Article contributed by Mareya Ibrahim, The Fit Foodie, founder of Eat Cleaner
When I started in the food industry 26 years ago, I could never have imagined the number of options that would one day be available. These days, you get to choose from over 35,000 products and navigate a sea of new food terminology and complicated “labelese” vast enough to make your eyes glaze over like Cronuts (wait, that trend was, like, so 5 years ago). With all of these products that claim to be good for you, plus the growing amount of food documentaries jockeying for your attention, it’s hard to know what to eat anymore, for fork’s sake!
For six years, I have accurately predicted the Top Eight Healthy Food and Beverage Trends, and once again I’m here to help you break through the “bull” like a master butcher. In 2018, we’re returning to food basics, going in deep with collagen and rediscovering the cherry – it’s not just for pie anymore. This year, start with your gut and you’ll soon be navigating the aisles like a pro.
Let’s explore the top eight taking over this year’s plate, as well as some new, noteworthy trends popping up from kiwi land. New Zealand is showing up on the food and bevvy map big time with everything from luxury sparkling water (Kopu), grass-fed and plant-based protein powder (Kura), Manuka honey (Biohoney) and more lamb than you can shake a stick at, as cuisine straight from my peeps in the Middle East is taking off. Pull up a chair, let’s get crackin’!
1) ROOT TO TABLE
We all know the importance of filling up on fresh fruit and veggies. But by the time these yummy morsels arrive on our plates, they have already lost a ton of nutrients – up to 77 percent of Vitamin C within just a week of harvesting, according to the University of California, Davis. The solution? “Living” produce! All over the country, this ultra-fresh option is popping up at local markets. These are veggies still attached to their roots to help maintain nutrients and prolong shelf life. According to Pete’s Living Greens, their escarole, endive, cress and lettuce blends last up to 18 days, compared to an average 3-5 days for your typical bagged salad. Roots-on varieties are grown hydroponically and without the use of insecticides, making them a healthier, more eco-friendly choice. For an even fresher take on homegrown taste, companies like Agressively Organic allow you to cultivate up to nine veggies in one foot of space with a hydroponic growing kit. You can harvest your very own nutrient-rich salad anytime you’re ready to eat.
2) GOOD GUT HEALTH 2.0
How well does your gut garden grow? Probiotics are already BIG, with gut health-boosting, bacteria-rich foods like kimchee, kefir and craft kombucha growing in popularity. New products like Alive & Well Probiotic-Rich Organic Olives which are grown, harvested and cured in Greece also hit the mark with good gut health. These microscopic, healthy bacteria are critical for regulating hormones, absorbing minerals and contributing to overall good health. In 2018, the focus will shift to PREbiotics. Think of them as the fertilizer that helps your good gut bacteria grow like gangbusters. Look for prebiotic fiber powders containing ingredients like Jerusalem artichoke, inulin, acacia and chicory root. Products like MCT oil boosted with prebiotic fiber make it easy to get your daily dose.
3) COLLAGEN COMPLEX
Paleo diets put protein on a pedestal, and now, collagen is getting its turn in the spotlight. Think of it as the “glue” for your hair, skin, nails, bones, tendons and ligaments, with a full spectrum of amino acids to support hormone production, a healthy metabolism, cell regeneration and your “bow chicka wow wow” drive. Collagen production drops significantly after the age of 35, so as the Boomers age and everyone searches for the fountain of youth, its popularity will surely skyrocket. In 2018, look for collagen products in the form of flavored bone broth powders from Paleo Pro, and heat-and-sip organic beverages from Bru with greens, turmeric, beets and other anti-inflammatories. You’ll also see beauty boosting collagen added as a flour substitute into products like waffles and pancakes and as a protein option at your local smoothie bar.
4) BOOSTED BASICS
These days, even foods multi-task. You can’t hold anyone’s attention for very long without offering major benefits in return. You used to buy flour, peanut butter, sugar, water, milk, coffee and bread, but if your staples aren’t as multi-functional as a Swiss army knife, they’re just… basic. In 2018, look for products that are pumped-up with multiple nutrient boosting add-ons, including antioxidants such as Camu Camu, Sacha Inchi Seed and Baobab. Plant-based Omega 3’s like flax meal, chia seeds and hemp seed are on the rise, along with antioxidant herbs like turmeric, clove and cinnamon. Plant-based protein and activated charcoal will be big hits in 2018 as well, so it’s time to get used to the idea of drinking BLK water and brushing your teeth with black toothpaste.
5) ALT COFFEE
You’re talking to a girl who owns a coffee mug that says, “But first, coffee.” Admittedly, I’m a little skeptical about caffeine alternatives, but the experience of coffee without the coffee is on-trend, as people are trying to find more caffeine free zen in their cups. Look for coffee alternatives from companies like Four Sigmatic, which packages brain-boosting mushrooms in instant powder form, and Teecino, which harnesses the power of herbs like dandelion root in steeping bags. You’ll also see loose teas that are brewed like coffee with Mokapots, along with pour-over cones and ground roasted cocoa beans for your Aeropress from companies like Teaspressa. Get ready to rock your mornings a little more non-traditionally.
6) HOT SH*T!
With our senses on high alert, it’s no surprise that our quest for bigger, bolder and hotter is following suit. Fueled by voracious YouTube eating contests, foods and beverages are gearing up to light your tastebuds on fire with an intensity that leaves you going holy SH*T – from super bold to off-the-Scoville chart. Look for spices like ginger, black pepper and clove that add sweet heat to desserts and beverages. You’ll also find ginger making an appearance in the liquor aisle, where products like Barrow’s Ginger Liqueur will add some serious kick to your night. If you thought Tabasco was spicy, it’s time to pull up your big boy panties. Peppers like Carolina Reaper – weighing in at over 2 million Scoville Heat Units, 500 times hotter than your average jalapeno – will grace the obvious hot sauces and also make its way into snacks, drinks and chocolate. If you can’t stand the heat, this hell’s kitchen is not for you.
7) INTRODUCING THE NEXT ‘IT’ SUPERFOOD – TART CHERRY
“That’s Cherry” will take on a new meaning in 2018. Different from your everyday sweet, dark cherries, tart cherries are sour, small and bright red. Little but mighty, these berries have one of the highest ORAC scores – topping blueberries, pomegranate juice and tea by almost triple – with a mega boost of anthocyanins to battle free radicals and repair cell damage. Tart cherry is also known to reduce pain and inflammation, and help with post-exercise muscle soreness. Also a natural source of melatonin, you can now replace your sleeping pill with a deliciously tart alternative. Available in many forms – fresh, frozen, dried, chocolate covered, concentrated powder and juice – look for it in baked goods, jams, sauces and beverages, with companies like Cheribundi offering a variety of ready-to-drink juices featuring the tart little powerhouse. Tart cherry filled gourmet donuts, anyone?
8) SAY HELLO TO SHISHITO PEPPERS
These little spark plug peppers are showing up on menus everywhere, taking over where fried calamari and edamame once reigned supreme as a fun, shareable appe-teaser. According to Robert Schueller, Marketing Director for Melissa’s Produce, sales of shishito peppers increased over 25 percent from October 2016 to September 2017. These cancer-fighting peppers are full of active capsaicin and antioxidants, and are super easy to prep and eat. Just toss with a little coconut oil and roast or grill on a flat top until soft and blistery, add a dash of smoked sea salt, then pop the whole thing into your mouth (removing the stem). So deliciously addictive, I double dog dare you to eat just one.
Mareya Ibrahim, aka The Fit Foodie is an award-winning entrepreneur, chef, author, patented inventor and 25+ year food industry veteran. She is the founder and CEO of Grow Green Industries, Inc., the makers of the patented eatCleaner product line. (www.growgreenindustries.com, www.eatcleaner.com)