Another year has come and gone and with it a few tired diet trends—calorie counting, crash dieting, and (gasp) kale. (Read the disturbing truth about the cruciferous green.) But, as always, a new crop of good-for-you ingredients and dieting techniques have come to light with experts and science to back them up. I, for one, am thrilled. I was never into juicing, and withholding my favorite foods for the sake of my figure was never at the top of my list. The master cleanser failed me (or, perhaps more accurately, I gave it up after a few hours and a solid hunger pang).
To better understand the health movements of the moment, we chatted with a few top nutritionists in the industry. Keep reading and you're already on your way to a healthier, happier 2017.
#1: Eating for Your Microbiome
"Gut health is becoming a household term," founder and president of Nutritious Life Keri Glassman says. "Sauerkraut is no longer for just topping a hot dog. Kimchi, kefir, and tempeh are becoming well known as microbiome-benefitting foods. Kombucha on tap, anyone?" The thing these foods all have in common is that they're fermented, or self-preserved, thanks to "good bacteria."
Whitney Tingle and Danielle DuBoise, co-founders of Sakara Life, agree: "Your microbiome consists of the six pounds of bacteria living on or in your body, mostly found in the digestive system. The microbes found in your gut dictate everything from your happiness (95% of serotonin is made in the gut) to your immune system and overall health. As the low-fat trend took hold of most of America, the majority of our diets consisted of meat, dairy, and highly processed high-sugar foods like bread, pastries, crackers, and cookies—all containing ingredients and preservatives that can be detrimental to your microbiome and lacking the ones (like plant fiber!) that your gut microbes need to flourish. An imbalance in the microbiome can lead to many diseases, including autoimmune diseases like Crohn's, Hashimoto's, and Lupus. The good thing is that healing the gut is very doable by eating the right, nourishing foods and dealing with any lifestyle stresses."
#2: Broccoli Rabe
Broccoli rabe is an example of a bitter vegetable, much like Brussels sprouts, dandelion greens, and chard. Alexandra Miller of Medifast Inc. told us, "Many bitter foods are rich in nutrients, including dietary fiber. Fiber helps fill us up and keeps us satisfied, which is extremely helpful for people trying to lose weight and/or combat cravings. In addition, fiber helps promote healthy digestion by affecting the rate of digestion, the absorption of nutrients, and the movement of waste products through the colon." Miller continues, "Bitter fruits and vegetables are also lower in calories and full of vitamins and minerals, which makes them great for people looking to lose weight."
Glassman adds, "With its slightly bitter taste, this green is perfectly versatile and transitional from winter through the spring. It's popping up on Pinterest recipe boards everywhere. Roast with garlic and sea salt, blend into an easy veggie pesto, or sauté to top a crostini."
#3: Sacha Inchi Nuts
"Move over, almonds. These 'Inca peanuts' are making their mark," says Glassman. "They're perfectly snackable, with a nutritional profile impressive enough to be the next famous superfood."
First things first, these seeds contain tryptophan—an essential amino acid that increases the production of serotonin. So weight-loss aside, eating it will make you calmer and happier and help you sleep more soundly. On top of that, tryptophan helps to regulate your appetite, decrease snack cravings, and supress your penchant for overeating.
Celebrity holistic nutritionist and cleanse expert Elissa Goodman says, "I loved quinoa five years ago, but to be honest, I'm getting a little bored with it. For those looking to add variety to their gluten-free grain options, teff gives quinoa a run for its money when it comes to protein content and much more! The teff grain is known for its superior amino acid profile and is high in lysine, a protein essential for muscle repair. Teff also contains albumins (the primary protein in blood plasma), making it a good alternative to eggs for vegans. Quinoa may contain more omega-3s, magnesium, and fewer carbs, but teff is a better source of calcium, copper, fiber, vitamin K, manganese, zinc, and iron."
As another benefit to offset its carb content, Goodman explains, "Teff is made up of primarily resistant starch, a dietary fiber that promotes colon health, balanced weight, and blood sugar levels. On its own, teff has a mild and nutty flavor. It blends seamlessly in gluten-free baking, can be used in soups and stews, for breakfast porridge or as a cereal replacer, makes a great base for a vegan burger or veggie bowl, and makes a great grain addition to salads."
#5: Soup Cleansing
Goodman, like us, is so over juice cleanses. "For lasting results, if you're looking to cleanse," she says, "I always recommend a whole food cleanse program, and soup just happens to be a great way to pack in a ton of nutrients (including the fiber and protein that is often missing from juices) while keeping sugar content low and taking it easy on your digestive system."
"For consistent weight loss that sticks," she suggests, "it is essential to that your vitamins, minerals, and food groups are all touched upon, and souping makes that part easy. Soups can simultaneously detoxify and nourish the body, is extremely satiating, warm, and comforting—all essential for long term success! I'm seeing new soup programs pop up all over the place as well as many online DIY versions that are easy to follow along at home."
#6: Body Vibes Smart Stickers
Goodman continues, "To truly feel your best, your relationship with yourself has to come first. For those looking for long-term success in wellness, my first recommendation is to work on self-love and acceptance. Body Vibes Smart Stickers ($60) are programmed to deliver natural bio-frequencies through energy resonant exchange to optimize brain and body functions, restore missing cell communication, and accelerate the body's natural ability to heal itself."
They work by targeting your central nervous system, a hub of energy powered by a network of electrical signals that vibrate along our nerves. It controls everything we do, including our responses to pleasure and pain. "The bio-frequencies programmed into Body Vibes mimic the same frequencies that are already found in our body, says Goodman: "For this reason, they are able to travel across our electrical pathways, replenishing any deficiencies and raising our vibration to the perfect frequency."
"The brand's Find Your Vibe Guide will help distinguish which smart sticker is best for you, but I recommend 'Self-Love' for courage, healing, and self-confidence. I also love their 'Mood Boost' sticker because much of our relationship with food is based on emotional baggage," says Goodman. "It promotes a positive outlook and balances mood swings, so you can stop self-medicating with calories!"
#7: Matcha Meal Replacers
"A matcha meal replacer does wonders for my clients who are looking to maintain weight and boost energy," explains Goodman. "My satiating recipe includes mixing matcha powder with a spoonful of MCT oil (an oil that burns fat like no other), a tablespoon of hemp seeds for plant-based protein, and cashew or almond milk. Warm the nut milk and blend it up for a creamy concoction that will rev your metabolism throughout the day."
Moreover, Goodman says, "Drinking matcha has been shown to increase metabolism and help the body burn fat three to four times faster than average, without the negative side effects that coffee carries with it—no raise in heart rate or blood pressure, and it's not taxing on the adrenal system. Another weight maintenance benefit is matcha's high level of chlorophyll makes it a powerful detoxifier, capable of removing toxins and heavy metals in our system (both which make you hang on to stubborn weight!)."
#8: Plant-Based Proteins
"As we become more conscious and aware of our bodies and our planet," Goodman says, "plant-based living is starting to take a front seat (not to mention choosing vegetables, fruits, and whole grains over meatier options can also do wonders for your waistline). We no longer have to source our protein from our four-legged friends; instead we look to protein powders made with hemp, peas, peanuts, brown rice, and artichokes."
She adds, "Limiting animal protein and increasing plant-based protein has many benefits, warding off diabetes, decreasing risk of heart disease, and making weight easier to manage. If you consume animal protein, limiting to one time daily and adding in plant-based proteins is a great way to manage the lifestyle."
The Sakara Life girls agree: "Hemp extract, and specifically CBD, has been shown to help with several anxiety disorders, depression, and pain management. Turmeric has been shown to help the body fight inflammation, is an anti-coagulant, and can help heal the inner lining of the gut. Food is information, and you're either feeding your body the type of information that encourages health and healing or the kind of data that causes disease and imbalances." Their advice? "Focus your diet on high-quality, organic, and fresh plants. Eat fresh, cold-pressed oils, and rather than counting calories, count nutrients. Remember that food is about nourishment, not just energy."
#9: Detox Your Thoughts, Not Just Your Food
"A healthy body relies on clean food and good stress-coping mechanisms," Tingle and DuBoise explain. "There are now several lines of research suggesting that our mental perception of the world constantly informs and guides our immune system."
The first step: Notice in what situations you are the most reactive. What triggers anxiety or anger? Recognize those feelings stem from a choice, and you can change how you choose to feel. Many people try meditating as a tool to gain control over their thoughts in addition to cutting out electronics before bed or dream journaling. Focusing on clean, healthy foods is great and will certainly aid in your weight loss. However, bringing about new habits and rituals in other aspects of your life will help keep you on the right track.
Next up, these are the best (and worst) foods for weight loss, according to nutritionists.