One of the hardest, though sometimes fun, parts of our jobs as dietitians is staying up to date not only on nutrition research but also on food and nutrition trends. When I began my career as a professor, I would often have students asking me questions about products and health claims I hadn’t yet heard about and quickly learned that I needed to stay on top of the food trend game.
My career has transformed, and I now attend two large trade shows each year to meet with brands and cover new products in the press as well as on my blog (plus, sample plenty of yummy “health” foods). The big food trade show event of the summer is the Fancy Food Show in New York City. Here, many companies, health-centric or not, reveal their latest and greatest products that either just hit shelves or are coming soon. After walking down many aisles of vendors, checking out the award winners, and taking plenty of notes, I narrowed down what I thought RDs had to know about these five products and themes.
Double-Fermented Coffee Beans
This new product, the first from the brand Afineur, goes by the name Cultured Coffee. Two scientists who are experts in fermentation selected specific microbes to use in the coffee bean’s second round of fermentation (coffee beans are already fermented before they’re roasted) to enhance specific flavors and nutrient profiles and to reduce acidity. This is of special interest to dietitians whose clients have gastrointestinal discomfort or age-related gastroesophageal reflux disease. Many aging patients don’t want to give up the coffee they’ve been drinking their whole life, so if this trend expands, it can be a helpful solution. The company also stated that while the coffee beans have 10% to 15% less caffeine, the caffeine is released more slowly so that energy highs and lows aren’t as prevalent as with traditional coffee.
Turkey jerky has had its moment, and now the EPIC meat snack brand has released a wild-caught salmon jerky, a portable protein more rich in omega-3s. This also offers a high-quality portable protein option for those following a pescetarian diet. Salmon jerky is a perfect recommendation for those who travel frequently and athletic clients.
While switchel has apparently been gaining traction recently and was a popular beverage in the 17th century, it wasn’t something I’d heard of until the food show. Switchel is a beverage made by mixing water with ginger, apple cider vinegar, and either maple syrup or honey. Based on those ingredients, the resurgence of this drink makes sense, since ginger, apple cider vinegar, and honey are trendy right now! While not all health trends have science to support claims, not only may there may be some anti-inflammatory benefits from the ginger but the ginger and apple cider vinegar also may be helpful for those with sensitive stomachs. Since the drink can be high in sugar, one brand, Cide Road, sells both traditional switchel and a lower-sugar switchel seltzer, which debuted at the show.
Those of you working in the sports nutrition sphere may need to be ready for questions about the new high-oxygen water that hit the market under the brand OXiGEN. You heard right. According to the company, Activated Stabilized Oxygen (ASO) was developed at NASA in 1956. Somehow, they bind two O2 molecules together into a stable O4 molecule. What OXiGEN claims is that they are the first company to improve the proprietary ASO so it can be sold as a shelf-stable water product, with 20 oz containing 1,000 parts per million (ppm) of stabilized oxygen vs the 5 to 40 ppm you’d have in bottled or tap water.
The products are marketed for better endurance, improved recovery from exercise, enhanced mental clarity, and decreased hangover effects. There may be merit for the claim of improved recovery from exercise. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2017 showed trained male runners to have significantly improved lactate clearance from muscles, though no improvement was seen in performance. This may result in enhanced recovery, but research must be done to confirm the effect of the improved lactate clearance. Research still needs to be conducted on other claims.
While tiger nuts are actually tubers, in the potato and sweet potato family, they’re so small that when dried, they look and have a texture more comparable to nuts. Sold whole, peeled, and in flour form, tiger nuts are rich in prebiotic fiber, thereby supporting gut microbiota and the myriad health benefits research indicates those bacteria provide. Since tiger nuts are also gluten-free, the flour provides an excellent alternative to traditional gluten-free flours, which tend to be extremely low in fiber with a poor satiety level. While the texture of the nuts takes some getting used to, I thoroughly enjoyed the cookie I sampled made from the flour.
While there are plenty of health trends you may not hear about first, the next time a client asks about a crazy tuber or age-old yet trendy drink, you’ll be in the know!
— Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, is a board-certified sports dietitian based in greater Philadelphia. As a speaker, consultant, nutrition coach, and brand ambassador, her expertise lies in performance nutrition, fitness club programming, and intuitive eating. Kelly often appears in the media and her blog, EatRealLiveWell, where she translates science into practice with nutrition tips and recipes.