Who wants to drink kombucha when hipsters are carrying around their homemade brews on every corner? And should acai be in our breakfast bowls if it’s in our spam filters?
It’s easy to forget that many of these faddish foods became must-have munchables because of their actual health benefits.
We tapped the nutrition known-how of Keri Glassman, celeb nutritionist and founder of Nutritious Life, to find out when it’s right to follow the crowd with our shopping carts.
Here are 10 (super) trendy health foods she recommends…
Merits: Chia seeds fueled the ancient Aztecs and “are a great source of fiber and are loaded with omega 3 fatty acids,” says Glassman. Because they absorb fluid well, they can naturally thicken smoothies, and they help you feel full longer.
Recommended use: 1 tablespoon a day sprinkled into smoothies, salads or soups.
Merits: Maca may help spice up your sex life, but more research is needed on that front, says Glassman, who confirms its other benefits. It’s loaded with “amino acids important for skin and bone health, and sterols, which help control cholesterol levels.” Bonus: Like ginseng, maca raises the body’s ability to ward off disease via natural hormone regulation.
Recommended use: 1 tablespoon of the root in ground powder form. Sprinkle over food or add it to tea or smoothies (possibly for the Barry White effect).
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Found in: Breakfast bowls at Juice Generation, Sambazon beverages, plus the frozen-food, skin-care, and supplements aisle, and your spam filter.
Merits: Antioxidants are trendy on their own, but the molecules really do protect against daily damage from free radicals, and acai packs a powerful dose. Contrary to some claims, the berries won’t result in miraculous weight loss, warns Glassman. And, she says, “Remember, blueberries are probably just as great.”
Recommended use: Add the fruit to smoothies or cereal, or stir acai powder or concentrate into a glass of water after a workout. Use on your skin help fight sun and free-radical damage.
Found in: You can’t escape it! Salads at every healthy restaurant (and City Bakery), at Whole Foods in the form of overpriced chips, and every green juice.
Merits: Glassman calls kale the “green giant” because of its abundant vitamins and minerals. It’s packed with calcium and vitamin K for healthy bones and has a whopping 5 grams of fiber per cup, which is great for digestion. “It also has 45 different flavonoids, potent antioxidants that research has linked to lowering the risk of cancer,” says Glassman.
Recommended use: Get a cup of kale daily. Steam for 5 minutes, drink it up in a juice, or massage in a delish raw salad.
Merits: Hemp seeds contain omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids and are loaded with potassium, iron, and calcium. “They’re one of the only plant-based complete proteins containing all eight essential amino acids that your body can’t make and must obtain through food,” says Glassman. They may also lower bad LDL cholesterol—and help you get or stay regular.
Recommended use: 1 tablespoon per day as a snack, or add to salads and soups.
Merits: Kombucha got a bad rap when Whole Foods pulled it from the shelves due to higher-than-advertised levels of alcohol. But since it’s made from the fermentation of sugar in tea by bacterial yeasts, its probiotic properties may improve digestive health. “By adding good bacteria to the natural flora of the gut, probiotics keep your GI tract happy and healthy,” says Glassman.
Recommended use: 1 cup to drink (maybe not while operating heavy machinery).
Found in: Dried in bags like Craisins and often in supplement form, chocolates, and snacks.
Merits: Like acai, goji berries are antioxidant rich. Vitamins A, C, and E boost your immune system and fight inflammation. Chinese medicine says these berries will help you live to be over 100, says Glassman. “But they may in fact be similar to blackberries and raspberries in terms of nutrition.” More research is needed to support claims like improved cognition, sleep quality, and athletic performance.
Recommended use: 2 tablespoons daily, dried or in smoothies.
Found in: The water is in every deli fridge for post-workout hydration and the meat is a vegan favorite for milk and ice cream. The oil and sugar is used in cooking and baking.
Merits: “Coconut meat is packed with fiber, protein, vitamins B1, B6, C and E, folic acid, calcium, and iron,” says Glassman. And although coconut oil (extracted from the meat) is high in saturated fat, it’s a form that is more readily used for energy and less likely to be stored as fat.
Recommended use: 2 teaspoons in place of vegetable oils, or spread coconut butter on toast. Beware too much coconut water, which has a lot of natural sugar.
Found in: The bulk bin, plus salads, wraps, bowls at Jivamuktea Cafe, and maybe even your morning cereal.
Merits: Quinoa is a great source of vitamins and minerals and has more protein than almost all other grains. Its high magnesium content may help those prone to migraines. “It’s also an excellent source of B vitamins, important for energy and cell repair,” says Glassman.
Recommended use: Eat quinoa as porridge for breakfast with fruit. Combine with veggies and chickpeas for a lunch salad. Use in place of brown rice at dinner.
Merits: Quercetin is not an actual food, but a phytochemical. (Even phytochemicals can be trendy!) It has been shown to decrease the incidence of colon and lung cancer through its powerful anti-inflammatory agents.
Recommended use: Eat whole fruits and vegetables to reap its benefits. Even for your skin.