Undercover Chocolate Company combines the nutrition of crispy baked quinoa with dark chocolate for a tasty, healthy treat. Anne-Marie Caruso, NorthJersey
The first time you noticed them was on your trip to San Francisco. Then you saw them in your neighborhood health food joint. Now foods such as¬†oat milk, bone broth and chia seeds are showing up in recipes¬†and on menus and on your own grocery store’s shelves.¬†
Are they just passing through? Are they worth getting to know?
A lot of the foods attracting¬†more attention this year appeal to people interested in avoiding consumption of meat and pursuing a plant-based diet, says Kristina Maitner, an adjunct professor of nutrition at Monmouth University and dietitian at St. Peters University Hospital in New Brunswick.
“They’re nutritious but natural, and helpful¬†if you’re a vegetarian or vegan¬†and¬†trying to get complete proteins in your diet,” she says.¬†
Other buzzed-about foods¬†address needs we have as a culture¬†‚ÄĒ to relax more, for example¬†‚ÄĒ or build on new information about how to stay healthy.
Only time will tell if these foods are finds or fads¬†‚ÄĒ looking at you, insect protein¬†‚ÄĒ but here’s what you should know about them.
Who wouldn’t like to feel less stressed? Enter a marketplace full of CBD-infused foods. “These are going to be around for a long time,” predicts Audrey Zona, an integrative health coach and founder of Zo Healthy in Franklin Lakes. “It just feels like they’re a fad because of all the new products.” She’s referring to the honeys, teas, coffees and chocolate bars containing added cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive¬†extract of the hemp (cannabis) plant said to lower anxiety and stress.
Zona, who acknowledges that some people are more receptive to CBD’s¬†calming effects than others, says that some studies show CBD oil reducing inflammation and boosting gut health.
Known in tonier setting as pain au levain ‚ÄĒ and pretty much synonymous with sourdough in America ‚ÄĒ¬†naturally leavened bread uses wild yeast and bacteria to help the dough rise. “It’s similar to traditional bread¬†‚ÄĒ¬†maybe a little higher in protein, folate and antioxidants, which allows the body to absorb those nutrients better,” says Maitner. It’s not exactly a newcomer on the scene, having been around since ancient Egypt, but it’s a more frequent star¬†of bakeries and restaurant bread bowls due to its easier digestion by people who are sensitive to gluten.
Oat milk, which is gluten-free, is “relatively rich and mild-tasting, and frosts and foams in lattes due to the extra carbs and sugars,” says Zona. But she recommends pea milk, which is also gluten-free, as a dairy substitute, because it’s lower in carbs. Both oat and pea milk,¬†as well as rice and coconut milk, are great substitutes for the lactose-intolerant, and contain the same amount of protein as cow’s milk (oat milk has a little less). If you want to try this at home, you can make your own oat milk¬†by soaking, blending¬†and strained¬†oats.¬†
“Kombucha is a fermented tea, and kimchi, like sauerkraut, is made from fermented cabbage,” says¬†Elizabeth Tenison, an assistant professor and nutrition program coordinator at Rowan University in Glassboro. “Fermented foods have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and an anti-cancer impact. In countries like Korea,¬†where¬†people consume a lot of fermented foods, there’s an association with a lower incidence of cancer and cardiovascular disease.” They’ve been around for centuries, she says, but are¬†gaining in popularity.¬†¬†
A so-called “ancient grain,”¬†farro is enjoying a bit of a renaissance as a substitute for refined grains, and is a one-stop source of fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Zona says that it is high in healthy carbohydrates, too.
“Turmeric is a hot item for a good reason,” says Zona. The spice containing curcumin, the chemical that gives curry its yellow color, it has long been used in India as a¬†medicinal herb. “It’s high in antioxidants and is great for pain relief,” she says. She suggests consuming it with black pepper, which makes it easier for the body to absorb the curcumin and increase its benefits.¬†Curcumin has blood-thinning properties, so should be used with caution.
These¬†seeds can be¬†eaten raw, ground into hemp meal,¬†sprouted¬†or made into dried sprout powder; they can even be liquified¬†and consumed as hemp milk¬†or used in baking. So why hemp?
“Hemp is concentrated with Omega-3 fatty acids,” says Maitner. “The American Heart Association says we should eat two servings of oily fish per week, but a lot of people don’t want to do that. They’re also a good source of Omega-6, which helps your immune system.” Rich in protein, a tablespoon of hemp seeds provides a little over 9 grams of protein, about a sixth of the daily recommended intake for adults.
USA Today¬†recently reported on start-ups looking for new non-meat sources of protein. It said that Innova Market Insights, which studies food trends using data on new products, named¬†insect protein among a number of alternatives “expected to entice in the new year.” The piece¬†described a Denver chef preparing a dish called Sweet and Sour Crickets that contained black ants, diced crickets and grasshoppers. A future staple of restaurant menus? “This one strikes me as a fad,” says Zona.
Crickets and other insect proteins can be found in New Jersey health-focused stores such as Mom’s Organic in Cherry Hill.
Zona is full of praise for these tiny black beads of nutrition. “They’re super foods that are high in fiber so you feel full from eating them, and they help your digestion run smoothly,” she says. “They reduce inflammation and even out your blood sugar levels.” Chia seeds are loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and protein. Zona¬†recommends adding a tablespoon a day to yogurt, salads, smoothies and puddings.
Cooks boil bones and connective tissues to get the marrow and collagen out, yielding a dense source of collagen, protein and calcium that’s more nutritious than regular broth, says Maitner. The key to making bone broth is letting it simmer long enough for the connective tissue to fully soften¬†‚ÄĒ generally, 24-48 hours. It may then be chilled, and the fat later removed. Or you can save yourself the trouble and buy it, already prepared, in the grocery store or online.
Another consideration in buying specialty foods is affordability: Bone broth costs twice as much as chicken stock.¬†We all want to be healthy, but we don’t need to go broke doing it, says Tenison.¬†“Dietary guidelines suggest Americans eat a plant-based, low-sugar diet with limited saturated fats,” she says. “If you eat lots of vegetables and plant proteins like legumes and peas, your digestion will make healthy bacteria. You can get complete proteins from a meal of¬†peanut butter and jelly and milk.”
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