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The Top Five Nutrition Trends for 2017

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There are some pretty strange nutrition trends out there.
Not too many are stranger than the one that may take No.1 spot in 2017. Not too many have a more noble motivation either.

1. Meat-free foods

The demand for meat-free foods (because of our environment, our health and animal welfare), for instance, has spawned the next generation of plant-based, meat-like products.

Tofurkey is old news. Now there are animal-free burgers that ooze “blood” and Stanford biochemist-designed mince patties, five years in the making, that smell, taste and look like beef mince – even down to the raw, bloodied meat that browns as it sizzles on the grill. The taste, apparently, “is unreal”.

“The demand for meat is going through the roof, and the world is not going to be able to satisfy that using animals – there’s just not enough space, not enough water,” says meat pattie’ creator and biochemist, Patrick Brown of his motivation behind the “meat”.

Currently these plant-based products, developed by Bill Gates-backed companies, are only available in the US, but with Australians Googling the term “vegan” more than anyone else in the world, we’re also trending towards meat alternatives.

Dietitian Dr Joanna McMillan predicts it will be the No.1 nutrition trend in 2017, but interestingly it won’t be vegans leading the charge.

“Although only a small number will actually try being vegan (it is hard to follow) I do see a trend towards more vegetarians and more flexitarians – the latter probably has the biggest growth potential as it’s the most doable,” McMillan says. “I support it too as most Aussies don’t eat enough plant food and from an environmental and health perspective that shift is a positive one. We don’t need to give up our meat, but we do need to ensure we balance it with plant foods and watch the overall increase in demand as populations grow.”

2. Functional food

“Superfoods” ought to be called super marketing foods and we’re sick of paying above the odds for dubious claims, but we are interested in functional foods that have known, evidence-based benefits.

Functional foods that are known to benefit our health was a top trend in 2016, according to Google, and are here to stay.

Turmeric, apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, bone broth, manuka honey are not new, but as research has revealed their benefits, have become newsworthy again.

It’s not just the physical benefits of functional foods that has captured our attention.

“Could mental hijackers be in your food,” asks Michele Chevalley Hedge, author of Beating Sugar Addictions for Dummies and a nutrition medicine practitioner.

She anticipates “evidence-based nutritional prescriptions” will be a growing trend to help our “biochemical processes”.

Chevalley Hedge adds that, last year, at the Integrated Healthcare Symposium in New York, the importance of functional foods was a feature.

“The opening message was ‘it is no longer possible for us to practice our health modality without incorporating nutrition’,” she says.

Even new cookbooks, such as Spice Health Heroes ($49.99 through Murdoch books), are basing recipes on functional foods – horseradish the “antibiotic” spice recipe, fenugreek the “digestion normalising” spice and ginger the “balancing” spice.

3. Clean eating, not cleansing

The “detox” is dying, if not dead. After a colonic-like spurt into the mainstream, they are returning whence they came and that’s a good thing.

“God I hope juicing detoxes are on the way out,” exclaims McMillan. “Really the whole premise of detoxing is misguided but we love the idea of it, so it will probably stay with us in some form. I have heard ‘souping is the new juicing’ so maybe we’ll see that move.”

Indeed, the Global Food Forum anticipated “souping“, where we ease off from the junk in our diets and switch to foods that are nourishing, but easy to digest and give our system the chance to reset. Soups, unlike juices, contain fibre and do not have the sugar from fruits.

“Detoxing is you’re just on a juice cleanse, and after three days I’ve lost a few kilos and I feel really good, but it’s taking a lot of fructose into your body,” says Lee Holmes, nutrition coach, wholefoods chef and author of Supercharged Food and Heal Your Gut.

“I think we’re moving into gentler practices – fish oil, clean eating. eating soups and foods that are easy to digest… Just juices are not good – you’re not getting all the vitamins and nutrients and having all that fructose. Just a balanced diet [is better].”

Adds Chevalley Hedge: “The idea of stripping back and deprivation of food to gain good health is over… Fad, restriction, and hunger will never bring about sustainable change. That is what most people are ideally seeking-a change that they can maintain without pain.  And hey, what is wrong with a glass of wine or a coffee – the poison is in the dose for most people – not the occasional indulgence.”

4. Bush foods

Warrigal greens are a native, wild-growing type of “sea” spinach that run rampant along sea shores and that many fine-dining chefs have “discovered” and use as a star ingredient in their fine fare.

Chefs are not the only ones tapping into the abundance around us, but they are the ones leading the trend.

“I’m interested in bush foods – I think they’re going to be a big trend,” Holmes says. “Things like wattle seeds, kakadu plums, lemon myrtle – they’re really beautiful to use. I think chef’s are tapping into them and they start to filter down.”

Kakadu plums, considered a gift of the Dreamtime according to the Australian Superfood Company, have the highest levels of vitamin C of any fruit in the world while lemon myrtle has been used by Indigenous communities for a variety of purposes including as an anti-microbial, for its multiple vitamins and minerals (including calcium, folate, vitamin A and E) as well as an insect repellent (when the leaves are burned).

“I think there will be an increased interest in bush foods and heritage varieties of things like grains and even tomatoes etc,” says McMillan. “We’ll move from ancient grains to all sorts of different plant varieties and that’s a good thing.”

5. Back from the brink

We’ve experimented with extremes – no fat, no sugar, no food. It’s time to bring balance back. It makes good sense given that good health is the epitome of good balance – that includes full fat, a little sugar.

I suspect this trend has, at least a little, to do with the body positivity movement – trusting ourselves to treat our bodies with respect and care without, necessarily, the need for denial or punishment. There is a call for more joy in our bodies and, thank goodness, more joy in our food. It’s about forgetting calorie counting and, instead, embracing wholefoods – foods as minimally tampered with as possible. That includes dairy.

“I think dairy will make a comeback with all the good news on dairy fat not being associated with heart disease,” McMillan says. “The headlines have been a little misleading there as it doesn’t lower risk either and when you do fat swaps with healthier fats you get benefits but that’s a nutritional tangent – bottom line is I think full fat dairy will be on the rise.”

Similarly, the sugar message has been toned down by half. A message Chevalley Hedge welcomes.

“Bring back a bit of moderation,” she says. “Moderation with a healthy approach is sustainable.”

After all, it’s not like the information has changed that much, Yale University’s Dr David Katz told American industry publication Food Navigator, we’re just finally catching on that vegan, Paleo, gluten-free, fat-free or sugar-free are not panaceas to our problems.

“It’s remarkable how much consensus there is about the fundamentals of healthy eating… diets that emphasis vegetables. fruits, wholegrains, nuts and seeds, beans, lentils, water for thirst, and food that’s minimally processed.”

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"Things like wattle seeds, kakadu plums, lemon myrtle – they're really beautiful to use. I think chef's are tapping into them and they start to filter down."