if you were consuming green tea. Supporters claim that when they consume matcha they feel energized and relaxed, that it aids with weight loss, provides large amounts of antioxidants and phytochemicals among many other health benefits.
What nutrients/food components does matcha possess? Most research done on green tea leaves has been studying the effects of catechins (one of which is epigallocatechin gallate, AKA, EGCG) which is a polyphenol- a powerful antioxidant. Because you are consuming that whole green tea leaf instead of steeping it, matcha does contain more antioxidants than green tea does. One study found that matcha contained 137 times more polyphenols than when steeping the green tea leaves. Research shows that these polyphenols may have a protective effect against many chronic diseases including some types of cancer, heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol, reduced risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes, high blood pressure, and may aid in weight loss. As mentioned earlier, matcha has been found to contain more L-theanine than green tea leaves. Research links L-theanine to increased focus and concentration which may be why supporters say they feel energized and relaxed. Matcha does contain caffeine with about 35-60 mg per teaspoon which is less than coffee.
So, after all of this it sounds like matcha is truly a super food with all the antioxidant power it possesses. However, just like in many other cases, just because something is healthy doesn’t mean you should consume it in large amounts. Green tea leaves have been long known to contain lead and since you are consuming the actual leaf rather than steeping it and throwing it out, matcha may have high levels of lead which can be very detrimental especially to the growth and development of children and the fetus of a pregnant female. Consumer labs has tested multiple green tea products for years to determine the amount of lead in them. In 2015 all matcha that was tested by consumer labs did not contain lead. The problem with this is that the lead content of matcha will be determined by the soil it was grown in and you will not be able to determine how much lead is in your matcha.
So, should you consume matcha? In reasonable amounts matcha can provide great health benefits with a low risk for lead exposure. Don’t overdo it though as you may be putting yourself at risk. Caution is to be followed for children and those who are pregnant as leads effects on these populations can be detrimental. In addition, for those who are pregnant, EGCG has been found to increase risk of neonatal leukemia.
You may be more familiar with turmeric as it has been used as a spice in cooking for years. Turmeric is native to India and Southeast Asia where people not only use it as a spice but also in botanical medicine. Unprocessed, turmeric resembles ginger root and is then made into a dried powder. Researchers have had their eyes on turmeric for a long time now do to its anti-inflammatory benefits which can have great effects in many parts of the body including the heart, joints, gastrointestinal
system and in disease states such as cancer, metabolic syndrome, arthritis and Chron’s disease. What researchers are now looking further into is the possibility that tumeric may play a role in improving cognitive function, helping to decrease depression, helping with Alzheimer’s disease, having a positive effect on blood sugar levels and kidney function. The component of turmeric that has been studied is called curcumin, another polyphenol which is only about 2-5% of turmeric root. Because of this, more studies need to be done to determine the health effect of the actual spice rather than the curcumin since it is in such small amount in turmeric.
Is it ok to add turmeric to your diet? Turmeric can be a positive addition to your diet. Try it out in the form of Golden milk which is heated milk with turmeric and other spices as well.
When you open a can of beans, you are most likely going to eat the beans and dump the liquid that is in them down the drain right? Well vegans might think different. Aquafaba is the viscous liquid that is made from soaking legumes and you often find it accompanying your canned beans. Vegans use aquafaba as an egg substitute. Who knew that the gooey liquid in canned beans could be a perfect egg substitute in baked goods, but even more amazing, when whipped, it provides the
perfect consistency to make a meringue that proponents say you wouldn’t even know the difference. Another benefit to this egg substitute is it is safe to eat raw, which makes cookie dough lovers everywhere happy. So how do you use it? Substitute 1 tbsp. of aquafaba for 1 egg yolk, 2 tbsp. aquafaba for one egg white, and 3 tbsp. aquafaba for one whole egg.
So should you be tossing all your eggs and replacing them with aquafaba? One thing to remember is that this liquid does not provide you with the same nutrition benefit as the beans do and really there is no nutrition benefit to substituting aquafaba for your eggs unless you are vegan as this liquid will not give you the same nutrients as an egg does. In addition, it’s worth noting that not much research or nutrient analysis has been done on aquafaba at this point. However if you are a vegan or have an egg allergy, this can be the perfect substitute for all your baked goods!
It seems as though we are always on the hunt for foods that will provide us with a substantial amount of protein in a small amount of food. Crickets may be one of those food items with about 2 tablespoons of cricket powder containing ~7 grams of protein. Crickets have long been a staple protein source in many countries like Africa, Asia and Latin America. Now that we are seeing this come to the United States we are seeing cricket products pop up in our grocery store shelves in many
different forms including flours, protein powders and bars, and as snack items like chips and cookies. Crickets are not only high in protein but also are a complete protein meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids our bodies need. In addition to being a good source of protein, crickets also provide many vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin B2 and vitamin B12. Environmentalist are big advocates of the cricket craze as they are an environmentally friendly protein source since they use little water and emit very small amounts of greenhouse gasses compared to animal protein. It might gross you out to know you’re eating crickets, but crickets actually don’t have a bad taste but more of a nutty taste.
A cautionary tale: Some things to keep in mind is if you see a cricket in your backyard- DON’T EAT IT! These crickets can be full of pesticides which may be harmful to your health. Also, if you have a shellfish allergy, you may also be allergic to crickets as they are arthropods. And finally remember that just because cricket powder was added to your processed foods does not make it healthy! Look at the overall nutrient quality of the food item before making any decisions.
One of the biggest trends of 2016 is Bulletproof coffee which consist of putting butter, coconut oil or other medium chain triglycerides (MCT) in coffee. The company starting the trend is named “Bulletproof Coffee” with the claim that doing so will aid in weight loss by turning your body into a fat burning machine, eliminates hunger pangs, and heightens your mental capacity. Making the coffee consists of putting the fats and coffee into a blender and drinking it after it has all been mixed together.
In addition, the Bulletproof Coffee company claims that their branded coffee and MCT oil is what you should use to make this coffee mixture as it is superior to other varieties. To tackle the claim that bulletproof coffee aids in fat burning and weight loss -there are no peer reviewed studies that show that consuming nothing but coffee and MCT or fat at all sets the body up for fat burning in humans. In addition to having no scientific proof to this claim, if you followed this practice, you would consume most, if not more, of your body’s fat needs first thing in the morning. Although we now know saturated fat is not the only contributor to heart disease with sugar starting to take the spot light, saturated fat still has been shown to contribute to heart disease risk. Everyone’s body and genetics are different so just because one person can eat large amounts of fat and never get heart disease doesn’t mean that it wont effect other people. There have been cases reported of elevated cholesterol levels with addition of bulletproof coffee to one’s diet. Breakfast has long been known to provide the body with important nutrients to get your day started. Replacing your breakfast with this drink will displace nutrients that you may not make up the rest of the day.
Bottom line: bulletproof coffee falls into the category of fad diets with no proof that it truly works and with the potential to do harm to the body with the large amount of fat being consumed.
Coconut water is a clear liquid that is tapped from an unripe, green coconut, AKA “Mothers Natures Sports Drink”. Coconut water is not only hydrating but contains many vitamins and minerals naturally hence being compared to rehydrating drinks such as Gatorade or Poweraid. In addition to water, other nutrients found in coconut water is carbohydrates, magnesium, potassium and sodium. For the ordinary person who may think that coconut water is healthier than water itself or simply likes the taste, coconut water if consumed in excess can contribute to weight gain as one 11 ounce container contributes 60 calories compared to 0 calories found in water. Drinking 2 or 3 of these a day can add up to a 10-20 pound weight gain in a years’ time if you aren’t burning off those extra calories somewhere. Where coconut water may be beneficial is for athletes to rehydrate instead of consuming a sports drink. Some research has shown that coconut water replenishes body fluids as well as a sports drink. However, coconut water does have a lower amount of carbohydrates and electrolytes so depending on the intensity of the sport and perspiration, it may not provide enough of the nutrients these athletes need.
Bottom line: There is no debate that coconut water can be just as hydrating as water however caution to the lay person that is replacing zero calorie water with coconut water as it will provide additional calories and to athletes who are participating in intense physical activity and perspiring heavily as they may need more than what is found in coconut water.
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