We can’t believe 2017 is almost at an end! Time flies when you’re having fun, and we’ve certainly had fun watching the rise and fall of health and food trends over the past year.
In case you missed them, we’ve summarized our five favourite nutrition trends of 2017:
- Plant-based diets
Step aside Paleo – in 2017 we’re following a new mantra: ‘Eat (whole) food. Not too much. Mostly plants’, with emphasis on the plants! These famous worlds, spoken by American academic Michael Pollan, have finally reached our shores, and are shaking up the ‘high-protein low-carb’ world.There are many compelling reasons for shifting towards a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, ranging from health to environment and sustainability. Unlike the relatively new Paleo diet, there are many long-term studies linking plant based diets with better health. One in particular showed that vegans and vegetarians had a 50% reduced risk of diabetes compared with meat-eaters. Pescatarians enjoyed a 30% reduced risk when compared with meat eaters.Still not convinced? Well – have you heard about the ‘Blue Zones’? These are five communities from around the globe with the highest life expectancy, and guess what they all have in common? They all follow a 95% plant-based diet.
If you can’t bear the thought of parting with a good eye fillet, the good news is, you can still protect your health by becoming ‘flexitarian’ – a part-time vegetarian. Focus this year on building your plant-based recipe repertoire – think meals based on legumes, tofu, ancient grains, and of course, lots of veggies!
- Eating local
Shopping for locally-sourced produce has many benefits. From a social perspective, it can grow our economy, promote ethical trade, and support our Aussie farmers. From an environmental perspective, it can discourage the greenhouse gas and fuel emissions associated with transporting foods from overseas.Furthermore, shopping local may be better for your health, and your enjoyment. This is because fruits and veggies awaiting overseas transportation are usually picked before fully ripened, in order to prevent spoiling along the way. Removing the plants from their food source (i.e. soil) too early can negatively impact taste, aroma, colour and nutrient density.If you would like to embrace this trend for 2017, start by visiting your local farmer’s markets, or ordering home-delivered fresh food boxes from local sellers. For the advanced local shopper looking to take the next step, community gardens are also trending this year. Schools and community centers are embracing veggie patches and inviting locals to participate, so check out what’s available in your area. Better yet, start your own in your back garden – now that’s as local as it gets!
- Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is yet another weight management trend taking the world by storm. There are a few varieties of intermittent fasting: the 5:2 diet, where you heavily restrict your caloric intake for two days of the week, and enjoy a relaxed diet for five days, and the 8:16 diet, where you can only eat within an 8-hour window of the day, and fast for the remaining 16 hours. There is also the ‘month on, month off’ trend, where you eat a reduced calorie diet for one month, relax your restrictions the next month, and so on.Intermittent fasting has a few advantages over other diets. Firstly, it doesn’t eliminate any core food groups, so you can satisfy all your micronutrient requirements. Secondly, if you follow the 5:2 or ‘month on, month off’ format, it may be easier to focus on your food choices for only two days of the week, or one month at a time, rather than all seven days continuously, without end. Lastly, intermittent fasting may actually help to decrease your appetite and portion sizes over time.Unlike many fad diets, intermittent fasting also has scientifically proven results. For example, one study of 32 candidates showed that intermittent fasting for 12 weeks using the 5:2 diet resulted in weight loss of over 5kg, a reduction in total cholesterol by 20%, and interestingly, a reduction in leptin (a hormone causing hunger) by 40%. Intermittent fasting has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. A word of caution though, if you go ‘overboard’ on food during your non-fasting time, you may risk putting on weight, rather than losing it!
However, like most ‘diets’, once you stop your pattern of choice, you risk regaining your weight over time. So – be prepared to stick with this pattern of eating long term, or to cycle in and out of it, in order to maintain your results.
- Fermented foods and probiotics
Why are probotics so popular? Well, they have the potential to restore and protect the balance of healthy gut bacteria. And, with emerging research linking the health of your gut with improved exercise tolerance and sense of wellbeing, and reduced risk of diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, cancer, and even depression, why wouldn’t you give probiotics a go?If popping capsules isn’t your thing, give fermented foods a go. During fermentation, natural sugars in foods are converted to lactic acid, facilitating the growth of multiple varieties of good bacteria, or ‘probiotics’. Yoghurt, cheese, kefir, kombucha, miso and pickled vegetables are all natural sources of probiotics.
Tumeric and anti-inflammatories
If there was a prize for ‘superfood 2017’, turmeric would surely come close!
Turmeric has been used for centuries in South East Asia as a natural healer. In recent years, studies have linked curcumin, the compound responsible for turmeric’s bright yellow colour, with anti-inflammatory benefits. And with chronic low-grade inflammation linked to numerous disease states, joint pain, stress and weight gain, it’s no wonder turmeric lattes, juices and capsules are popping up at every street corner.
The research into turmeric is still young, however, it seems that consuming it together with black pepper and heathy oils enhances absorption. Aim for a daily dose of 80-500mg of curcumin extract in capsule form, or 2-4g of turmeric root used in cooking or drinks. Golden milk is a favourite – create a paste with turmeric root, black pepper, ginger and a little olive oil. Mix the paste with milk and honey – delicious!