A New Year With New Foods

Welcome to 2015! The New Year often brings resolutions to get and stay healthy. It also brings a whole new crop of food trends. While fashionistas look forward to the latest clothing styles to hit the runway, food lovers (aka “foodies”) await the “hot” foods and food trends for the year ahead. Not all food trends are necessarily healthful ones, but 2015 has some nutritious and interesting things in store for us. Here are a few that you might want to think about trying, along with some tips for incorporating them into your current lifestyle.

Clean eating. Clean eating isn’t really about making sure the food you eat has been washed thoroughly (although that’s important). Instead, clean eating is about focusing on choosing healthful, whole foods while limiting or even avoiding packaged or processed foods. Clean eating isn’t the latest fad diet to pop up; followers proclaim that it’s really a lifestyle that centers on choosing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthful proteins and fats.

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Give it a try: Make a point to eat some fresh fruits and vegetables every day (frozen is OK too). Skip the veggies that come in a can. Try a whole grain, like brown rice, instead of white rice or potatoes. Choose “clean” beverages like sparkling water or freshly brewed tea rather than lattes, sports drinks, or diet sodas.

Cauliflower. In case you hadn’t heard, kale has been the darling of vegetables for the past few years. Well, kale isn’t going away any time soon, but it’s moved over a bit to make room for its cousin, cauliflower. Cauliflower may look a little bland, but it’s actually packed with nutrients and antioxidants that may help fight cancer, inflammation, heart disease, and even stomach ulcers. One cup of cooked cauliflower has just 34 calories and about 7 grams of carbohydrate, but it packs a decent 5 grams of fiber, as well.

Give it a try: Not sure you like cauliflower? Cook it up and puree it, then add it to mashed potatoes or mac and cheese. Whip up a cauliflower “steak” by slicing the head lengthwise and roasting it in the oven (learn how here).

Fermented foods. Fermented foods have been around for thousands of years, so we really can’t call these “new” foods. But they might be new to you. Fermented foods have undergone fermentation by healthful bacteria. Originally, this was done as a way to preserve foods. Sauerkraut, pickles, sourdough bread, miso, tempeh, and kefir are examples of fermented, or cultured, foods. These foods are thought to provide a number of health benefits, including better digestion and improved immune function.

Give it a try: If you like yogurt, give kefir (a cultured dairy drink) a chance. Stir a tablespoon of miso into your soup. Try fresh pickles (found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store).

Matcha. If you like green tea, you might like matcha. Matcha includes the entire leaf of the tea plant, instead of just the brewed water. The leaf is ground into a fine powder. The claims about matcha are that it contains more antioxidants than “regular” tea and that it can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, help with weight loss, improve mood, and lower levels of stress. While some of these claims have yet to be supported by science, animal studies with matcha do show lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Green tea, in general, may lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer.

Give it a try: Try matcha in place of your usual tea. Also, you can add matcha powder to yogurt, smoothies — you can even use it as a rub for grilled meats (it may help cut down on the formation of carcinogens)!

Pea protein. Americans are constantly on the quest for ways to include more protein in their diets. While more protein isn’t the answer for everyone, healthful sources of protein are important. Rather than loading up on too much animal protein, aim to incorporate more plant sources. Pea protein is considered to be a high-quality protein, right up there with eggs and soy. Pea protein contains the amino acid arginine, which helps to build muscle. And for people who are allergic to other forms of protein, such as egg, soy, or milk, or who are vegetarians, pea protein serves as an alternative protein source. Pea protein may have some health advantages, too: Rats fed pea protein showed a 20% drop in blood pressure after 8 weeks.

Give it a try: Many people are starting to use pea protein powder in shakes and smoothies. If you’re a smoothie fan, consider giving it a try. Also, expect to see pea protein added to more and more foods in the future, including bars, cereals, and beverages.

Understandably, not all of these foods may sound appealing to you. Use this New Year to create your own food trends — try something new or different. Revisit foods that you thought you didn’t like. Think about ways to make clean (or at least, cleaner) eating a part of your lifestyle for this year and many years ahead.