Diet and Food Trends: what's best for your health
For many of us, the holiday season is a time of overindulgence. If you’re like me, you’ve probably had a little too much pavlova and way too much champagne - and you're looking at the new year as a time to clean up your diet. From superfoods to paleo and every kind of ‘free' you could imagine (fat-free, sugar-free, carb-free) these days it seems like there's a diet for everything. It can be hard to know where to start, so in this article, we explore some of the current food and diet trends and what the research says about what's really best for your overall health.
Almost every year there's a new food touted by marketers as the superhero of health, and the more exotic, the better. Quinoa, goji berries, chia seeds and kale have all had their day. But superfood is just a term used to describe food that is rich in nutrients and is considered beneficial for health and wellbeing.
According to the 2016 Google Food Trend Report that analyses the top search queries relating to food from 2014 to 2016, foods like turmeric, apple cider vinegar, manuka honey, kefir and bone broth are on the rise. Turmeric, in particular, has seen heightened interest, with searches for the golden spice increasing 56% from November 2015 to January 2016.
Research suggests that the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-amyloid properties of turmeric could slow cancer growth, reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, and also provide some health benefits relating to bacterial and viral infections, indigestion, kidney health, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes. According to the US National Institutes of Health, there are 163 clinical trials currently underway in the United States to explore the health effects of turmeric, suggesting that this spice will continue to be popular for some time.
Superfoods are probably overhyped by marketers seeking to tap into a vulnerable market. But according to the Dietician’s Association of Australia, there's no reason why they can't be considered part of a healthy balanced diet.
Diets that promote gut health focus on improving the balance of bacteria in the stomach through the use of probiotics and fermented foods that contain healthy bacteria, like yoghurt.
According to the Australian Endeavour College of Natural Health's summary of trends for 2016, there has been an increased focus on understanding the link between gut health and overall health and wellbeing. The 2016 Google Food Trend Report shows an increased number of searches on fermented foods including sourdough bread, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi.
The US National Institutes of Health also shows that there are 902 clinical trials currently studying the effect of probiotics in a range of situations including to aid weight loss and treat dermatitis.
In an article exploring the benefits of fermented foods and probiotics, Choice Australia says that while these foods do appear to have some health benefits, they shouldn't be considered a cure-all but rather in the context of a healthy overall lifestyle.
What diet is best?
Many diet and food fads are marketed as the magic bullet to health and wellness, but no diet is one size fits all.
The Australian Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) uses the best available scientific evidence to provide dietary guidelines to support health and wellbeing and according to their latest published Australian Dietary Guidelines, a healthy lifestyle includes:
• daily physical activity
• enough nutritious food to support an individual’s energy needs
• includes a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five food groups (vegetables, fruits, grains, protein, and dairy)
• limits saturated fats, salt, sugar and alcohol
These guidelines may sound simple, but older Australian's may have health needs that require consideration when implementing them, including the management of chronic disease.
For an individualised plan that meets your needs, talk to your doctor about seeing an Accredited Practicing Dietician who can work with you on creating a diet and managing your lifestyle to achieve long-term health and wellness.