Humans are charmed by food—we like to eat it, think about it, use it to help us shape our bodies, and watch it being prepared. Food can cause us serious problems, as seen with the appalling situation of the obesity epidemic. It also offers delicious rewards and helps us feel good. Unfortunately, the combination of big business, incomplete science, and the desire for cheap, abundant meals has resulted in a lack of authenticity or nutrition to much of the available food.
A recent report on food trends published by the Hartman Group, a market research firm in Washington state, shows that the population at large wants food that is authentic, real, and flavorful. People are getting savvy about how to eat for long-term health and longevity, and a lean body composition.
It’s what I’ve been saying for years:
•Avoid soy and opt for wild meat.
• Eat foods that are real, not some processed conglomeration of sugar, additives, dye, and hyper processed macronutrients.
• Eat fats that taste good (coconut, real butter, whole fat dairy) and provide cancer-fighting lipids, rather than GMO-derived vegetable oils.
• Opt for stevia or low glycemic sweeteners and avoid fructose-filled ones like agave.
• Salt intake should be individualized, not completely eliminated from diet.
Although, the way we eat is shifting toward a diet for greater well-being, it’s not always smart to do what’s cool. Let’s consider the health and body composition benefits of eating what’s hot, and those trends that you should pass on by.
Trends to Adopt For Better Health and Body Comp…
1) Eat Grass-Fed Meats Instead of Processed Soy
Grass-fed organic meats and dairy provide healthy fats and high-quality protein. Despite the recent Harvard study that found a link between red meat intake and mortality, grass-fed organic animal products are becoming more mainstream. People who are hip to what real food is know that we have to get away from feedlot meat that is raised on antibiotics, steroids, growth hormones, and filled with omega-6 fats from the grain-filled diet the animals are eating.
Make the effort to search out organic grass-fed or wild meats because they will provide omega-3 fats and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fat that protects against disease and stimulates the immune system. Equally, avoid modified fat dairy (fat-free or low-fat versions). Look for grass-fed dairy made from particular breeds, such as the Jersey, Guernsey, and Brown Swiss cows rather than the Holstein cow that has been bred to produce huge quantities of milk. The Jersey, Guernsey, and Brown Swiss cows produce milk that is rich in the DHA and EPA omega-3s, CLA, and vitamins A and D—the milk includes “authentic” vitamins and it doesn’t need to be fortified.
The need to avoid soy, particularly genetically modified soy, is catching on as the evidence mounts that soy may affect hormone levels and has been linked to cancer risk. The abundance of processed soy products, including soy milk and fake meats, should be avoided in favor of unprocessed, high-quality protein.
2) Use Real Butter and Omega-3 Fats Instead of Margarine and “Fat-Free”
The right kinds of fats can make you healthier, more muscular, leaner, and smarter. Along with getting adequate fat in your diet, fat intake needs to be balanced.
The anti-fat sentiment is in decline even if everyone hasn’t gotten on board. Eliminating fat from the diet has disastrous effects on cellular health because every cell in the body is made up of a double layer of fats. The omega-3 fats are permeable, liquid fats that should make up the cell lipid layers so that energy and nutrients can easily cross the cell membrane and waste can be removed.
If you don’t eat fat, or if you eat the wrong kinds of fat (Trans fats, hydrogenated fats, and excess vegetable-derived fats), your cell lipid layers will be unhealthy, rigid, and impermeable. This causes insulin resistance and fat gain, nutrient deficiencies and persistent fatigue, and chronic inflammation.
Including adequate healthy fats in the diet may be the silver lining to a healthier, leaner life. Get your fats from wild and grass-fed meats and dairy. Include real butter instead of margarine, and try to get coconut oil into your diet because it contains the beneficial lauric acid. Use olive oil, while minimizing intake of other vegetable-sourced oils. For example, the ubiquitous canola oil is highly processed, genetically modified, and high in omega-6 fats.
3) Eat Seasonal Fruits Like Cherries Instead of Exotic “Life-Saving” Antioxidants
Eat superfruits seasonally, not chronically. Eat local or regionally available fruits to avoid developing an intolerance or good allergy. Antioxidant-filled superfruits do offer health benefits because they enhance the body’s natural detoxification system by increasing the production of enzymes used to remove toxins and fight cancer. But, you don’t want to rely on super antioxidant fruits to save you from chronic inflammation because they won’t.
These fruits are marketed as superfoods because they score very high on test tube measurements for antioxidant content, but the effect in the body is less impressive. Still, all of these fruits and berries will enhance detox and provide fiber and vitamins making them an excellent addition to diet when in season.
Cherries, blueberries, cranberries, pomegranates, and raspberries provide just as many health benefits as exotic tropical fruits such as acai, noni, mangosteen, and goji berries. Pomegranates and cherry juice have both been found to speed recovery from strength and endurance training, while blueberries, cranberries, and raspberries are all low-glycemic and have been shown to improve insulin response when eating them with a high-glycemic food.
4) Portion Control and “Lifestyle Eating” Instead of Nutrient Restriction
It’s not a huge surprise that people are sick of dieting since, in general, it doesn’t work. The key to better short- and long-term body composition results is a “lifestyle” change rather than a temporary diet change to induce immediate weight loss.
A recent study shows that eating a high-protein, low-glycemic carbohydrate diet that includes adequate healthy fats rather than a low-fat, low-calorie diet is most effective for long-term weight loss. The high-protein, low-glycemic diet will “induce a cascade of changes in biomarkers of lipids, inflammation, liver enzymes, and glycemic control.” You’ll lose weight because your body will have less inflammation and better insulin and lipid health, which likely raise energy levels too.
Portion control doesn’t mean you have to be hungry all the time. Portion control is about choosing to eat a reasonable amount of food with high-quality protein, low-glycemic carbs, and the right fats. You should not get extreme cravings for high-glycemic carbs because your body is able to regulate its energy use, and you will have the appropriate hormone response to make you feel satisfied and not hungry anymore. If you are still hungry, eat more. If you are eating the right foods, your body will be able to handle it.
5) Coffee and Sea Salt Are No Longer Demonized
The mainstream scientific community is just beginning to accept that coffee and salt may actually provide health benefits. Two things are clear when it comes to coffee and salt: Individuals respond differently to both and have diverse needs, and you have to get authentic, unprocessed, additive-free coffee and salt to get benefits.
Coffee is filled with antioxidants and it can promote insulin health, which is why it is often suggested as good for fat burning. Caffeine improves athletic performance and time to exhaustion in exercise trials because it mobilizes fat to be burned for energy.
It’s long been demonized as raising blood pressure, but the evidence isn’t there. Caffeine intake may temporarily raise blood pressure, but it doesn’t lead to long-term increases. The antioxidant content has actually been shown to improve cardiovascular health and prevent cancer. That said, people do respond differently to caffeine. If you have a certain genetic variety, you will be more sensitive to caffeine and may get more of a performance benefit from caffeine when exercising. But, it may make you jittery, less focused or unable to sleep, in which case the obvious solution is to avoid it.
Coffee should be organic whenever possible, and avoid processed, flavor-filled varieties because they contain endocrine-altering chemicals. Also, be wary of decaf because the process of removing caffeine can contaminate the coffee with pollutants.
The deal with salt is similar to coffee and caffeine: The evidence isn’t there that everyone will benefit from a low salt diet. It’s true that if you are overweight and at risk of diabetes, you should probably eat a low sodium diet, but salt intake needs to be individualized. Athletes, people who eat a high-protein diet, or individuals with adrenal fatigue must get adequate salt.
The key is to identify individual sodium needs and include sea salt accordingly. Avoid all refined salt because it contains none of the 84 mineral elements that are contained in good quality sea salt such as Celtic Sea Salt or Hawaiian Red Sea Salt.
Trends To Question…
1) Carbohydrate Revival
The revival of carbohydrates, especially starchy bread and bakery products, as trendy and “pretty good for you” isn’t something to embrace or believe. A fanatical approach to food is not the best strategy either because it can promote obsessive tendencies, but in general, it’s best to avoid pretzels, bagels, breadsticks, donuts, and cupcakes, even if they are prepared “authentically” or based on a “culinary history” as with the Montreal bagel, Italian-style grissini breadsticks, fried Kool Aid balls, or cupcakes that are hand-crafted at the state fair.
Despite the “hint of whimsy” that these treats will provide they also pack an insulin punch and include processed grains. Authentic, real food is wonderful, but spend your money on organic high-quality meat, dairy, produce, and necessary supplements.
2) Snacking on Processed Foods
Snacking on processed foods is not your best bet even if they have “global flavors” such as Boulder Rice and Adzuki Bean chips, Levant Falafel Chips, or Trader Joe’s Baked Lentil Chips. I doesn’t matter that they have “naturally occurring protein and fiber,” processed snacks are just that—processed—and this is the case even if the package says “good source of whole grains.”
Whole-grain flour is wheat that has been ground into flour meaning it’s no longer whole. The reason companies get away with calling it “whole-grain” is that the flour was a whole grain at one point—but it’s not now. Similarly, processed foods that contain a “good source of protein” do contain protein. but it’s been denatured , which means that although the amount of protein is the same, it isn’t metabolized in the same way as it would be in its unprocessed state.
Look, if it’s been processed, comes in a package with marketing slogans such as “organic,” “has whole grains,” “contains natural protein,” “is a good source of fiber,” “gluten-free,” “natural salt,” or “cracked pepper,” etc., you shouldn’t be eating it with any regularity. “Carbohydrate-based snacks with quality protein and fiber” are not a good “solution.”
3) Focusing on Specific Nutrients or Ingredients In Processed Foods
“Nutritionism” in which specific nutrients are celebrated and added to processed foods at the expense of the whole food is still cool in consumer culture, but just the words “processed foods” point to what’s wrong with this strategy.
For example, adding omega-3 fats to baked potato chips, enhancing fat-free yogurt that contains sugar and modified corn starch with probiotics, and adding ginseng, ginger, or cayenne to vodka or mezcal do not make these “healthy” foods. Although still trendy, consumers appear to be approaching nutritionism with skepticism and opting for purity and whole foods when possible.
The Hartman Group. Looking Ahead: Food Culture 2012. 2012. Bellevue: WA. www.hartman-group.com/downloads/looking-ahead-2012-trends.pdf
Barr, S., Wright, J. Postprandial Energy Expenditure in Whole-Food and Processed-Food Meals: Implications for Daily Energy Expenditure. Food and Nutrition Research. July 2010. 2(54), 144-150.
Steffen, L., Jacobs, D., et al. Associations of Whole-Grain, Refined-Grain, and Fruit and Vegetable Consumption with Risks of All-Cause Mortality and Incident of Coronary Artery Disease and Ischemic Stroke. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003. 78(3), 383-390.
Myint, P., Welch, A., et al. Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and Self-Reported Functional Health in Men and Women in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer-Norfolk. Public Health Nutrition. 2007. 10(1), 34-41.
Williams, Peter. Evaluation of the Evidence Between Consumption of Refined Grains and Health Outcomes. Nutrition Reviews. 2011. 70(2), 80-99.?
Golan, R., Tirosh, A., et al. Dietary Intervention Induces Flow of Changes Within Biomarkers of Lipids, Inflammation, Liver Enzymes, and Glycemic Control. Nutrition. December 2011. Published Ahead of Print.
Womack, C., Saunders, M., et al. The Influence of a CYP1A2 Polymorphism on the Ergogenic Effects of Caffeine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.
Daley, C., Abbott, A., et al. a Review of Fatty Acid Profiles and Antioxidant Content in Grass-Fed and Grain-Fed Beef. Nutrition Journal. 2010. 9(1).