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Our resident nutritionist reveals the health and fitness trends in 2016, including the UN’s plan for World Peas. (Yes, really. No, we will not apologise for that pun.)
As the first quarter of 2016 comes to a close, it is of interest to observe some of the trends in health and fitness. Not only are we more health conscious as a society, but we’re also seeing greater strides in research, which allows us to make better choices. But what should we choose? Here are some of the top health and food trends I expect to gain popularity in 2016.
Vegetarians, vegans, and flexitarians
As more consumers embrace vegetarian, vegan, and flexitarian diets, the demand for non-dairy protein alternatives has soared. The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2016 the “Year of the Pulse.” Pulses, a term for legumes, include dried beans and peas, especially lentils and chickpeas. Sourcing protein from pulses is heralded as a cost effective and environmentally conscious answer to growing global food demands. The shining star of the emerging pulse trend is the use of dried peas as a protein source. Peas are considered a lower risk for allergic response than soy, wheat, or dairy, and are often marketed as GMO-free. Market research firm Mintel found an increase in pea product of nearly 50 percent between 2013 and 2014.
Pea protein has a growing role in the sports nutrition market because it contains ample amounts of the branched-chain amino acids glutamine, arginine, and lysine, all of which help support muscle recovery. A 2015 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition showed pea protein to be as effective as whey protein in producing bicep thickness among athletes who engage in resistance training.
The rise of healthy fats
The anti-fat trend of the last several decades has shown signs of slowing down as researchers and nutritionists identify the growing importance of healthy fats. 2016 may be the year we can finally say goodbye to the low-fat movement.
In recent years, Australians have become less fat phobic and more educated on the benefits of fat in the diet. A push to eat foods closer to their natural state and a shift toward less-processed options has contributed to the change. The final nail in the low-fat campaign came in 2015, when the government’s traditionally conservative Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee removed its recommendation to avoid foods high in cholesterol.
Fat provides the body with powerful nutrients and antioxidants for cellular repair of the joints, organs, skin, and hair. Fats, especially those found in fish and flaxseed oil, can boost brainpower, mental clarity, and memory. Avocados, nuts, and fish have surged in popularity in recent years as consumers return healthful fats to their diets. Findings by the Credit Suisse Research Institute has shown that Australians are increasing their meat consumption, with red meat leading the surge. Egg consumption has risen almost to an average of one egg a day per Australian, and the consumption of butter has also increased. The shift has been so dramatic that some experts are advocating that endurance athletes use fat as their primary fuel source.
Prominent dietitian Jeff Volek recently published a report that shows elite endurance runners who adapt to a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet are able to burn twice as much fat during exertion as athletes following high-carb diets. Low-carb vegetarian options, such as asparagus, broccoli, and almonds, along with low-carb animal products, such as salmon and eggs, can effectively fuel some athletes. This new research suggests we are likely to see more athletes in 2016 combining large amounts of fuel from fats with these low-carb options and swapping out the traditional practice of processed carb-loading.
Increased shellfish intake
Omega-3 fatty acids, typically found in foods such as salmon, spinach, grass-fed beef, and walnuts will fuel the (healthy) fat comeback in 2016. So too will oysters, another omega-3 powerhouse. Once a staple of happy hours and cocktail parties as well as a legendary aphrodisiac, the oyster is making a comeback in popularity. Millennials have embraced the shellfish and restaurants are responding to meet demand. Oysters reflect the growing trend of focusing on local and regional flavours, as oysters are celebrated for their “merroir,” the characteristic flavours influenced by the location and conditions in which they’re grown. It’s a maritime twist on the more familiar term “terroir,” used to describe wine. In the US the trend even has its own app, Pearl, to help consumers locate local sellers.
Oysters also are touted for their sustainability and impact on the local ecosystem. A single oyster can filter up to 15 gallons of water per day. This filtration leads to improved clarity and light penetration of the waters, which allows sea plants to flourish. Oyster beds provide shelter for young fish, crabs, shrimp, and other sea creatures, leading to increased biodiversity.
While the daily family dinner has become an endangered species in our over-scheduled society, the communal business lunch has come to the fore.
The concept that employees who eat together will grow together is an emerging business trend expected to grow in 2016. Companies recognize the benefits of shared food experiences not only to the health and wellness of their employees, but on productivity, creative collaboration, and workplace satisfaction.
Seamless’ Food in the Workplace survey estimated that nearly one-third of companies provide some sort of food perk to employees. Close to half the employees surveyed reported shared meals and food perks promoted better working relationships and increased satisfaction. The food perk is no fad as the increasing number of millennials entering the workforce embrace the practice, with more than a third of the demographic considering food perks when weighing a job offer and half claiming they would choose an employer who provided meals over one that didn’t. Additionally, more than two-thirds said they would feel a greater sense of appreciation and value if an employer increased food perks.
The increased use of turmeric
The popularity of eastern spices such as turmeric has soared in recent years and should roll on in 2016. Long used in traditional Indian cuisine (it’s what gives curry its distinct colour and flavour) — turmeric is gaining attention for both its culinary profile and its health benefits.
A member of the ginger family, turmeric contains a component called curcumin, which is recognized for a host of health benefits, including the reduction of inflammation and exercise-induced muscle soreness. Curcumin is also a strong source of antioxidants. Recently, curcumin’s ability to impact the brain caught the attention of researchers, and its potential role in brain health is an area of science we expect to hear more about this year.
Smarter gut research
The familiar saying “You are what you eat” will be updated to “You are what you eat and can absorb” in 2016. The health of your microbiome, or gut bacteria, will continue to make headlines in research and health-care publications.
Fermented foods and pre and probiotic supplementation will continue to gain popularity as we continue to learn how a healthy gut impacts our ability to digest and absorb nutrients, and how we respond to allergens. Foods such as pickles, sourdough bread, yoghurt, and sauerkraut, improve gut health and immunity. When you have a well-functioning gut, you can absorb the most nutrients out of your diet and from supplements. The keys to gut health are eating clean, unprocessed foods, getting enough sleep, eating more fermented and living foods, getting enough unsaturated fats in your diet and taking probiotics. Read my previous article on gut health for more information.