Get ready to slide your coconut water and activated charcoal ice cream to the back of the fridge—they're old news.
Culinary pros have been drawing up their prediction lists for 2018's hottest food trends, and as you may have guessed, some of them are pretty wacky. A few nutrition experts told which ones are truly good for you, and which ones are more about hype than health.
To help you make sense of it all, we had nutrition and fitness expert Sharon Zarabi, RD, Bariatric Program Director at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, assign a letter grade for each.
We like mushrooms in our omelettes and pasta, but our coffee? Liquefied, then powdered and added to joe, it’s really debatable if mushroom coffee is beneficial, says dietitian Stephanie Schiff, RDN, at Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital, in Huntington, New York. “There haven’t been any studies. Often when you extract something from a whole food, you don’t know if you’re taking out the component of it that had nutritional benefits in its fresh form,” she says.
Eaten in their unprocessed form, mushrooms are very nutritious, though. They’re low calorie and lowcarb, high in fiber, a good source of vitamins B and D, and linked to boosting the immune system, says Erin Morse, RD, Chief Clinical Dietitian at UCLA Health.
Get your shakes ready for moringa, the newest “superfood.” Grown in India and Africa, “this plant has so many benefits,” Zarabi says.
It contains vitamin A, B vitamins, calcium, folate, potassium, zinc, and magnesium. “Like other greens, it’s loaded with nutrients,” Zarabi says. It’s popping up on cafe beverage menus—the way matcha is used in lattes—and in protein bars, too.
MORE TREE WATERS
Coconut water has been all the rage over the past few years, and now birch, bamboo, maple, and cactus waters are joining the club.
Tree water is pure sap tapped straight from trees. “They have electrolytes and a little hint of a natural sugar that comes from the tree. A lot of beverage companies are trying to give people more variety,” says Zarabi. Maple water is high in manganese and contains other nutrients, but, she says, “I would think with a lot of these, the nutrients are negligible.” And some companies add extra sugar and sodium.
“Just stick with water in it’s natural form,” she recommends.
A spice made from a root related to ginger, turmeric gives curry its bright yellow color. Lately it’s been popping up in coffees, dusted on chips, and splashed into smoothies and martinis. It contains the chemical curcumin which is thought to have antioxidant properties, and scientists are studying it for potential health benefits. Preliminary research has found that curcuminoids may help control knee pain from osteoarthritis just as well as ibuprofen does and reduce the number of heart attacks bypass patients have after surgery.
Turmeric can be a great addition to your daily diet, says Morse, but some foods that tout turmeric are high sugar and high calorie, so read the nutrition content. And don’t overdo it: High doses or long-term use of the spice may cause gastrointestinal problems, according to NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in non-dairy yogurts,” says Morse, including brands made from almonds, coconut, soy, and flax seeds. If you have a dairy sensitivity or allergy, they’re a good option. The live, active bacteria in yogurt are thought to be beneficial for gut health, too.
Some of the newer versions are made with pili nuts, which grow in the Philippines. “They’re high in protein, potassium and calcium, and are rich in mono-unsaturated fats—a healthy kind of fat. They’re high in magnesium, which is good for your heart, and they are considered a complete protein, something rare for a plant food source,” she says.
Some have lots of added sugars and thickeners, though, and if you’re eating yogurt for the protein content, non-dairy versions may not pack the same punch. “The almond milk based ones have about 6 grams of protein, while a dairy Greek yogurt can have 12 or more grams of protein,” says Morse.
If you’re not ready to swap out your meat burgers for veggie burgers just yet, you’ll be all about the blended burger trend. The idea is to replace part of your burger meat with vegetables for added fiber and to cut saturated fat. UCLA’s Morse suggests using one part finely chopped mushrooms to three parts burger meat. “They’re low calorie and low carb, high fiber, and add a nice meaty texture and flavor,” she says. Or try mixing in shredded carrots, “riced” broccoli or cauliflower, or pulverized beets.