In Health: Trending Nutrition
It seems every time you turn around there is conflicting news about food: fat is evil — no, wait, fat is healthy for you, it’s sugar that’s evil … who can keep it all straight? We offer nutrition information you can actually use.
By Charlyn Fargo
When it comes to trendy foods each year, there seems to be a new favorite — last year it was coconut anything. This year, watermelon seems to be taking center stage. Truth be told, many of the top nutrition trends for 2017 are probably more fun and flavorful than actually nutritious, but we love to talk about
Consumers are now more informed about what’s in their food, how it is grown, and how it can affect their long-term health. Vegetarianism and veganism have had a lot to do with many of the new food trends, but meat may actually be making a comeback.
Here are some food choices that are likely to grab headlines during the year, according to the Healthy Living Association.
Sunflower protein: This little protein powder is a trend that has staying power. Easier to digest than most other protein powders, sunflower is dairy-free, which means it’s amenable to most kinds of diets. Brown rice, pea, hemp and soya protein powders have been market staples for vegetarians and vegans for many years, but sunflower protein is rapidly rising to the top of its market niche.
Watermelon water: With its combination of refreshing taste and powerful nutrients like lycopene, potassium and natural sugar, watermelon water is giving its coconut rival a real challenge. Wonderful for hydration and packing a wallop of antioxidants, watermelon water’s potassium can help to regulate blood pressure as well. Advocates of the newest drink on the block say it makes a perfect post-workout cooler and an ideal alcohol alternative.
Butter: In light of scientific studies that point to the dangers of artificial butters and margarines, real butter is making a comeback, especially the organic variant. For one thing, it takes less to satisfy the appetite, contains no chemicals and in small amounts is considered a healthy food. The restaurant industry is already embracing this trend as once-scarce pats of real butter are magically starting to reappear on diners’ plates.
Goat meat: This might seem strange, but goat meat is nutritious and contains very little fat. It is higher in protein and iron than most other animal meats and goats are much easier on the environment than cattle. Goat meat does not taste like chicken, contrary to the old joke. In fact, it tastes a lot like lamb, but with an earthier, chewier texture.
Less sugar, but more natural sweeteners: Honey and natural syrups are taking the place of processed sugar, which is certainly the new “bad guy” in the modern nutrition landscape. Stevia has come out with a more “natural” blend as well.
Soups: Soups might just replace smoothies as the “fit” meal of choice. Advocated by medical groups and nutritionists, soups combine the great taste of smoothies but incorporate much more fiber and whole foods that are often lost in the juicing process. There’s also a social element to sitting down and slowly eating a soup with a spoon and taking one’s time to do so. The soup trend is actually part of a larger social trend toward minimalism: fewer possessions, smaller living spaces, sparer diets, simpler lifestyles and less complicated lives.
Fruity desserts: Harking back to an early 20th century staple, all-fruit desserts are making a comeback after decades in obscurity. The new twist is exotic combinations and exotics in general. High-end restaurants are serving Japanese and Chinese fruit desserts that consist of mango, grapefruits and cherries, as well as lesser known fruits. Sometimes soaking in their own juices, many are served nearly-frozen or with added nuts for crunchiness. Again, this mini-trend is part of the larger “back to basic health” movement that has been gaining ground for two decades or more.
Protein consciousness: There has been a wealth of medical and scientific research about the need for protein among middle-aged populations. The idea is to have protein at every meal — not just dinner. Protein is essential for brain function and countless other bodily functions and is gaining in popularity.
Good fat, bad fat: With new medical evidence that the “low fat” trend went overboard, there is renewed interest in smaller portions of “good,” non-saturated fats used in food. Natural fats in foods like avocados and nuts provide essential nutrients for brain function and essential energy.
Natural Versus Added Sugars
When it comes to sugar, should you worry about the natural sugars, like those found in fruit or milk? Apparently there is no need to worry, because our bodies process these sugars differently.
In the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, added sugars were singled out for the first time as being harmful. The recommendation is to keep added sugars below 10 percent of daily calories. When it comes to added sugars, like those in soda, cakes and cookies, Americans get more than enough — 131 pounds a year per person, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That added sugar turns into added pounds, which can contribute to weight gain and obesity, as well as conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The question is whether natural sugars — found in apples, bananas, oranges and other fruits — have the same effect. It’s how the sugar molecules are packaged that ultimately determines the sugar’s effect on your health, says Jim White, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in an article in U.S. News & World Report. When “packaged” in whole foods such as fruit, naturally occurring sugars come with a healthy helpings of fiber, slowing the body’s breakdown of the sugars and tempering their effect on blood sugar and reducing the body’s propensity to store energy from sugar as fat.
Although fruit does contain natural sugar, it’s much more than sugar — it’s low calorie and contains essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients that aren’t available in other foods. In a study of 65,226 adults, those who ate seven or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day had a 42 percent lower risk of dying during the study’s follow-up compared to those who ate less than one full serving per day. (Most of us fall short of that goal of seven servings a day. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 76 percent of Americans don’t even get three servings a day.)
Drinking fruit juice, however, doesn’t seem to have the same effect as eating whole fruit. When turned into juice, the naturally occurring sugars are separated from the fruit’s beneficial fiber. Without the fiber, the sugar in juice is processed much like the sugar in soda. A study by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health found that while people who eat more whole fruits have a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, those with greater intake of fruit juices had an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.
The bottom line? Choose whole fruits and vegetables — up to seven servings a day — without any guilt about the added sugars. You can definitely overeat added sugars, but it’s difficult to overeat sugar if you’re only getting it from whole fruit.
According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a healthy diet limits the amount of calories people should consume from added sugars and saturated fat. Does that mean no desserts? While many baked goods are a major source of both added sugars and saturated fat, dessert still can be an enjoyable part of a full and well-balanced eating pattern.
Here are some tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for delicious baked goods with healthier ingredients:
Watch Portion Size. Keeping portion sizes in check is a primary strategy for healthfully incorporating baked goods into a healthy eating pattern. Make portion control easier by preparing miniature desserts such as mini-cupcakes. Or cut brownies and sheet cakes into two-inch squares and portion cookie dough using a one-tablespoon scoop.
Ingredients Matter. Use high-quality ingredients for a more flavorful product that will satisfy cravings even with smaller portions. For example, use vanilla beans instead of extract, opt for high-quality chocolate and make sure your spices are fresh for the boldest flavor.
Incorporate Nutrient-Rich Ingredients. Instead of focusing on what to cut out, why not add something nutritious to your recipe? Try adding shredded or puréed apple, carrot, banana and pumpkin to recipes to boost nutrients, flavor and moisture. For some recipes, you can use these ingredients to replace some or all of the butter or oil.
Try a Whole-Grain Flour. White whole-wheat flour can be substituted one-for-one for all-purpose flour in most recipes. You also can replace up to half the all-purpose flour in a recipe with a whole-grain flour without making any major adjustments to the recipe.
Experiment with Recipes That Use Less-Common Flours. Try experimenting with recipes such as savory pancakes and waffles that call for chickpea flour. Or try recipes with almond flour, which works well for crusts and can be incorporated into dough for a big punch of flavor and added nutrients.
There is room for all foods, even baked
Use Low-Fat Dairy Products. Use low-fat milk, low-fat buttermilk and low-fat yogurt in baking recipes to contribute protein and calcium. Consider swapping cream cheese frosting, which is high in calories and saturated fat and has minimal nutritional value, for a protein-rich frosting made from Greek yogurt.
Swap Butter for Heart-Healthy Oil. When modifying a favorite recipe, yougenerally can trade some of the butter for a heart-healthy oil, such as canola oil. Don’t replace all of the butter with oil or you’ll sacrifice texture. And try simply cutting sugar. As a general rule, you can reduce sugar in a given recipe by about 25 percent without noticeable differences. For instance, if a recipe calls for 4 tablespoons of sugar, reduce the amount to 3 tablespoons. When reducing sugar, you may need to increase the liquid in a recipe. There is room for all foods, even baked goods, in a healthy eating pattern. Focus on occasionally enjoying small portions of your favorite treats and experiment with creating healthier versions of favorite recipes for more nutrients in each delicious bite. TL
Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Nutrition Rd. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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