New Year’s resolutions — have you already started thinking about yours? — often include ambitious dieting plans, but research shows that incremental movements, or microsteps, in the direction of our goals increase our odds of success. With that in mind, Thrive Global reached out to two leading nutritionists — NBC’s “TODAY” show Nutrition and Health expert Joy Bauer, M.S., R.D.N., and Founder and CEO of Nutritious Life Keri Glassman M.S., R.D. — to break down the health benefits of Whole Foods’ top food trends of 2019,” so you can eat widely and flavorfully while keeping your dietary concerns front and center.
The supermarket polled their culinary experts, buyers, and foragers in their global offices and across their 490 stores for a list of forthcoming culinary trends. But how many of these new trendy foods are actually nutritious and good for your health? Here, our experts weigh in.
Pacific Rim Flavors
Whole Foods sees an ongoing interest in exploring Asia, Oceania, and the western coasts of North and South America through our taste buds — that includes Filipino pork sausage, dried shrimp, cuttlefish, and shrimp paste, as well as tropical fruits like guava, dragon fruit, and passion fruit. “From a health perspective, the more out of the box and diverse flavors we can experience, the more enjoyable meals become. When you have super flavorful and interesting meals, you tend to savor the flavor and slow your pace of eating,” Bauer says. Slower consumption of food helps you feel fuller faster and may aid weight loss, studies have found. As far as the pork sausage goes, Bauer suggests not eating too much, but says you should feel free to wolf down guava: “It is one of the most vitamin C-packed foods on the planet, and vitamin C helps to boost your immune system. It’s great for your skin and joints, and it’s a precursor for collagen.”
These microorganisms help maintain gut-health by “evening out digestion,” says Bauer. They have several health benefits: They stimulate our immune response, and can help the community of microorganisms in your digestive tract return to normal after being disturbed by disease or antibiotics. “Research suggests there’s no difference between refrigerated and shelf-stable probiotics,” she says, but beware: “The downside is that not every strain works to do all of the things that probiotics, as an umbrella category, are pitched to help.” Bauer urges us, as consumers, to get smarter and more knowledgeable about looking at the research and knowing which strains help which conditions. “And always check with your doctor before taking any new supplement, because even over-the-counter probiotics can have negative effects in certain situations,” she stresses.
Rising in popularity, according to Whole Foods, are keto, paleo, grain-free, and even “pegan” (paleo + vegan) diets. “It’s great that people now understand that fat is not the enemy of good health,” Bauer says, noting that it can stabilize your blood sugar levels and help keep you satiated. However, Bauer worries we are now going overboard with the “fat love.” She cautious us to consume fat in moderation. “Fat is very calorically dense. If you start eating a whole lot of fat and then taking in all of these processed foods that are super easy to overeat — one bar after another bar — you’re going to overshoot your calories and end up gaining weight,” Bauer says. Favor unsaturated fats (ie. avocado, nuts, seeds, vegetable oil, etc.) over saturated fats (ie. butter, poultry skin, fatty beef, cream, etc.) because ”oodles of research show that they raise LDL levels, and elevated LDL cholesterol level puts you at an increased risk for heart disease,” she warns.
Next Level Hemp
Bauer says she’s intrigued by the emerging science on the possible health benefits of other parts of the hemp plant, but the research is still too spotty for her to comment. She does, however, sing the praises of hemp seeds: “They’re a terrific addition to anyone’s diet, since they’re plant-based and provide protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids,” she explains. Try adding them to oatmeal, smoothies, pancakes, muffins, and yogurt.
Faux Meat Snacks
Both Bauer and Glassman both express enthusiasm about moderating our meat consumption. “Reducing some of the meat you eat and consuming more veggies is good for your health and the environment,” says Glassman. Studies back her up. Plant-based diets have been shown to lower body mass index, blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels, and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Bauer emphatically agrees: “Any ways to get people interested in plant-based foods has a huge benefit to your body, your wallet and the planet,” she says, emphasizing their many nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber.
Whole Foods says to expect frozen desserts with bases like avocado, hummus, tahini, and coconut water. Bauer, who says she loves to “concoct and create” in the kitchen — she just made a dairy-free pumpkin pie ice cream as well as a curry option — finds this trend encouraging as a form of thinking outside the box: “It’s about bringing all these cool, interesting and delicious flavors to unknown territory.” Since so many people have food allergies and dietary preferences or restrictions, she adds, these frozen delights often provide them with wider possibilities, whether they’re non-dairy, soy, almond, or oatmeal.
Beyond seaweed snacks, which are enduringly popular, Whole Foods predicts more food fare from the ocean — think seaweed butter, kelp noodles, snacks made from water lily seeds, salmon skins, and more. Bauer, who’s a seaweed snack devotee, says these foods have lots of nutritional value. Salmon skins, for instance, are rich in Omega-3s, which help tame inflammation, aid in digestion, lower triglycerides, and improve heart and brain health.
High Level Snacks
Whole Foods predicts “the snack may start to usurp the usual three-meals-a-day routine.” Bauer, who’s the founder of Nourish Snacks, enthuses, “I’m personally a huge fan of snacking, and any way to make it more special and more enjoyable is worthwhile.” She calls it “a welcome respite—both emotionally and physically,” but urges us to vet ingredient lists and nutritional fact panels “to choose the healthiest, most wholesome products.”
The last two trends Whole Foods predicts for next year are less about food and more about protecting the environment, as well as buying products that contribute to a greater cause:
Purchases Empowering the People
The supermarket chain expects that consumers will continue to buy food, beverages, and various consumables with an eye toward protecting the welfare of the environment, animals and vulnerable populations of people. That’s exciting news we can all get behind: Cultivating our sense of purpose — and making decisions that lead to the improvement of all of our lives, globally and locally — is a core value at Thrive Global.
Both nutritionists zealously support companies who are eschewing plastic in favor of waxed canvas or silicone alternatives, reusable vegetable-bags, and compostable food wraps. “It’s an easy way for consumers to help contribute to the betterment of the world, regardless of what type of diet they prefer,” Glassman muses. “Anything to help the planet is moving in the right direction,” says Bauer.