10 Health Foods Everyone Was Talking About in 2016 Slideshow
Insects are consumed in countries all over the world from the Netherlands to Thailand, but entomophagy (the practice of eating insects) has been slow to gain a foothold here in the United States. In order to disassociate insects from their perceived image as repulsive pests, food companies are dry-roasting crickets and pulverizing them into “flour.” Cricket flour is a complete protein that’s environmentally sustainable, low in calories, and full of a diverse profile of vitamins and minerals. Creative (and some would say daring) entrepreneurs are adding the powder to everything from chips and protein bars to cookies and even milkshakes.
The fermented/functional beverage trend continued throughout 2016 with kombucha (fermented black or green tea) and other probiotic drinks gaining more shelf space in natural grocery stores. Drinking vinegars (also called shrubs) combine the natural probiotics found in apple cider vinegar with cold-pressed juice, making the vinegar more palatable, as it’s tough to choke down on its own. Apple cider vinegar has been cited as a solution for weight loss, heart disease, and high blood pressure. There’s also substantial evidence that when gulped down before a meal, apple cider vinegar can reduce blood sugar spikes, and is therefore useful in preventing diabetes.
Traditional Italian pasta is made with durum wheat, but gluten-free pastas are thought to be a healthier alternative. Dried pastas are now being made from red lentils, black beans, chickpeas, and almost any other legume you can imagine. The bean-based pastas have a nice bite to them and have a more robust nutritional profile than traditional wheat pastas.
Matcha is a concentrated green tea powder that has become ubiquitous in boutique coffee shops. It can easily be whisked into lattes, blended into protein drinks, or even sprinkled into doughnut and cookie batters; it carries many of the same health properties of green tea. A few grams of matcha provides caffeine, antioxidants, and a variety of other (some controversial) health benefits. One cup of matcha is said to contain the antioxidant equivalent of 10 cups of brewed green tea
Lo han guo, more commonly known as monk fruit, is a small round fruit grown in China and regions of Southeast Asia. When processed, the fruit can be up to 300 times sweeter than table sugar, but it contains zero calories. The packaged-food industry and amateur bakers alike are turning to monk fruit because it doesn’t spike blood sugar in diabetics, can be baked at high temperatures, dissolves in hot liquids, and (in my opinion) tastes better than artificial sweeteners.
The appeal of overnight oats is two-fold: They are ready to eat when you wake up in the morning, and they require no cooking. When soaked overnight in milk, yogurt, or a non-dairy milk, steel cut oats absorb an immense amount of flavor and develop a creamy texture similar to that of pudding. A bowl of overnight oats is low in calories and rich in fiber, and can be topped with anything from goji berries to coconut flakes. Some fast-casual chains have already added little containers of overnight oats to their breakfast lineups.
Greek yogurt was the rage in 2014 and 2015, but quark is the fermented dairy product of 2016. Quark has historically been used in European cuisines as a spoon-able cheese with a texture similar to that of cottage cheese or ricotta, but it is now being marketed in the U.S. as a protein-packed yogurt alternative. Quark contains 14 grams of protein per 100 grams serving compared to Greek yogurt, which only contains (on average) 5 grams of protein per 100 grams. Quark’s subtle, less acidic taste makes it more palatable for customers who dislike the tang of Greek yogurt.
Spirulina (blue-green algae) is a sustainable, plant-based, complete protein that is easily digestible and nutrient-rich. Blue-green algae is harvested from nutrient-rich bodies of fresh water, where it’s washed and spray dried. The powder is commonly added to smoothies and shakes as a dietary supplement.
Teff is a gluten-free grain native to Ethiopia that has ridden the coattails of the anti-wheat trend. This ancient grain is smaller than wheat or rye, and is usually ground into a flour or cooked into a porridge (think Cream of Wheat). A quarter-cup of teff flour has only 180 calories, but contains substantial amounts of fiber, protein, and iron. Teff is traditionally used to make the damp, spongy East African flatbread called injera, but may also be served as a warm breakfast cereal, or used to fortify baked goods and stews or as the foundation for veggie burgers.
The fluorescent, yellow-orange hue of the herb turmeric has caught the attention of fitness gurus, doctors, athletes, and the food industry. Researchers have linked turmeric’s high antioxidant content to a reduction in cholesterol, inflammation, and diabetes. Turmeric now even appears in packaged food products like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese as a natural food coloring, but it’s being used mostly as a health booster in shakes, smoothies, and elixirs.