February 07, 2017

Food and Wellness Trends for 2017

After drop-kicking 2016 off into the far reaches of the cosmos, we rang in the new year hoping for better times. Thanks to a political climate that reminds us to take nothing for granted, many people are entering 2017 with a healthy dose of caution. It’s likely that this year, wellness will be more important than ever as people aim to take care of themselves, their loved ones and vote with their wallets whenever they can.

Food and Wellness Will Become More Synonymous

The fact that we collapsed food and wellness into one column in 2017 is telling. Food is becoming central to our understanding of our health, our local communities and our planet. With a president who believes climate change is a hoax, unsustainable agricultural practices are sure to be met with pushback from those seeking to affect the issue where they can.

On a micro level, people will be looking closely into how foods make them feel. Check out the rising success of Moon Juice’s Amanda Chantal Bacon, whose focus on “adaptogens” and “alkalizing the body” received praised by major influencers like Gwnyeth Paltrow. Bacon has gone from being despised to having her products sold everywhere from Net-a-porter to Urban Outfitters. If you want to guess the next expensive ingredient people will be sprinkling in smoothies, her website can probably point you in the right direction. Call her fringe if you will, but she’ll be the one laughing all the way to her mansion.

Quelling Inflammation is The New Weight Loss

People may always want to lose weight and avoid disease. This year, those efforts may collide in the anti-inflammation diet, which seeks to fight the inflammation that’s increasingly being pinpointed as the root of chronic disease. It focuses on inflammation fighters like omega-3’s, flaxseeds, antioxidant-rich produce and wild-caught seafood, while nixing sugar and refined carbohydrates.

I would also expect organic meat to gain popularity with this movement. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet doesn’t get you far if the animal products you eat were fed nothing but GMO corn, hormones and antibiotics.

The Rise of Turmeric

Speaking of antioxidant powerhouses, enter turmeric. I hadn’t heard anything about this bright yellow spice until I read a book about a cancer prevention lifestyle this summer. It talked in length about the miraculous antioxidant effects of turmeric, especially when paired with black pepper. Its main active ingredient, curcumin, may do everything from prevent heart attacks to fight cancer. I feel like everyone must have read that book at exactly the same time, because suddenly this ingredient was everywhere. Golden milk, golden smoothies, turmeric overnight oats and plenty of curries promise seriously intriguing health benefits. I’m going to go ahead and name this the wellness ingredient of the year.

Honorable mentions: Matcha, amla (gooseberries), mushrooms (reishi, chaga, ashwagandha, cordyceps), goji berries

Made-to-Order Nutrition

As a generation raised on antibiotics, non-organic meat and hand sanitizer, many of us have developed off-kilter microbiomes. In 2016, this manifested in the popularity of probiotic products, from kombucha to sauerkraut. We’re definitely at the beginning of understanding the ecosystems that live inside of us, and I’m guessing we’ll look back at our fancy-free chugging of probiotics as being a bit ham-fisted. This year, services like DAYTWO will enter the mix, offering to analyze your gut bacteria and give you personalized recommendations for what to eat. That is, if you can stomach sending in a stool sample! From their app screenshots, they sure do seem to recommend a lot of cookies, hamburgers and cake, so take their elevator pitch with a grain of salt.

This fragmenting of nutritional needs is likely to continue to develop. I recently did a blood test to see which foods I was reactive to, and ended up having a problem with vanilla. The whole experience left me wondering if future generations will have increasingly nuanced food sensitivities. If so, food companies will have to be quite creative to accommodate such individualized needs. Anything that lets people dial in their own ingredients will definitely be groundbreaking.

High-Fat Diets Will Kick Low-Fat to the Curb

In a groundbreaking exposé, the New York Times recently revealed some shady dealings between scientists and the sugar industry, which led to attempts to peg heart disease on saturated fat instead of sugar. This story furthers the case of experts who have been arguing that low-fat diets have led to our astronomical problems with obesity, diabetes and yes, heart disease.

Now, high-fat diets are popping everywhere, with one of the most popular being the ketogenic diet. I first heard of this in the context of helping epileptic individuals avoid seizures, but its neurological health benefits may also apply to those with Autism and Alzheimer’s.

Now, when I walk into Barnes & Noble, ketogenic diet cookbooks are everywhere. In 2017, fat is no longer the enemy.

Collagen: Not Just for Lips!

No longer do you need injections to get the beauty benefits of collagen. You can consume it regularly. As unpalatable as this sounds, many wellness goddesses of the Internet and dietitians mix it into their coffee and smoothies. Devotees swear it improves their hair and skin, and that it helps with joint and bone health below the surface. Who knows if this trend will stick, but prepare to encounter it this year.

Gen Z Will Magnify All Our Wellness Goals

While all these changes feel somewhat new for those of us raised with Subway presented as a legit weight loss option, they will feel native to Gen Z. Born on or after Y2K, this generation is starting to turn 17, meaning they’re entering the workforce, going out to eat and influencing brands.

These coveted young people are genuine unicorns. According to this report, they aren’t interested in self-destructive forms of “teenage rebellion” like smoking. In fact, they’re one of the most sober classes of high schoolers in modern times. What would their reboot of Skins even be like?! In place of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, they’re more into activism, spreading awareness about consent and eating vegan.

Brands rushing to create cricket powder granola bars may want to stop in their tracks. Gen Z might eschew crickets for plant-based proteins and granola for anti-inflammatory grain-free alternatives. Phew!

There’s a Chance Wellness Will Lose Popularity and We Will Enter an Era of Absurdity and Aimlessness

Will the idea of waking up with a mindfulness app, turning on your essential oil diffuser and then folding over into a yoga pose seem an Obama-era luxury? Will people turn back to junk food in the Trump era, washing down their angst with Cheetos and Four Loko?

Even if this backlash against wellness doesn’t enter the zeitgeist, there will always be people who proudly eat non-organic foods, hit up the drive-through and smoke like there’s no tomorrow. It’s a brave new world. Anything is possible.

Becky Lang

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