I’ve been watching a lot of The Bachelor…obviously…and just can’t get enough of that cutie Ben and his band of cooky concubines. If you haven’t been following this season, here’s a brief synopsis: Ben is a nice Midwestern boy who is a dead ringer for a young Peter Brady (my husband pointed that out. Yes, he watches The Bachelor. There is no shame in his game.). When his suitors arrived in their ABC-funded limos, we met a newscaster, a set of twins, a chicken enthusiast, a “nutritional therapist” (this job is MADE UP, by the way), and two repeat Bachelor contestants who couldn’t quite find love the first time around. There’s a girl who has kids, a girl with a sad past, a crazy girl…I mean, what else do you need? Oh, I know what you need…this:
As I gear up for another compelling installment tonight, I got to thinking about this concept of giving flowers to those considered worthy enough to stick around for another week. The contestants who get a rose every week are in it for the long run; they’re not just flashes in the pan or short-lived fads. The same goes for nutrition trends. Those that have a little science behind them or at the very least, a celebrity endorsement, are the ones that receive that coveted rose, allowing them to live in some magazine article or blog post for another day.
Less Added Sugar
There’s been a war against sugar for some time now, with dietitians and Mayor Bloomberg heading the charge. But the trend for 2016 is focusing on added sugars, which are any sweeteners not naturally found in products that are added during processing. Sodas, cookies and juices are all guilty of added sugars, but surprisingly, one of the biggest culprits is yogurt. Yogurt contains natural sugar in the form of lactose, but any flavored yogurt also contains added sugar. A Dannon blueberry yogurt with fruit on the bottom contains 24g of sugar (a.k.a. 6 sugar packets), only about 9g of which are natural lactose. Excess sugar consumption can lead to weight gain, diabetes, and altered blood lipids over time, so Less Added Sugar, will you accept this rose?
For years now, we’ve been told to drink skim or low-fat milk, but that trend might be taking a turn. We’ve embraced more fat in our diets in recent years, especially with the push toward heart-healthy omega-3 fats. The emphasis on low-fat everything – crackers, chips, cookies, etc. – is a thing of the past. The 90s, to be exact. We’ve held on to low-fat dairy though, and new research is telling us that whole milk may actually be good for our hearts because of the bioactive compounds it contains. Research is limited though, and many organizations still feel that low-fat dairy is the way to go. So this trend is still up in the air, but something is definitely brewing on the horizon. Full-Fat Dairy, we’ll call you “Becca”. You don’t get a rose quite yet this season, but you’ll be back next time.
Eggs Are Back
Crack those eggs and liberate those yolks because eggs are BACK! The recommendation we’d been blindly following since the 1970s, to limit dietary cholesterol to 300mg per day, has been officially removed from our Dietary Guidelines. The latest research has found no significant relationship between dietary cholesterol consumption and serum cholesterol levels, so toss those Egg Beaters and their artificial colors and flavors and bring back the real thing! Egg yolks are a great source of protein, vitamin D, and iron, so roll yourselves out of that carton and accept this rose!
I’m not talking about the pulse that tells us we’re alive. This is about the pulse family of foods: lentils, dry beans, beans, and chickpeas. With a push toward increasing vegetarian sources of protein, pulses are the perfect addition to soups, pastas, salads, and more. By adding plant-based protein to our diets and decreasing overall meat and processed meat consumption, many experts say this is the way toward creating a sustainable food system. And hey, who am I to bet against the environment? Come on down beans, you got a rose waiting for you.
The dynamic of the gut microbiome is probably the most fascinating thing in nutrition I’ve come across. I could go on for days about how the ecosystem of bacteria in our gut affects our digestion, immune system, and even mental health. Our gut has been dubbed our “second brain”, and feeding it probiotics to help increase the proportion of good bacteria is the wave of the future. Expect to not only see probiotics in their traditional habitats like pills and yogurt, but probiotic-fortified products are on the horizon. What will they think of next? It’s the only type of bacteria we can’t get enough of, and SO worthy of a rose.
In 2016, we will no doubt be exposed to products that are sweetened with “natural” ingredients like agave, coconut palm sugar, stevia, monk fruit, and date sugar. But guess what? Those are all fancy names for SUGAR. At the end of the day, all of these Rodeo Drive-type sweeteners get metabolized the exact same way as the Target brand. We may be trending toward natural sweeteners, but that doesn’t change the amount of sugar we consume every day. Instead of embracing natural sweeteners that are digested the same way as good old-fashioned table sugar, a better plan is to focus on limiting overall sugar consumption and getting our sweet tooth fix from fruit or dark chocolate. So to all those natural sweeteners competing for our attention, I’ll dub you “Haley and Emily”, because you look exactly the same and one is no better than the other. Sorry, no rose this time.
You’ll have to tune in next time to see how far these trends make it in the competition for our nutrition affection. Hopefully, some of these have a shot at making it to that final rose ceremony up on a cliff somewhere gorgeous with the ocean in the background and a hot air balloon waiting to whisk us off to a fabulous ABC-sponsored wedding. But I digress. Let’s see if Ben can finally get rid of Olivia on tonight’s show, because girl is CRAY.