A probiotic and a maple water walk into a bar…

by Christina Meyer-Jax, Tastemaker in Residence

While the title might suggest a start of a good joke, it’s really suggesting that the exciting world of food is going beyond our grocery carts and entering into our food fun zones. March is this nutrition nerd’s favorite time of year as it’s both National Nutrition Month and the ever growing Natural Product Expo West show in Anaheim which brings together over 3,000 exhibitors of the latest and greatest in the health and wellness category.

Researching and analyzing what’s on the hearts, minds, and in the stomachs of consumers is my professional passion. This year’s food themes are hitting at both a personal and global level.  And why shouldn’t it? Making food choices and consuming those items is an intimate reflection of our individual health values and our perspective on how those choices impact the world.

Let’s break down the March Hot List on food and nutrition:

Kombucha and Drinking Vinegars-It’s a Gut Feeling

Digestive health and the importance of feeding your gut “good for you” probiotic bacteria has been on the “it” list for a few years.  What’s going mainstream is fermented beverages such as kombucha and drinking vinegars.  Reported, but not fully research supported, benefits include: blood sugar regulation, improved blood cholesterol, weight loss, and digestive regulation.

A lot of new brands to choose from, just make sure you read the label and keep the sugar levels low. Some brands are loaded with sugar and that can defeat the potential benefits.

Photography by Kristine Leuze

Dessert Protein- Yes Please!

Protein is not just for dinner anymore! This powerhouse nutrient is not losing steam in interest and product innovation.  Now you can have your pancakes, ice cream, cookies and your protein too!  Why add it to dessert? Well technically protein can help lower the glycemic response of higher carbohydrate foods. Say what? Eating a protein rich waffle, will have a slower rise and fall of your blood sugar so you don’t get a big carb crash.  Don’t trick yourself, make sure you are still looking at the total sugar and calorie content. 

Re-purposed with a purpose

My favorite trend is adressing food waste in what is being called “upcycling”. This is basically “what can I do with the by-products” of certain food production.  One example is the trend in coconut water ultimately leaves plenty of coconut meat and shells leftover.  So there are a number of companies making great tasting coconut chips and coconut “jerky” in a variety of fun flavors. Another innovative upcycling product is using spent grains harvested from craft breweries to make snack bars.  In the end, most of us care about sustainability, but need it made easy for us.  Here’s a fantastic way to accomplish that win-win feeling.

Inflammation Nation

We are starting to understand that inflammation is underlying cause of disease. So whether it’s avoiding certain foods that ignite inflammation, or eating foods that decrease inflammation, this has sparked a range of innovation in foods.  Adding turmeric to just about everything seems be the magical anti-inflammatory ingredient du jour.  What’s on the horizon? Start looking for mushroom powers, ginger, and matcha added to your standard fare.

Photography by Kristine Leuze

Powered by Plants

We are finally getting the message that eating more plants is helpful to health. Whether we are adding pulses (beans, legumes) to meat alternatives and desserts (chickpea brownie anyone?) or trading traditional dairy for plant based dairy alternatives (pea protein milk, hemp seed milk are the new kids in the category), plants are what is on our plates in new and innovative ways.  Hey can you pass me the beet chips with a side of edamame hummus and a glass of maple water?

Photography by Kristine Leuze

No matter what new foods are sparking interest in 2017, we can easily follow the National Nutrition Month theme of Putting Your Best Fork Forward.  Small changes always do add up. For me I might make the small change to protein ice cream and sprinkle in turmeric for good measure.