Stay ahead of the crowd with our predictions for the top food and healthy eating trends for the coming year.
Meat makes a comeback… if it’s grass-fed and organic
The continued rise of veganism is being contradicted by another trend. While we know that plant-based diets can have excellent health benefits, it’s also true that it can be difficult to get adequate amounts of all the nutrients we need from plants alone. Examples include protein, vitamin B12, vitamin K2 (vitamin K1 from vegetables has a different role) and the most usable, efficient forms of iron, vitamin A, and omega-3 fatty acids for our brain and heart – all of these are found primarily in animal foods.
And yet a lot of farmed animals and poultry are reared in poor conditions, are not fed their natural diet, and are routinely given hormones to make them grow faster and antibiotics to prevent disease. As well as animal welfare concerns, all of this means that the meat and other food products from these animals are poor quality, low in nutritional value, and can even contain substances that can be detrimental for our health. For these reasons, there is an increasing movement towards seeking meat from pastured or grass-fed animals that have been allowed to roam on the land and eat their natural diet. They’re a much better source of nutrients, and this method of production is the ethical choice for the animals and better for the environment.
Foraging / wild foods
The trend towards ‘going back to nature’ is also reflected in the increased interest in wild foods and foraging. If you want to learn how to forage for your own foods, it’s easy to do so, with courses springing up throughout the UK. If you know what you’re looking for, it’s a great way to get tasty, nutritious food. Plants that grow wild in their natural environment tend to be higher in nutrients and antioxidants and are free of pesticides, artificial fertilisers and other chemicals that could be harmful to our health. And they’re free!
The rise and rise of seaweed
A traditional ingredient in Japanese and Chinese cuisine, seaweeds are gradually gaining popularity over here too, as we continue to expand and challenge our palette with new flavours. Seaweeds are fantastically rich in minerals – especially iodine, which is needed to make thyroid hormone that controls our metabolism, and magnesium, a vital mineral for energy, bone strength and muscle function. Seaweeds can be used as a seasoning, as an ingredient in soups and stews, as a garnish, or even made into snacks. Seaweed salts (seaweed combined with sea salt) can be a great way to get a more balanced range of minerals into your salt.
Bored of chicken, pork, beef and lamb? Try goat meat.
If the thought of cute goats frolicking on a hilltop puts you off eating their meat, know this: currently the majority of male goats that are born from the goat milk industry are killed at birth, as there is no market for them. When they’re reared humanely for meat, billy goats are at least able to live decent lives for a time. And so eating good-quality goat meat from free-range goats – and increasing the market for it in the UK – could actually be an ethical choice.
Goat’s meat is also a really healthy option. It’s low in fat and slightly higher in protein than lamb, with a similar flavour. It’s also richer in iron than beef, pork and lamb!
Butter is here to stay
If you’ve been keeping up-to-date with health news, you’ll know that saturated fat is not the villain it was long made out to be. Butter and other natural animal fats are making a comeback, and refined vegetable oils and margarines (which are essentially a ‘fake’ fat) are on their way out as we’ve realised they’re more likely to be detrimental to our health.
Butter in particular can be a nutritional superstar – especially butter from grass-fed animals. It’s one of the richest sources of natural vitamin A, in the ‘true’ retinol form that our body can easily use (vitamin A in vegetables is actually beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A that many people do not efficiently convert into the true vitamin). It’s also a source of vitamin K2. K2 is found almost exclusively in animal fats and fermented foods, and plays a different role to vitamin K1 found in vegetables, being particularly important for our bones and our heart health. What’s more, butter tastes great!
Watermelon water – the new coconut water?
Coconut water has long been a favourite of celebrities and health gurus alike. Its high mineral content, refreshing taste and natural mild sweetness accompanied by a low calorie count have ensured its continuing success. But there’s a new drink on the scene that may threaten coconut water’s domination: watermelon water.
The pure juice from watermelon, watermelon water is naturally high in minerals – especially potassium. This makes it a good choice for supporting hydration, as well as helping to maintain a healthy blood pressure. It’s also rich in a compound called lycopene, one of the most powerful antioxidants we can get from food. The one downside is that it’s higher in natural sugars than coconut water, and so should be consumed in moderation. It’s a great choice post-workout, or as a refreshing non-alcoholic alternative to a cocktail or rosé wine on a summer evening!
For those of us who want or need to get extra protein into our diet, protein powders can be a great solution. They can be particularly valuable for vegetarians and vegans who, without the contribution of meat and fish, can easily fall short in their daily protein intake. Where our choice for plant-based protein powders was once limited to soya, the market and choices are ever expanding, and popular types now include hemp, pea and brown rice protein. One of the newcomers to the market is sunflower seed protein. As well as being a great ‘clean’ source of protein, sunflower protein is of course grain-free, soya-free and dairy-free and is suitable for most diets, from vegan to Paleo!