We’re all looking to eat healthier these days, from less sodium and sugar to less meat and getting the right carbs. Here’s five food trends to know about today!

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Sprouting plants

Whether you buy sprouts or germinate your own at home, there are many healthy options to choose from. Sprouts are low in calories and fats, but high in digestible protein and essential vitamins and minerals. By allowing the seed or grain to sprout, the naturally present nutrients are released. Vitamins and minerals our bodies typically can’t access in the dried seed—and that may be lost through processing—are activated during sprouting, allowing for better absorption.

Almost any seed or grain can be sprouted. Broccoli, lentils, radish seeds and mung beans are a few. You can add them to your salads and sandwiches, use them as a garnish or blend them up into a veggie smoothie.

Dairy-free alternatives

For those who are allergic to milk, or simply don’t like the taste, there is now a wide variety of delicious non-dairy alternatives available.

While dairy-free drinks made from almond, hemp, soy and coconut have been flying off shelves for years, newcomers include creamy beverages made with flax seeds, hazelnuts and cashews. Not only will they satisfy your dairy cravings, but they’re also high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals (such as calcium) and fibre, but low in calories and saturated fats.

This category isn’t limited to just beverages. Coconut yogurt is becoming increasingly popular, which isn’t surprising given its rich nutrient profile and delicious taste. Coconut is also known for its antibacterial properties, aiding in balancing gut bacteria and ridding the gut of toxins, which can improve your digestive and immune health.

Digestive enzymes 

Looking to give your digestion a boost? Enzymes can help break down food into nutrients the body can use. This not only helps your body absorb the nutrients better, but can also reduce bloating and gas production associated with indigestion, as well as reduce the likelihood of ulcers caused by acid buildup in the stomach. And for those with digestive disorders such as ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s Disease, digestive enzymes may provide extra relief.

Because cooking and processing may destroy enzymes naturally found in foods, you may want to consider supplementation. Look for enzyme supplements that contain amylase, peptase, lipase, cellulose and lactase, which help to break down carbs, protein, fat, cellulose and lactose, respectively. Be sure to check with your health care practitioner before adding any supplements to your regimen.

Mushrooms

Mushroom extracts have long been a source of food and medicine for ancient populations, but the benefits of mushrooms are stepping into the spotlight this year in many new and interesting forms.

Edible mushrooms, such as white and brown button mushrooms, provide a host of benefits, as they’re rich sources of B-vitamins and minerals, including selenium and copper. White button mushrooms can even help to reduce inflammation. Another healthy option is Lion’s Mane mushroom supplements. Compounds in this mushroom have been shown to improve the protective covering of nerve cells (called myelin) from damage, relating to reductions in cogni- tive decline.

You can also try mushrooms in a tea. Reishi, for example, has been used for thousands of years through this “hot-water extraction” process, which releases beneficial carbohydrates and fibres with potent immune-boosting effects, such as helping to increase the production of white blood cells to fight invading bugs.

Smart carb options

People are often confused by carbohydrates and whether they’re healthy. The answer is yes and no. Refined carbo hydrates found in foods such as pastries, white breads and starchy pasta noodles stress your body’s systems, overwhelm your digestive tract, spike insulin levels and put pressure on your pancreas. Smart carb options, however, ones that are rich in fibre and complex carbs, allow your body to break them down and absorb all the nutrients for our digestive organs.

Common smart carb options include legumes, buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. In 2017, new options include bean pasta, a gluten-free and protein-packed alternative to spaghetti noodles that’s high in fibre, as well as shirataki noodles (made from yams) that are low-carb, low-calorie and gluten-free.

For those on-the-go, check out maltodextrin and waxy maize this year. When mixed with protein into your favorite smoothie, these carb sources are great post-workout, as they improve muscle glycogen recovery for energy without spiking inflammatory responses. Finally, for late-night snacks, skip the potato chips and try low-fat bean and pea snacks that satisfy your crunchy craving without the spike and crash.

More Inspiration: Check out this article on connecting with your local health food stores!

Author: Michelle W. Book is the in-house Holistic Nutritionist and spokesperson for the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA), an organization dedicated to educating Canadians about the benefits of natural health and organic products. As a busy professional with a young family, Michelle strives to spread the message that small changes in our everyday lives can have significant, positive effects on our health.

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