Health food trends for 2016: lentils, vinegar, insects?

Picture the scene: A millennial relaxes in their home while deep conditioning their hair with coconut oil and crunching on a trendy lunch of kale chips and “avotoast.”

This probably doesn't sound unusual.

That’s because in recent years, healthy foods have become trendier than ever, and it seems that each year, one food in particular becomes the star.

Seriously, if 2014 had a patron saint, it would be kale. So what health craze will take the cake (a gluten-free, vegan angel food of course) in 2016?

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The experts from ASU’s School of Nutrition and Health Promotion had varying opinions, so before giving up on that New Year's diet, check out these health recommendations.

Doctoral student and Teaching Assistant Claudia Thompson-Felty wrote in an email that she believes the entire category of whole foods will see a resurgence rather than one food in particular.

“There has been a focus recently on the return of a more traditional diet,” she wrote. “A traditional diet incorporates whole foods, cooked simply and incorporates all food groups.”

Some examples Thompson-Felty gave were sweet potatoes, leafy greens, berries, broccoli, whole grains and grass-fed, free-range meat.

“Eating a minimally processed diet will lead to a more nutrient dense diet, and less of a need to focus on calorie control,” she wrote.

Thompson-Felty wrote that she feels healthy alternatives becoming “cool” is an indication that our society has become more health-conscious as a whole.

Associate director of the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion Carol Johnston agreed.

"I believe many individuals want to take action to be healthy, stay healthy, and slow the progression of chronic conditions,” Johnston wrote in an email. “People want natural solutions and remedies. If there are food-based remedies that have been demonstrated scientifically to promote healthful outcomes, people are interested and want to learn more.”

Johnston’s prediction for the next health trend was drinks that include vinegar.

“I have researched the health benefits of vinegar and believe it has the potential to help many people – particularly those at risk for diabetes or with pre-diabetes,” she wrote. “The research regarding the health benefits of vinegar is accumulating. There is much interest surrounding the use of vinegar for blood glucose control (the science is well established) as well as for reducing belly fat (emerging research).”

Johnston said she believes vinegar-based drinks will be manufactured and mass produced, but people can also make their own by combining one to two tablespoons of vinegar with eight ounces water and stevia.

Melinda Johnson, Didactic Program in Dietetics director and professor at the School of Nutrition and Health Prevention, said she predicts pulses will be the next trend. Pulses include beans, lentils and legumes.

“I think lentils will be hot,” she said. “They give us fiber, they give us iron, they give us protein, they’re low in fat ... they give a ton of nutrition.”

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Johnson said the rise of plant-based diets will push beans and lentils to the forefront because they provide protein important to substituting meat in a diet.

“I think we’ll see bean powders used as protein powders,” she said. “They fit into the plant based lifestyle most people are into.”

Johnson said she also foresees another unusual source of protein coming into the mainstream: insects, because they have a wide array of uses and provide excellent nutrition.

Whether we’re eating lentils or crunching on grasshoppers, cheers to a healthy 2016.

Related Links:

How to: Healthful Eating at the MU

Well Devils challenge freshmen to pursue healthy lives


Reach the assistant arts editor at icastil3@asu.edu or follow @isabella_m_cast on Twitter

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