As each new year comes and goes, society experiences an ever-changing list of trends. From fashion to gadgets or even a toy (remember the fidget spinner?) that dominates the market, there are trends for almost everything. It is certainly no different when it comes to food and nutrition. According to the Food and Drink Industry Report 2020, the food industry is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK with a total turnover of £104 billion.
Nutrition trends have now become a world of their own where there is constantly something new to be eating, doing or avoiding altogether. Here we provide nutrition tips for a new decade.
The history of food trends
In order to understand how our nutritional health is so heavily guided, let’s have a quick look at the history of food and how we got to where we are today.
If we consider for thousands of years we used to rely on agriculture to supply our food sources – including communities rearing livestock, fishing, growing crops – food took time to cook and prepare and came from whole sources. During World War II, the need for food with a longer shelf-life increased and as a result, the popularity of tinned food increased. Remember SPAM?
During the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, technology advanced and deep freezers were introduced and with that came foods like fish fingers. Chickens were also starting to be reared for eating. As the 60’s came, more women started to enter the workforce and household kitchens started to be filled with more ‘gadgets’. This caused a big rise in convenience food and processed foods.
It was in the 70’s, with the introduction of the microwave, that a major change took place how we looked at food and prepared it. Meals could now be prepared in minutes! It was convenience at its finest. It’s no surprise by the time the 80’s hit, the new age of processed and convenience food had affected the weight and overall health of society, leading to result in the first real wave of dieting and weight loss initiatives such as aerobics and keep fit.
So began the constant flow of new diets and health trends such as The Grapefruit Diet (where you ate grapefruit at every meal because it was believed to have an enzyme that burned fat fast), The Cabbage Soup Diet (where you lived off of low-calorie cabbage soup for an extended period of time), The Fat-Free Diet (when all fat was labelled as the enemy), The Blood Type Diet (where you ate different food groups depending on your blood type) and The Atkins Diet (when fats were your best friend again). These are only a few nutrition trends but it paints a clear picture of the ever changing shifts in the food industry and how our health and diet was influenced.
How do our food choices affect our bodies?
If we consider all the trends that come and go, we can understand how our own health and the way we look at food is continually influenced and impacted by food trends
Understanding the reality of health and nutrition trends being big business, it can be hard to figure out which ones are actually good for our health in the long-term and which ones are just a false promise for a ‘quick fix’. Food choices have a huge impact on our bodies and we often let convenience, or the promise of fast weight loss dictate how and what we eat. Essentially for optimum health the body requires the right level of nutrients through a balance diet. Imbalances in the diet lead to a lack of energy, irritability, stress, a slower metabolism, becoming ill more often, skin conditions and becoming undernourished.
Transparency vs Convenience
One of the positive aspects of nutritional trends is a shift in focus towards the quality of our food and people are demanding more transparency around additives such as sugar and artificial ingredients like GMO’s (genetically modified organisms). We are holding the food industry more accountable. Animal welfare is another area of huge concern to many, driving changes within the food industry (demand for organic and whole foods) and changing our eating habits (raw food, veganism, and vegetarianism).
So with all that being said, choosing a healthy eating regime can get confusing. Here we look into some of the health and nutritional trends to find out what the benefits are of each.
A very popular health trend that is gaining global attention is veganism, also known as a plant-based diet. Yes, veganism has been around for a long time but in recent years it has become so much more common and catered for by the food industry. With a vegan diet, you simply don’t eat any animal or animal derived products such as meat, fish, dairy or eggs.
The fact that veganism has become much more popular in recent years is not to do with weight loss, as so many diets are, but due to the rise in society’s concern with overall health, animal welfare and environmental concerns.
According to Pubmed, some of the possible benefits of a vegan diet include improved heart health, a reduced risk of certain cancers (plants are high in vitamins, fibre and phytochemicals which can help protect against some cancers) as well as lowering the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and improve kidney function. A decrease in symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis has also been linked to following a plant-based diet high in probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and tempeh. And finally, weight loss can be a welcome side effect as following a vegan diet often means you eat much more fruit, vegetables and whole foods.
When following a plant-based diet, while you are restricted to not eating any animal derived products, there are no specific recipes or meals that are forbidden. You can make what you want and eat as much as you want as long as it’s not made with or from an animal. One thing to be mindful of is that being vegan doesn’t always mean being healthy. There are many vegan products out there that are not healthy and are highly processed and don’t provide any essential nutrients. If going vegan appeals to you, you should always focus on choosing healthy, whole foods and make sure you are getting a balanced diet. The good thing is most recipes can be adapted to be vegan-friendly and there are many meat and dairy alternatives in the supermarkets these days. So when you feel like that cheese toastie, you can actually have it!
The Keto Diet
Another popular food trend is the Keto Diet. You will have certainly come across recipes that boast being Keto-friendly, but what does that mean? In simple terms, the Keto lifestyle is all about eating a low-carb, moderate protein and higher fat diet with the benefits of weight loss and increased energy levels. As you are eating a diet low in carbohydrates, this causes your body to go into ketosis (the body starts to burn fat for energy instead of glucose [your blood sugar]) due to the lack of carbohydrates.
Research has suggested following a Keto diet can help you burn fat, lose weight faster, it could help to improve acne and also improve your heart health (if you choose healthy fats). The Keto diet also forces you to stay away from sugary and processed foods and can help curb your appetite by giving you a more steady supply of energy through the foods allowed on the diet. Whilst eating a diet high in carbohydrates causes spikes in our blood sugar levels, you know the after lunch energy low that follows! A Keto lifestyle does take time to adjust to and may not suit everyone. It can feel restrictive at first but many people following the Keto lifestyle enthuse about how good they feel. To help support you, there are also endless recipes available to recreate originally high-carb meals into more keto-friendly versions. For instance, you can try Spaghetti Bolognese made with courgette spirals or almond flour pasta instead. There are even recipes for bread and desserts!
*It is important to note some research warns that the Keto Diet is not recommended if you are on medication for diabetes or high blood pressure, or for women who are breast feeding.
Along the lines of a vegan lifestyle comes an even more specific diet trend called the Raw Food Diet. As the name suggests, this lifestyle diet consists of eating mainly raw plant-based foods such as raw fruits, vegetables, legumes, sprouted grains, nuts, seeds and fermented foods. Some people will eat unprocessed dairy products, raw eggs, fish and dried meats while others will follow a completely vegan diet. The raw food diet is based on the idea that cooking food destroys its nutrients and enzymes, which are important for good health. Eating food in its raw state is believed to maximise its health benefits.
If following a raw food diet, you will often use blenders, juicers, food processors and even dehydrators to prepare your food. This is a highly restrictive diet and requires some organisation and planning to ensure you get a well-balanced diet.
The raw food diet can provide you with a high amount of vitamins, minerals and fibre and guarantees your 5-a-day while eliminating processed foods. Eating lots of fruit and vegetables can also help to control your blood pressure. There is not a lot of scientific evidence to back up all claims but some of the suggested benefits from raw food diet followers include improved levels of energy, clearer skin, stronger hair and nails and better digestion due to the natural enzymes in raw foods. Because it is a diet naturally low in salt, it could also help fight against kidney disease, stroke and heart failure. One clear benefit is weight loss as most of the foods eaten on the raw food diet are low in calories and fat, while being high in fibre. However, this is not typically the goal of following a raw food diet as there are other, less restrictive methods for weight loss.
One thing to keep in mind is that following a raw food diet can be so restrictive that it might require you to take additional supplements to make sure you get all the essential nutrients, such as protein, vitamin B12 and iron. Also, with such a high intake of fibre it can lead to bloating and digestive problems in the beginning. Making sure that you are eating enough calories is vital on a raw food diet.
One strong message you can take from following a raw food diet is even if you don’t eat 100% raw, including more uncooked vegetables and greens in your diet, and choosing whole foods over processed foods can significantly improve your overall health.
CBD Oil (Cannabidiol)
Cannabidiol oil, referred to as CBD oil, was discovered back in 1940 by a chemistry professor for research purposes and has recently exploded onto the market, branded as a health food supplement. CBD is a natural compound found in the cannabis (hemp) plant and is a non-psychotropic product, which means it doesn’t give you a ‘high’. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), on the other hand, is the more infamous compound found in cannabis plants and is considered a psychotropic. It is the THC which gives you the ‘high’ in marijuana products and is considered a Class A or B drug in many countries around the world CBD oil is legal in the UK provided that it contains less than 0.02% of THC. Because of its low dose of THC, CBD oil will not give you the euphoric high, is not considered addictive and is labeled as safe to take.
CBD oil can be put under the tongue, can be smoked or vaped, applied to your skin topically or even eaten using edibles. Due to its rising popularity, CBD oil is available at most health food stores.
Depending on how CBD oil is used, some research has suggested it to be effective for a wide variety of symptoms and conditions. According to CBD Central, when used topically, CBD can help soothe sore muscles, aid with chronic pain, migraines and some skin conditions like acne. When dropped under the tongue, eaten in food or smoked, it can also help you feel calm and relaxed, minimising the symptoms of stress and anxiety and helps with insomnia. Harvard Health Publishing has stated that the strongest scientific evidence suggests that CBD can be effective in treating some forms of childhood epilepsy that don’t respond to regular anti-seizure medications.
*One important thing to note is that CBD oil is not regulated in all countries around the world which means when you buy CBD oil, there is no guarantee that the product you buy has the labelled amount of the active ingredient in it. While it is legal to buy CBD oil, it is not legal to grow and produce your own CBD products.
While we have only skimmed the surface of some of the current health and nutrition trends, choosing to follow a new trend always comes with the excitement and thrill of what positive effects it could have on our health. Always do your research before starting something new and make sure you are realistic about the possible outcomes. If something sounds too good to be true, it very well could be. Whatever the health trend you hear about next, consider what your most important priorities are and make sure it meets your needs. Keep your overall well being at the centre of any lifestyle choice you make and remember thin does not mean healthy. We are all different and what suits one person’s lifestyle may not suit yours. If in doubt, thinking in the long-term is usually what’s best for us. Always aim for balance.