By: Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND, Sr. Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife Nutrition
Look inside your fridge –do you have a carton of non-dairy milk or products with added probiotics? If you do, consider yourself part of the avant-garde of some of next year’s nutrition trends.
Nutrition is constantly developing and evolving, so it’s exciting to discuss upcoming trends. In 2019 we will see nutrients which have been popular for a few years get a fresh boost, creative alternatives to dairy products, and a vast discussion about the different aspects of fasting.
1. Increased Demand for Plant-Based Proteins
Protein has been trending for quite some time. Particularly, plant-based proteins seem to be more popular than ever. The reason may have to do with the following:
- The rise in the number of people who are reducing their meat consumption – so called “flexitarians” – as well as those who are adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet. An Innova Market Insights report from last year, for example, found that 38% of US consumers reported eating meatless meals at least once a week. In Germany and the UK, the numbers are even higher –69% and 53% respectively.
- Environmental concerns. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, farming is responsible for the equivalent of 574 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States each year, and 42% of agricultural emissions come from animal agriculture.
- The notion that plant-based proteins have additional health benefits. As opposed to animal protein, they don’t contain cholesterol and they are relatively low in saturated fats. Plus, they provide other nutritional benefits that animal protein doesn’t provide, like phytonutrients.
It will be interesting to watch how the market for plant-based protein products evolves. With trends like low-carb or gluten free foods, consumers often tend to pay more attention to those approved claims, while often disregarding the rest of the ingredients list or the amount of calories per serving.
Manufacturers are increasingly creating plant-based meat-like products, such as plant-based chicken fingers. But if those are made with a fair amount of fat, they could end up having more calories than traditional chicken tenders.
As has been the case with other dietary trends, consumers need to be aware that the term “plant based” may give a product a “health halo”, but doesn’t ensure that the food is healthier than the meat-based product it is meant to replace. It is important to read food labels in order to know if the product is truly a healthy food. Remember: you still need to turn the package over; don’t rely only on the flashy claims on the front side.
2. Milk Alternatives
Almond milk is one of the most popular non-dairy alternatives to milk. However, oat milk may take the spotlight in 2019.
Oat milk is becoming popular because of its mildly sweet taste. We will also be seeing milks made from more unusual nuts or seeds, like pecans or sesame seeds. There is even a milk in development that contains the same nutritious proteins (casein and whey) found in cow’s milk, but made without a single cow. Founders of the company are producing the proteins by a process involving yeast and fermentation (similar to brewing beer), and are partnering with food and dairy companies in order to bring ‘cow-free’ dairy products to consumers in the very near future.
What’s important to point out is that milk alternatives are all over the map in terms of their nutritional content. The primary nutrients that people look for in dairy milk are protein, calcium and vitamin D. But some milk alternatives are actually quite low on those.
3. Barley Is the Trending Grain
It seems each year there is a new trending grain. A couple of years ago, everything was quinoa; this year, barley products are trending.
Whether barley will take off or not is yet to be seen. Last year, there were quite a few products made of sorghum, but they have yet to achieve much popularity. Barley is a very ancient grain, different from many other whole grains in that it’s a great source of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is very good for the digestive system; it also helps control blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Barley also fits nicely with other trends, since it is naturally gluten-free.
4. Digestive Health
For many people, their daily digestive function seems to dictate their mood. We’re very tuned to that: we don’t think “how are my lungs doing today?” but we do tend to focus on our digestive systems a lot.
Digestive health depends, in part, on the right balance of the various bacteria in the gut (the microbiome), which can benefit from the intake of probiotics. Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria naturally created by the process of fermentation. You can find them in foods like kimchi, yogurt, sauerkraut, and miso.
The traditional Western diet is not one that is naturally high in probiotics. To compensate, we are finding new ways to introduce more probiotics into our digestive tract.
Probiotic supplements are definitely trending, as well as foods that have probiotics added to them. Some that have caught my eye recently are probiotic-laced sparkling water and breakfast cereals.
5. Intermittent Fasting
The term “intermittent fasting” can be confusing because there are several different ways to approach it. In the simplest sense, intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between eating and fasting – but there are varying approaches. Some plans call for total abstinence for a day or more each week; others call for a “5:2” approach in which you eat fairly normally for five days per week, and then consume a very low calorie diet on the other two days.
While some people adopt the regimen as a means to control body weight, others are drawn to the practice in the belief it will have positive effects on longevity.
According to a study led by researchers from the National Institute on Aging, the ways in which we control when the calories go into our body could have metabolic consequences. For example, in another variant of intermittent fasting (known as time-restricted feeding, or TRF), calories are consumed within an 8-hour window and followed by an overnight fast of 16 hours. Preliminary evidence from the study suggests that TRF may help to:
- Reduce body fat
- Promote the “browning” of white adipose tissue (conversion of white adipose into brown adipose), which increases energy expenditure.
- Lead to metabolic improvements, such as better glucose tolerance.
In practical terms, this would mean consuming all your calories between, for example, 10 AM and 6 PM, which many people might find to be a challenge, especially if not everyone in the household is following the same plan.
There is much debate about the benefits of intermittent fasting. Human studies are still preliminary and – since there is so much variability among people in terms of their genetic makeup and exposure to environmental factors – there is likely to be a lot of variability in the way individual people respond, too. With so much more to learn, this is going to be a trend to watch.