As positive effects on immune function, cancer mechanisms,

As a Dietitian I often get asked
for my thoughts on a range of nutritional topics, ranging from the latest fad
diet to ‘Why is kale suddenly so popular?’. 
One reason why I love the field of nutrition is because it’s ever
evolving as new research emerges and always full of new findings.  These findings often find themselves into new
food products and fads.  Whether or not
some of the claims are valid or based on sound scientific research, they can be
transformed into the latest fad on the market. 

        With
the new year upon us and vast amount of new food trends and fads to soon be
upon us, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some that are predicted
to be popular in the coming year.    

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Functional Mushrooms

               The use
of medicinal mushrooms dates back to the Ancient Egyptians and Chinese
Emperors.  In those times mushrooms were
seen as plants of immortality and only were only eaten by pharaohs and in Egypt
and Chinese royalty.  In the past 20-30
years, mushrooms have been used to help improve health and strengthen the
immune system.  It has been projected
that about 50% of the cultivated edible mushrooms contain functional medicinal
properties.  Reishi, Chaga, Lion’s Mane,
chaga, and cordyceps are a few types of those considered to be functional.  Some of the benefits claimed to be as a
result of eating functional mushrooms include the following:  supporting the immune system,
anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, promotes neurological health,
antiviral properties, anti-cancer properties, regulation of blood sugar,
regulation of cholesterol levels, and anti-aging properties. 

               In
reviewing some of the research that has been done of the effects of functional
mushrooms on various aspects of health, these mushrooms have been seen to have
positive effects on immune function, cancer mechanisms, cognition, and body
weight.  However, studies are still
warranted to determine quantity, frequency, and what type of mushroom that
needs to be consumed in order to bring about significant improvements in
health.  Mushrooms themselves are very
low in calories and are cholesterol and fat free, so there doesn’t seem to be
any negative benefit from including functional mushrooms in your diet or trying
some of the new food products where they are being included.

               These
mushrooms are turning up in various types of food products, including bottled
drinks, coffees, smoothies, teas, and mushroom broths.  For example:

–       
Rebbl brand has several Reishi beverages
available in Cold-Brew and Chocolate flavors

–       
Four Sigmatic has instant coffee with Lion’s
Mane and Chaga mushrooms

–       
Om Reishi Mushroom Powder

–       
Kettle & Fire Mushroom Chicken Bone Broth

 

Non-dairy ‘Milk’

               Consumer research reveals
that more than 30 percent of consumers are purchasing plant-based milks and
yogurts.  The pili nut, flax seeds, and
oats are being used to make non-dairy ‘milk’ products.  If this is the first time you’ve heard of the
pili nut, you’re not alone!  I, too, have
never heard of it.  What I found out is
that the pili nut tree is native to the Philippines and Southeast Asia.  The pili nut is protected by a hard shell
that has to be cracked open by hand one at a time using a special knife.  The nutritional contents of the nut are also
unique as it contains more magnesium, more complete protein, less
carbohydrates, more LDL and monounsaturated fats, more Vitamin E, and more
phosphorous when compared to various tree nuts. 

               Research
shows that plant-based diets (those that are high in whole, plant based-foods
and very low in meat, dairy, and egg products as well as refined and processed
foods) can result in lower BMIs, blood pressure, HbA1c and cholesterol
levels.  But do these benefits from whole
plant-based diets translate into their processed food forms, such as milk and
yogurt?  When nuts are made into milk,
the content is low in saturated fat, contains heart healthy fats, and if
fortified contains the same amount of Vitamin D and A as cow’s milk and two
thirds of the calcium.  Nut milks tend to
be lower in protein compared to cow’s milk, however nut milks tend to be lower
in calories. 

               Depending
on what your diet goals are and health history, they may be beneficial to
try.  Be cautious, however, on any added
sugars or other ingredients which may add additional calories or fat.  For example, the Lavva yogurt contains
coconut cream which adds more than 10 grams of saturated fat, which is the kind
of fat that can increase unhealthy blood cholesterol levels (i.e. LDL).  

               Some food
items where you may see these non-dairy ‘milks’ include:

–       
Lavva Plant Based Yogurt

–       
Good Karma flax seed milk and yogurt

–       
Oatly (coming to the US in February) oat milk

 

Root-to-Stem

               The movement to reduce food
waste by recycling food scraps that would otherwise be thrown away and then
using them to make edible food products is known as the root-to-stem
movement.  One goal of the movement is to
use less commonly used parts of produce such as the stems, rinds, seeds, and
leaves to test new flavors. 

               Some food
items where you may see root-to-stem trends include:

–       
Salad bar items at Whole Foods (i.e. Melon Seed
Agua Fresca and Butternut Squash with Celery Leaves and Orecchiette)

–       
Regrained Bars, which are made from upcycled
brewer’s malt from beer making

–       
Forager Project makes chips from veggie pulp
left over from making cold-pressed juices

 

Super Coffee

               Ingredients such as MCT oil
and collagen peptides are being added to coffee.  One reason collagen powder is being added to
coffee is for the added protein, as two tablespoons contain 10 grams of
protein.  There is not much data to
support health claims, such as reducing wrinkles, improving symptoms of
osteoarthritis, and improving gut health. 
Per the Sunniva Super Coffee brand, they add MCTs to help provide a ‘fast-acting,
sustained energy boost without the crash’, but this claim has no scientific
basis per their website.  Sunniva Super
Coffee also adds Milk Protein Isolate to provide the flavor of a creamy coffee
without the ‘sugars and unhealthy fats in milk that slow us down’. 

               When
comparing the nutritional content of the Sunniva Super Coffee compared to a
Starbucks Frappucino or High Brew Flavored coffee, the Super Coffee does
contain less sugar and carbohydrates, contains more protein, and is lower in
calories.  The only downside may be the
unsupported claims of their added ingredients.

 

Floral Flavors

               You may start to notice
floral flavors showing up in otherwise normal foods, such as tea, chocolate,
snacks, and drinks.  Floral favors, such
as hibiscus, lavender, elderflower, and rose provide delicately sweet tastes
and fresh aromatics.  One benefit of
adding florals to foods is the added flavor without any sugar or calories.

               Here are
a few food items you may see including florals to accentuate flavor:

–       
Whole Foods Market Lime Mint Elderflower Italian
Sparkling Mineral Water

–       
365 Everyday Value Lavender Lemon Granola

–       
GoodPop Hibiscus Mint Frozen Pop

–       
Whole Foods Market Dark Chocolate Violet
Marshmallow

–       
Jacobs Farm Organic Edible Flowers

 

The food trends listed here are just a small preview as what
is predicted to be popular for 2018.  I
know I will make it a point this year to try theses food trends to see if they
live up to their hype and encourage you to do the same!