The health-minded among us have been consuming kale by the baleful for the last couple of years eager to jump on the trend and reap its benefits, including fibre, folate and a whack of vitamins, in addition to healthy bragging rights. But where do we go when we hit kale saturation?
“Food trends may start out as trends, but eventually they become a way of life,” says Michelle Book, in-house holistic nutritionist at the Canadian Health Food Association. “Then we need to make room for new foods. The great thing about health trends is the more people experiment with their diet, the cleaner it becomes and the better they feel. The trend becomes a lifestyle choice and it has a snowball effect.”
If you’re ready to clear the kale on your plate and replace it with something new, we’ve compiled a list of the latest health foods taking supermarkets and restaurant menus by storm. (But we know there’ll always be room for kale.)
The “star” of 2017 isn’t so much a type of food as it is a philosophy, says Nema McGlynn, in-store registered dietitian at Loblaws.
“This is evident in the way people are consuming food,” she says. “There’s more awareness about the impact food has on the environment.”
She says that the same nose-to-tail philosophy that has been applied to meat for the last few years is now extending to vegetables. Parts of vegetables that were once thrown out — like broccoli and kale stems, and carrot tops — are being shredded and added to soups, slaws or used in baking. And skins, which are full of fibre and phytonutrients, are in.
“We’re seeing vegetables that would normally be peeled, like parsnips or carrots, eaten with their skins on or the skins are being repurposed,” she says. “Bagged kale salads have always had broccoli stems in them. Manufacturers are always looking at ways to use food to its fullest, and consumers are demanding it too.”
As for the most sustainable food you can find now: edible insects. McGlynn points out that they’re much more sustainable than raising livestock. And they’re packed with protein. But if you’re wary of those little baggies of crickets and mealworms that are populating more specialty stores and markets these days, you can get them in powder form to add to smoothies or soups.
Pasta and white bread have long been vilified for overwhelming the digestive tract and spiking insulin levels, but a new wave of “smart carbs” is taking hold.
“Pastas made with buckwheat, edamame and legumes like lentils are popping up on the market,” Book says. “The great thing is that they’re made from a complex carbohydrate so you get benefits [like feeling full longer and a stable metabolism], without the spike in your blood sugar.”
As is often the case with trends, what’s old is new again. Sprouts have long been promoted as a healthy add-on to salads and sandwiches, and for good reason: they’re a highly digestible protein with essential minerals and vitamins that are preserved because they’re eaten raw.
In addition, they’re a fun at-home project that can allow you to incorporate a fresh ingredient into your meals year-round.
“Sprouting is becoming more popular because it’s easy to do at home,” Book says. “In the winter, when we don’t have as much of an array of fresh fruits and vegetables to choose from, it’s nice to be able to grow your own food on your counter and add it to your dish.”
There’s a reason why a lot of vegetarian options on menus feature mushrooms — they’re a great meat alternative, Book says.
“Added to soups and stews, they give texture to a dish that would normally rely on meat,” she says.
But what’s putting them in the spotlight now for carnivores and herbivores alike, is their cornucopia of nutrients. Packed with vitamins B and D, as well as important trace minerals like selenium, copper, potassium, iron and phosphorous, medicinal research has also uncovered their immune-boosting properties.
Eat them or drink them — Book says mushroom teas and elixirs will also do the trick.
Many of us think of it as a functional add-on to Japanese cuisine, but seaweed (and its relative, kelp) is packed with essential nutrients like iodine, which helps with thyroid regulation and brain health. It’s also rich in calcium, vitamin K, which promotes strong bones and wards off heart disease, and offers anti-inflammatory benefits.
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver credited seaweed with bolstering his recent weight loss efforts, and a 2010 study out of Newcastle University found that it contains a compound that stops the body from absorbing fat.
“Fermented foods have been around for a long time and mainly grew out of the need for food preservation in areas where refrigeration wasn’t common,” McGlynn says.
These foods are gaining traction in our (otherwise well-refrigerated) kitchens because of their link to gut health. Yes, they’re packed with those glorified probiotics we’ve been obsessing over for the last decade.
“These foods definitely help with digestion, but fermented vegetables are also high in vitamin B12, niacin, thiamin and riboflavin, which is especially good for vegans because these nutrients usually come from animal sources,” she says.
Teff and sorghum
These ancient grains are revered for being rich in amino acids, calcium, vitamin C, copper, antioxidants and magnesium. Plus, they’re gluten-free, so they’re viable for celiac sufferers or anyone with a gluten intolerance, McGlynn says.
And like most whole grains, they help with weight management by keeping you feeling full longer, keep blood sugar in check and contribute to gut regularity.