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Monday, January 23, 2017

Diet Trends 2017: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


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It’s a new year, and with that comes thoughts of . . . . dieting. Yes, it’s that time of year when we all re-evaluate what we eat and if we’re providing our body with the fuel it needs to keep us functioning at our best. Here’s a glimpse at what foods are predicted to be hot and healthy in 2017, including those from 2016 that are still trending up.

The Good: Clean, healthy food continues to be the focus of eating. Look for these new and/or continuing trends and foods:

  • Some experts are calling 2017 “The Year of Vegetables.” Look for plant-based proteins in a variety of formats, such as brown rice, pea, and hemp protein powders. Plant-based proteins are also showcased in vegan “meats” that are expanding into neighborhood grocery stores. Look for burgers that look, feel, and even sizzle like meat but are made from plant-based ingredients such as potato protein, coconut oil, and a molecule from legumes called “heme” that gives burgers the color, smell, and texture of beef.
  • Need a new pre-workout beverage? One that helps maintain blood pressure, boost stamina, and exercise longer? Give beet juice a try. The nitrates in beet juice are changed by the body to nitric oxide, which helps with blood flow, blood pressure, and nitric acid levels. Beets also contain vitamins C and B6, folate, manganese, potassium, betaine, and unique kind of phytonutrient called betalains which provide powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification benefits.
  • Black currents are also on the workout radar. These small, antioxidant rich berries have been shown in New Zealand University studies to increase fat loss by up to one-third during exercise. They also positively affect blood vessel dilation and have been shown to increase blood flow and nutrient delivery to cells.
  • Similar to the acai berry, but packing a higher antioxidant punch (4 to 30 times higher than the average acai berry), look for maqui berries. These berries look like blueberries but are a little more bitter. In addition to mega antioxidants, these berries contain omega fatty acids, vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, and potassium.
  • You’ve probably been spitting them out, but stop! Watermelon seeds are full of magnesium, iron, folate, and good fats. Roasted and flavored, they are delicious, low-calorie, and nutrient dense. Look for them flavored with olive oil and salt, cinnamon and sugar, or even lime juice and chili powder.

What’s still hot?

  • Coconut in all its forms is still available everywhere. Coconut oil, coconut water, coconut aminos, coconut palm sugar, and coconut flour are all still plentiful. Experts believe that coconut can support healthy cholesterol levels, kill bacteria, boost metabolism, and prevent tooth decay. No wonder it’s still so popular!
  • Bone broth continues to be a popular item. It’s becoming more and more available at neighborhood grocery stores and now even at coffee shops and juice bars. Though claims haven’t been scientifically proven, some say that it fixes just about everything. It’s full of collagen, proline, glycine, glutamine, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, and sulphur. With this lineup of health-boosting ingredients, why not give it a try!
  • Fermented foods are still on the radar. Many people are concerned about gut health, and sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, and tempeh contain probiotics that help to re-establish good flora in the gut.

The best diet plans also focus on veggies:

  • According to US News, the DASH diet is still the best overall diet. This diet plan focuses on 6 to 8 servings of grains, 4-5 servings EACH of veggies and fruits, 2-3 servings of low- or no-fat dairy, 6 ounces or less of lean protein, and 2-3 servings of fats or oils daily.
  • US News ranks the Mediterranean diet plan as second on the list. This is more of an eating strategy than a true “diet.” Recommendations include focusing on fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, herbs, and spices; eating fish and seafood 2-3 times per week; consuming poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt in moderation; and saving sweets and red meat for special occasions.
  • A diet plan that is gaining ground (ranked 4th in the US News list) is the flexitarian (a combination of “flexible” and “vegetarian”) diet. As the name suggests, this eating plan is about being mostly vegetarian, but flexible, adding meats in when you feel like it. This eating style encourages plant proteins and focuses on adding important items that are missing from the Standard American Diet—“new meats” (tofu, beans, lentils, peas, nuts, seeds, eggs), fruits and veggies, whole grains, dairy, and spices.

The Bad:  Some diets just seem to hang around, even when they aren’t good for you. Here are a few, new and old, that you just don’t need to try:

  • Raw food diet: This diet sounds great. It’s all about eating uncooked and unprocessed foods. Unfortunately, people who try to follow this diet find it too complicated, impractical, expensive, and not very tasty. Rather than try to stick to this diet, focus on eating more plant-based and minimally processed foods, whether cooked or raw.
  • hcg diet: This very-low-calorie diet (500 calories per day) is combined with injections of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), a hormone released during pregnancy. Any diet this low in calories should raise red flags immediately, and combining it with injections of something that hasn’t been proven to be safe is a double whammy.
  • Master Cleanse: This cleanse involves drinking a mixture of squeezed lemons, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper several times a day for 10 days. At night, you drink an herbal laxative tea, then in the morning, you drink a quart of salt water to flush out the GI tract and bowels. This diet is extremely low-calorie and lacks several key components, such as protein, calcium, iron, and zinc. It’s also unsustainable, and many who participate in this type of cleanse just regain weight when they go back to old eating habits.
  • One-food diets: These diets are all based on eating one food, such as a “fat-burning” cabbage soup, for a 7-day cycle. This type of diet usually provides plenty of veggies, but if you enjoy food or like to eat with other people, you won’t be able to sustain this kind of diet very long.

The Ugly: Some foods are just plain ugly. But that doesn’t mean we should avoid them! Here are a few ugly choices that you’ll see around:

  • Chaga mushrooms: These are not your grandma’s mushrooms. She wouldn’t recognize them as mushrooms at all! But these nuggets are packed full of antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. They are a bit bitter and quite . . . pungent. Look for them in tea or powdered form.
  • Algae fats: Algae isn’t pretty, either, but it’s full of EPA and DHA. This is a great source of omega-3 fats for vegans and vegetarians—and everyone else, too.
  • Seaweed: Speaking of “not very pretty,” some are calling seaweed “the new kale.” Seaweed is low in calories and fat while providing vitamins A, C, and multiple Bs, fiber, iron, iodine, zinc, and magnesium. It’s a great snack to stave off hunger.
  • “Ugly” produce: A new trend currently at farmers’ markets, this is just what it sounds like: Produce that isn’t pretty. Think knobbly tomatoes, carrots with double roots, apples that aren’t perfectly round. A lot of this produce goes to waste because regular grocery stores won’t carry it—they are looking for perfectly shaped produce. But look for it in stores like Whole Foods soon. You might save some money, and the ugly produce is just as healthful as the pretty kind!


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