It seems like every day there’s a new diet, food fad, menu “it” item, or health habit. Not only can it be hard to keep up with what’s “trending,” but these fads make you question whether you’re missing out on something or if your own dietary patterns are truly healthy.
Sometimes these new food trends are actually healthy and worth considering, but most of the time it’s simply someone trying to push a view point or product line that they are trying to sell, according to Jerry Bailey, D.C., LA.c., certified nutritionist, acupuncturist, chiropractic, and functional medicine physician at Lakeside Holistic Health. “Often, the trend is for a particular food or macro point, like keto/high fat, that has shown to be not really that effective but is touted as the new thing to make you lose weight. People never buy just one weight loss book or join one membership based program, which creates the cycle of lose and gain plus the ever-similar cycle of high fat, low fat, no carb, all carb, low protein, high protein, no protein or veggie-egg-grainatarians.”
Meet the Experts
Jerry Bailey , D.C., LA.c., is a certified nutritionist, acupuncturist, chiropractic, and functional medicine physician at Lakeside Holistic Health.
Jack Baron , R.D.N., is a dietitian specializing in gastroenterology.
Tansy Rodgers , F.N.T.P., is a functional nutritional therapy practitioner.
Christen Cupples Cooper , Ed.D., R.D.N., is an assistant professor and founding director of the Nutrition and Dietetics Program at the College of Health Professions at Pace University.
Andrea Kirkland , MS, RD, is an owner and founder of Culinary Med Ed from Birmingham, Alabama.
For these reasons and more, Dr. Bailey urges his clients to be cautious when looking at the trends of foods or eating plans. “We know from the many blue zones around the world that those who live the healthiest and the longest primarily eat a vegetable-based diet with good healthy animal protein, low-to-moderate fat levels and avoid a western high-grain, simple-carbohydrate plan,” he says. “We also know that there is no magic pill to lose weight or achieve amazing results.” The good news, however, is that there are some food trends that crop up over the course of time that are worth paying attention to. In fact, some can even help reverse chronic disease, regain health and create longevity, according to Dr. Bailey. Here, he and other nutrition pros share the food trends that they think are worth getting behind.
1. Low Carb
Over the decades, there have been countless low-carb diets, from Stillman and Atkins to cabbage soup and keto — all of which have touted the benefits of keeping net carbohydrate consumption low and avoiding foods that are high in added or concentrated sugars (glucose, sucrose, and fructose primarily). Most of these diets promote getting the majority of your energy needs from healthy fats and moderate amounts of protein, explains Jack Baron, R.D.N., a dietitian specializing in gastroenterology. “While keto and other low-carb diets can be restrictive and hard to maintain, a pragmatic approach to this way of eating that focuses largely on vegetables, lean meats, and non-processed oils (like olive oil) tends to lead to the most success,” he says.
Organic foods are really nothing new, but they’ve become a major food trend ever since the use of pesticides and their potent levels of toxicity have raised health concerns. “Buying organic foods ultimately cuts down the toxin load that’s coming into your body so that your liver is more equipped to detoxify your body,” explains functional nutritional therapy practitioner Tansy Rodgers, F.N.T.P. If price or availability is a concern, she recommends following the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™, which publishes a Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 each year to help decide which foods are best for you to purchase organic.
Since the dawn of time, humans have consumed meat; however, there’s been an ever-increasing drive to limit or even halt meat consumption altogether. In fact, an estimated 9.7 million Americans are now following what’s known as a plant-based diet, according to analytics firm Ipsos Retail Performance. What’s more: Several mainstream health organizations, including the American Institute for Cancer Research, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and American Dietetic Association, are now recommending a plant-based diet — and many nutrition professionals are all for it. “Plant foods offer valuable vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to produce energy, metabolize the foods we eat, and boost immunity and mental health,” says Christen Cupples Cooper, Ed.D., R.D.N., founding director of the Nutrition and Dietetics Program at the College of Health Professions at Pace University. “A plant-based eating pattern may also help us to protect the environment, as animal foods are much more energy-expensive.”
For centuries, this golden-yellow spice has been revered for its healing properties — and for good reason. “Turmeric contains curcumin, a potent antioxidant that blocks the development of beta-amyloid plaques that cause decreased brain function associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” says Andrea Kirkland, MS, RD, owner and founder of Culinary Med Ed from Birmingham, Alabama. “Curcumin also protects against cell damage and has been linked to the prevention of heart disease and different cancers including those of the breast, colon, esophagus, liver, mouth, and prostate.”
While turmeric has been made mostly popular in its supplement form, you can purchase the spice right from your local grocery store and use it in almost any meal. It goes well with everything from smoothies to savory items like sauces and soups. “Just make sure you add a pinch of black pepper which enhances its absorption,” Kirkland adds.
5. Upcycled Food
You may have heard the term upcycled being used in connection with clothing or products, but it has also become a food trend. The concept essentially encourages making high-quality, nutrient-dense foods more accessible since they’re more cost-effective to produce and distribute. “What I love about the movement is that it creates endless possibilities for their use — for example, odd-shaped fruits and vegetables that don’t make it to grocery stores are packaged into home delivery produce boxes,” says Kirkland. “In 2019, the Upcycled Food Association developed a certification seal for food labels to help guide consumers to foods made with upcycled ingredients.”
6. Eating Local
An increase in awareness of global economic and environmental issues has led to a movement that emphasizes eating foods that have been grown, produced, and manufactured locally. “More and more people want to know where their food is coming from, want to support their local farmers, growers and food producers, and want to know that the food they’re eating is humane and not harmful to the planet or exploitative of other humans,” explains Baron. If you’re looking to hop on the eat-local bandwagon, Baron recommends looking for information from food producers or on the food packaging label to find out where the food is coming from and who was involved in its production. “For example, many brands are starting to add QR codes to their packaging that sends you to their website where you can get this information in detail,” he explains. “Conversely, people should be skeptical of foods and brands that make unsubstantiated claims about the source or sustainability of ingredients.”