As the calendar flips to a new year, emerging ideas about healthy foods, upcycled eats and different thought processes about sustainability might come into play when deciding what hits the plate and what is a thing of the past.
Sustainable, Eco-Friendly Plant Power
Sorghum is an up and coming, versatile, grain that boasts many health benefits including fiber and its gluten-free status. It’s a good source of iron, B vitamins, magnesium and phosphorus. Not only is it good for you, it’s good for the environment too. This grain is among the top efficient crops in conversion of solar energy and is considered a drought-tolerant plant. It comes in several colors including red, orange, tan and bronze and could start to show up on cereal, protein bar, cracker and gluten-free bread ingredient lists. Other grains worth trying in 2017 could be amaranth, millet, kamut and spelt.
As the Year of the Pulses ends, 2017 will usher in new concepts with similar foods. Pulses like nutrient-dense legumes (beans, lentils and peas) and other plant-based proteins (nuts and seeds) will continue to thrive on the plate, in quick snacks, and beyond. All meals and snacks that incorporate more plants and smaller meat portions can lead to healthier hearts, smaller waistlines and longevity while being cost-effective and delicious. Look for lentil-based pastas and bean-based chips on the grocery store shelves; you might even see more meatless meal recipes on your Pinterest page or more veggie burger options on restaurant menus in 2017, too!
Seaweed is on the rise and it might be the “new kale.” This Asian cuisine staple is growing in popularity. From crispy seaweed snacks that could curb potato chip cravings to kelp salads at fancy restaurants, this low-calorie leafy green provides a healthy dose of vitamin A, C and other B vitamins along with fiber, magnesium and zinc.
You might have seen the word “sprouted” on a new cracker box, vegan protein powder or frozen bread at the grocery store, but what are sprouted grains and why are people going crazy over them? Sprouting is the enzyme activity that allows a seed of a grain to germinate under the right moisture and temperature conditions and sprouting of a new “baby plant” begins. This allows for easier digestion and increases the amount and bioavailability of certain nutrients including vitamin C.
This fermented, carbonated beverage is taking up more and more space in the refrigerated section at grocery stores now and will continue to do so in 2017. Bacteria and yeast are added to sugar and black or green tea to give the drink its earthy flavor. Most varieties use fruit juice as a base to reduce the acidity. Kombucha contains probiotics (gut health-promoting bacteria), also found in yogurt and other fermented foods. In order to maintain the probiotic benefits, the tea must not be pasteurized, which also increases the risk of contamination, so stick to commercially-produced options over homemade. Keep in mind that there are trace amounts of alcohol due to the fermentation process as well. True health benefits of kombucha are primarily anecdotal and without scientific evidence to support most claims. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drink it, it just means that evidence is lacking for now.
Shoppers and restaurant-goers will be much more interested in where food was farmed and harvested, as well as sustainability practices used and much more when it comes to label and menu reading. The source matters! Consumers might notice more labeling practices that offer a starting location like “California Walnuts” or “New Mexico Hatch Chilies,” which can make a difference for what ends up in the cart or ordered at the table.