Every year we hear about a multitude of new diets that promise to finally help us lose that stubborn weight, or that will help prevent cancers and cardiovascular illnesses. Some of them are based on new research on how the body works and how it processes food. Others are just fad diets. How can you tell the difference?

In 2016 I predict some of the emerging trends from over the last few years will become more mainstream, and others will slowly die out. Read on to find out what will likely become big, and get a head start regarding learning what the research says so far about their pros and cons.



The High-Fat Diet

Upcoming Diet and Nutrition Trends for 2016

High fat food diets to avoid

2015 was a big year for the fat debate. New research emerged (or reemerged) that demonstrated how dietary fat doesn’t necessarily make you fat or cause health problems (1). Not everyone agrees, and many nutritionists and doctors believe that there is an oversimplification of the evidence that some of the research provides. Research shows that saturated fat, even that which is found in meats and cheese, is not necessarily what is causing so many healthy problems today. Saturated fat used to be on the “avoid” list, but people are starting to question it, and many diets, like paleo, freely include it in their guidelines.

Along this same line is where coconut oil started to become popular. When researchers saw that saturated fat didn’t necessarily get processed in the body mainstream knowledge let on, more funding was invested in seeing how plant-based saturated fats, like coconut oil, acted in the body. It was discovered that the particular type of saturated fat in coconut oil, in fact, has shown to aid in reducing “bad” LDL cholesterol and raising “good” HDL cholesterol.

What does the research say?

It is important to know that not all fats are the same, and different fats are found in a variety of foods that have hundreds of other complexes and properties that behave differently in the body. Trans fats, for example, like those found in margarine, have been proved to cause a range of health issues relating to high cholesterol, heart disease, and even cancer (2). Most of the research demonstrates these complexities (I’ll expand upon them in later posts), but the problem comes in when mainstream media simplifies the information, leading to misunderstandings.

2016 prediction:

I predict that in 2016 the fat debate will continue. People no longer villianize fats as much as they have in the past, and many for good reasons. Simultaneously, diets that go overboard or broaden recommendations to include all fats will present their own issues. We’ll see more full-fat milk products, and butter will make a comeback.

Upcoming Diet and Nutrition Trends for 2016-1

Red Meat is a must have!

Veganism

When the new dietary guidelines for 2015-2020 came out, many nutritionists were outraged that there were no recommendations about lowering red meat consumption, despite the overwhelming evidence that demonstrates the link between red meat and cancer (3). The link isn’t necessarily related to its saturated fat content, which is why just eating lean red meats won’t do the trick. The debate that will surround this topic, in addition to the surge in information availability regarding the humanitarian aspects of the meat and poultry industry, will likely result in veganism’s big comeback.

What does the research say?

For years, research has shown that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is the best way to prevent a range of diseases, including cancers, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. One of the biggest criticisms veganism and vegetarianism has received is that they can’t get all of the nutrients they need to stay healthy. We know now that a variety of fruits, vegetables and grains can provide almost all of the nutrients humans need, and food technology is such that high-quality vegan supplements have been made available to fill in any gaps in their nutrition that might exist.

Upcoming Diet and Nutrition Trends for 2016-2

Be Mindful of the drinks you take

2016 Prediction:

There will be a lot more veganism, and possibly even a new spin on veganism that touts a certain family of fruits, vegetables, or grains. This won’t be universal, however, as we know some people just can’t give up their meat, no matter what the research says.

Gut Health

Microbiologists have known for decades about the importance of our personal flora and fauna in securing our health. We now know that they are responsible for providing most of the vitamin K we need, for fighting off bacteria that would otherwise make us sick, and for supporting a healthy digestion. Sometimes, our gut flora becomes weaker, such is the case after we take antibiotics or after we suffer from a bout of illness.

What does the research say?

Research regarding gut health mostly focuses on two things: foods that act as probiotics (substance that promote “good” bacteria growth), and the best probiotic supplements. While yogurt has long been on people’s minds regarding promoting a healthy digestion, we now know of a range of foods, many borrowed from different cultures, which promote healthy gut bacteria growth.

Upcoming Diet and Nutrition Trends for 2016-3

Greens are a must have!

2016 prediction:

Foods like Kefir, miso paste, sauerkraut, and Kombucha tea will be big. You’ll see big companies making varieties of these foods and drinks available in supermarkets and in convenient packaging. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a new sort of probiotic certification as a sign of quality, either.

Low-sugar products

While fats used to be the villain in the health world, sugar has now taken its place. Researchers are taking a closer look at how processed foods and fizzy drinks affect us. Health enthusiasts unveiling the nutritional information of products (even salty ones) with unprecedented amounts of added sugar has made the food industry think twice about what they are putting into their foods to make them taste good.

What does the research say?

To make it simple, nothing good. According to the American Heart Association, men should be eating a maximum of 9 teaspoons of sugar a day, and women should be eating a maximum of six teaspoons a day. The average intake of sugar is 19 teaspoons! Most of this isn’t from the sugar you put in your coffee in the morning. Most of this sugar sneaks into your diet through fruit yogurt, mid-morning cookies, bagels, juices, and – and here’s a big one – carbonated beverages (4).

2016 Prediction:

Consumers are starting to get smart about the different names for sugar in foods, and are starting to buy less of it. Big companies will start offering versions of their popular foods and drinks with reduced sugar or natural sweeteners. As a result, natural sweetener options will become more popular, and stevia might have a few new competitors.

The Year of the Pulses

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Foods that Improve your heart

No, not heartbeat pulses. Pulses are foods like beans, lentils, and chickpeas that come in pods and or generally dried before eaten. They are a staple in many diets all over the world, and they have a range of beneficial properties. While they may not be as popular in many developed countries as in developing countries, they will likely surge in popularity as people shy away from red meat and towards plant-based proteins.

What does the research say?

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has named 2016 the year of the pulses. On the official website, the FAO sums up what the research says regarding pulse consumption: “Pulses are a vital source of plant-based proteins and amino acids for people around the globe and should be eaten as part of a healthy diet to address obesity, as well as to prevent and help manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary conditions and cancer.”

From an environmental perspective, pulses also help promote soil fertility and are an important source of protein for animals.

2016 Prediction

It’s hard to argue with the Year of the Pulses. Doctors and nutritionists will likely recommend an increased consumption of pulses instead of red meats and processed meats. Pulse-based diets will likely be promoted and probably be given some catchy names.

Seaweed

Asians have long known and benefitted from the health plusses of adding seaweed to the diet. While you might have only been familiar with it as a sushi staple, it is widely consumed in Japan, China and Korea.

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Ever Thought of seaweed as part of your diet? Now you should.

What does the research say?

The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) compiled some of the nutritional benefits of seaweed, and found that some varieties provide significant amounts of calcium (even more than milk) and iron (more than steak) per 8-gram portion. It also has significant amounts of fiber, which can promote feelings of satiety, and important amounts of vitamins A, C, E and even of B12.

Some preliminary evidence shows that seaweed could have positive effects of digestion and fat metabolism. It may also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (5).

2016 Prediction

We’ll see a lot more seaweed in all forms: pastes, capsules, drinks, snacks and bars. You’ll also see health food companies and restaurants add it to their salads, breads and soups. It is important, however, to take precautions when consuming seaweed; some brown varieties of seaweed (particularly hajiki) may have significant amounts of arsenic. It also tends to be high in iodine, se people with thyroid issues need to be very careful.

Conclusions

These are just a few of some of the likely diet trends for 2016. There are far more than these that will be promoted and debated. It is important to note, however, that discussions are shifting away weight-loss talk and shifting more towards foods that promote holistic health. People are making the link between nutrition and health: what they put into their bodies have a profound effect on how they look and feel. Many of the trends for 2016 are based on research that challenged previously accepted notions of health, and others aim to introduce new habits into our diets with the promise of a range of health benefits.

Remember that before you think about trying out that new diet you saw online, you should aim to ask a professional and research how different elements in a diet will affect you in the short and in the long run. If research is scarce, hold off until you have a little more information. In the end, it is your health we are talking about.

Sasha de Beausset

About Sasha de Beausset

Sasha de Beausset's life project is to become a leader in building solutions to food insecurity and malnutrition in Guatemala. She believes that recognizing community assets and being conscious of the role all sectors play in ensuring an equitable development is the key to building sustainable solutions. If you'd like to read more about benefiting from healthy eating, sign up for our newsletter and get the latest health research.

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