A couple weeks ago on The Rachael Ray Show, I showed you a few 2020 Healthy Food Trends you should either ‘toss’ or ‘try’. We highlighted some of these things, but if you’ve been watching the headlines this New Year, you know a lot has changed with our food. Steer clear of some of these healthy eating blunders by choosing products that are actually good for you!
From social media influence, to fads, to effective marketing techniques–we’re bombarded with information about the latest and greatest food trends. But most of the time, there’s a lot we don’t know about our food. If you want to know which popular healthy foods are worthwhile, and which are better left on the store shelf, read on!
Vegans rejoice. Plant-based “meat” options are becoming widely available and much more affordable than they have been before. But does the fact that a food is made from plants always make it healthier for us? The answer: not always.
There are several companies with fishless fish on the market, and their recipes vary, but they’re basically a combination of plant oils, wheat, and textured vegetable protein (from soy, pea, or legumes) (1).
The positives for plant-based fish include a good amount of protein (about 9-15 grams per serving, depending), and a tasty, convenient product that’s in high demand for consumers right now.
The downside is that fishless fish is a highly processed food item, that, while made from plants, doesn’t provide the same nutrition that whole, natural plants do.
For those of us who are trying to consume more whole foods, closer to their natural state, plant-based fish doesn’t fit that criteria. While it may be a decent source of protein, there are better options–both from plants and sustainably sourced animal options–that provide better fuel for our bodies.
Oat Milk Everything
A quick tour of most any grocery store refrigerated section and you’ll notice that oat milk has become the new cauliflower. Should oat milk be here to stay? Or will it go the way of margarine in decades past?
Creamer. Milk. Ice cream. Dips and spreads. Oat milk lends itself to a variety of dairy-free alternatives due to it’s light flavor. But buyer beware, not all oat milk products are created equally. Oat milk products fall somewhere in the middle of the healthy spectrum.
Oat milk products like ice cream, some creamers, and varieties of milk bring with them a hefty dose of carbohydrates and sugar. If one of your goals in the New Year is to have healthy blood sugar levels, or lose weight, 25 grams of carbohydrates in one serving of a beverage, aren’t conducive to meeting those goals (2).
However, the oat milk products with more reasonable carbohydrate content ARE a great option for vegans, those who are lactose intolerant, or who just like the flavor! Oat milk alternatives get the green light, but be mindful of sugar content!
The Impossible Burger
Perhaps the most well-known plant-based “meat” option, Impossible Foods revolutionized plant burgers with their texture, flavor, and “umami” (what we refer to as savory)–even creating a patty that “bleeds” when you cook it.
Impossible burgers contain primarily wheat protein, coconut oil, potato protein, and soy protein that undergo processing methods to result in the pinkish patty you see in the package. Similar to plant-based fish options, the Impossible burger is a highly processed item that does further separate us from the goal of consuming more whole, real food.
And, last year, the company announced they would be using GM soy in their burgers to continue to meet the demand of their consumers (3). Unfortunately, supporting the continued monocropping of genetically modified soy significantly harms the ecosystems that the health-conscious public are trying so hard to save.
The verdict? Fake meat isn’t the answer to climate change.
The iconic red and white polka dot video game graphic. Mind-altering substances to connect you with Mother Earth. Or perhaps just a good stir-fry are all images we might think of when asked about mushrooms.
Turns out, there’s many species of well-studied mushrooms that carry some great adaptive properties, and we’re seeing a mountain of time, energy, and research going into mushroom supplements. With their exciting potential benefits for brain health, immune function, and oxidative damage, the mushroom boom shows no signs of slowing down.
A couple mushrooms worth mentioning:
Lion’s Mane has been shown to increase nerve growth factor (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). NGF and BDNF are specialized proteins that play an important role in neuronal communication, and neuroplasticity–which is essential for learning and memory (4).
Chaga has been used as a folk remedy for digestive disorders, and has the highest ORAC score of any natural food. An ORAC score is used to measure antioxidant capacity, and the chaga mushroom far surpasses other superfoods like acai, spinach, blueberries, and dark chocolate (5).
While groovy psychedelic mushrooms do still exist, the aforementioned species (and many others) do not contain those compounds.
It’s no secret that inflammation from all sources can wreak havoc on our body. Mainstream over-the-counter options may have been the go-to in decades prior, but we’re seeing a shift in thinking towards a more holistic approach.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, aid in reducing inflammation and fever, and are also effective for pain. Over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen and acetaminophen have been the standard of care for everything from minor pain complaints like headaches or menstrual cramps, to chronic pain like arthritis or joint inflammation. We view NSAIDS as very safe and convenient, but that’s one of the reasons they’re so easy to misuse. There are more than 20 different kinds of NSAIDs, and one study showed that 20 percent of us take more than one of these types of drugs without realizing, resulting in increased risk for things like stomach bleeding or liver toxicity due to overdose (6).
It’s no wonder that many have turned to more natural solutions like ginger, turmeric, and boswellia to help with pain and inflammation–especially in the long-term.
Turmeric, which contains curcumin, may be one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatory compounds (7). This bright, flavorful root has been well studied for its ability to reduce inflammation through dozens of different biological mechanism. Curcumin influences inflammatory cytokines, C-reactive protein, and eicosanoid enzymes, all of which are markers of inflammation (8). Another promising use for curcumin currently being investigated is its potential to prevent the formation of amyloid plaques, which are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease (9).
The resins of the Boswellia serrata tree have been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine and are a rich source of anti-inflammatory compounds. Boswellia works by inhibiting an enzyme needed for the body’s production of pro-inflammatory proteins (10). This mechanism is promising to people aiming to ease stiffness and pain involved in chronic joint conditions.
A close relative of the turmeric root, ginger is not only a vibrant culinary spice, but contains potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds (11). 6-Shogaol, one extract of ginger helps to modulate free radical damage that can harm our DNA. Gingerol, another extract, blocks lipoxygenase, an enzyme involved in the production of inflammation (11).
Enjoy the “going out” experience, but not the morning after? Zero-proof bars are popping up in cities across the country to satisfy a niche of the public that still wants to socialize in an adult way, but without the effects of alcohol.
An ever-growing segment of the market, health-conscious millennials and Gen-Zers want to foster fun and human connection, but leave behind the increased health risks that come from consuming alcohol. Even in moderation, alcohol can have serious implications for breast cancer risk, and other diseases (12).
From a health standpoint, zero-proof bars are a no-brainer. Increased alcohol consumption can increase risk for not only liver disease, but chronic conditions also. A weekend night at a regular bar means more alcohol, but likely poor food choices, and ensuing digestive distress. These factors combined put traditional bar-hoppers at risk for obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
The next time you feel like a night on the town, why not go enjoy an alcohol-free “Pear Drop”, or “Cherry Vamp” instead of a beer, and be fully present for meaningful time with your friends! Your liver will thank you later!
If you’d like to see more 2020 Healthy Food Trends on The Rachael Ray Show, watch right here!
What new health trends have you seen this year? Which are you anxious to try, and which ones do YOU hope are just a fad?