The Year in Superfoods: The Good, The Bad, and The Strange
Posted on 10 January 2017
Superfoods: The Good, The Bad, and The Strange
It’s hard to think back to a time when there weren’t superfoods. There have always been health foods, to be sure, but only recently have so many ingredients become super. And for the items added to those magical lists, frenzied popularity seems to follow a select few. Kale is still the superfood poster child, it seems, and while we may still be looking for the ingredient with the power to dethrone the leafy green, 2016 did have its fair share of contenders. From chlorophyll to banana flour and kefir, here are the year’s trendiest health foods, and the ones that made a splash powerful enough to carry them into 2017.
Chlorophyll binds to carcinogens in the body, preventing them from being circulated and reaching susceptible tissues, like those of the joints and heart. It has also been shown to cleanse the liver by interfering with the metabolism of chemicals and heavy metals. But it’s the plant extract’s unexpectedly mild taste and eye-catching deep green hue that encouraged us to incorporate it into everything from yogurt bowls to water to cold-pressed juice this year. Available for purchase in ready-made bottles, this nutrient-dense extract is responsible for giving plants their green color. While Jennifer Lawrence and Nicole Richie already swear by it, we expect chlorophyll to only increase in popularity in 2017.
Traditionally used to treat poisonings and drug overdoses, 2016 saw the dark, chalky substance seep into everything from lemonade to hangover pills. It works because it traps toxins and chemicals in the body, allowing them to be flushed out instead of reabsorbed. However, while there is a growing trend of taking the supplement to prevent or treat the after-effects of a long night of drinking, the sponge-like substance can interfere with the absorption of other nutrients, supplements, and prescription medications, potentially outweighing the benefits of regular activated charcoal use.
Maple water was introduced this year as a lower-sugar alternative to the ever-popular coconut water, but the often-pricey drink contains fewer electrolytes and far less flavor than everyone’s favorite, coconut water. The beverage’s presence of abscisic acid (ABA) helps move sugar out of the bloodstream—where it otherwise contributes to weight gain—and can also stimulate immune function. But since coconut water also contains ABA, it’s unlikely that maple water will stick any more in 2017 than it did this year.
2016 saw to-go bone broth packets—similar to to-go Crystal Light—roll out due to an increasingly high bone broth demand. The elixir is beloved for being rich in collagen, glutamine, glycine, and proline, all of which help with ligament and muscle function and repair. The collagen in bone broth also reduces intestinal inflammation, leading to a healthier gut. Stars like Salma Hayek and Gwyneth Paltrow have already confessed to being loyal bone broth devotees, and there’s no telling who else will jump on board as this trend continues to grow in 2017.
Research continues to mount that a diet containing nuts can help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. And almond butter—with its lack of carbs and abundance of protein, fiber, and healthy fat—is the perfect filling snack. As Justin’s to-go almond butter packets helped make the healthy and delicious snack more portable this year, Kylie Jenner endorsed them as an easy mid-day snack, making it the ultimate healthy accessory.
Banana flour is extremely high in resistant starch, a prebiotic that promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut and assists with everything from immunity to weight loss. Although banana flour hasn’t yet made it big in most superfood circles, there’s nowhere to go but up for this gluten-free prebiotic flour that’s high in potassium and can be used in baked goods as well as smoothies.
Arguably the most Internet-famous superfood of 2016, acai bowls have started to feel like the crying–Jordan meme of health foods: The food, like the meme, is several years old. But defying every viral law, the two only seem to get stronger and more popular over time. Acai berries contain more antioxidants than other commonly eaten berries and are high in fiber and heart-healthy fats. Specifically, the antioxidant anthocyanin, which is abundant in acai berries, is linked to lowering oxidative stress and inflammation and promoting brain health. These eye-catching bowls aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, especially if Instagram has anything to do with it.
As previously reported on Vogue, kefir is a probiotic, meaning it contains plenty of “good” bacteria and yeasts that are both nourishing to the digestive system and necessary for gut health. Since kefir is good for your intestines, it decreases pesky ailments like bloating. Many cultures have been drinking the fermented dairy beverage long before we in the West decided to call it a superfood, and if we know what’s good for us, we’ll continue to drink it well into 2017 and beyond.
Turmeric has been used in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat conditions like jaundice, flatulence, hemorrhage, toothaches, and chest pain for millennia, making it a true superfood star. Although the taste can be bitter for some, it’s endless list of health-enhancing benefits—including being linked to lower rates of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer—keep us searching for new ways to include it in our diets in 2017.
It’s not often that a massively trendy food originates in Middle America, but don’t be fooled by Wisconsin’s very own LaCroix, pronounced La Croy. The flavored seltzer water has been a favorite amongst Midwestern mothers since the 1990s, but no one expected the company to take over the sparkling water market the way it has. In 2014, writers in Los Angeles started guzzling LaCroix, in part due to the fact that the sugar-free seltzer was easy to find, portable, and delicious. Parks and Recreations writer Joe Mande—then a vocal supporter of the sparkling water company—even went so far as to beg the brand to make him their official spokesperson. Although LaCroix declined and issued Mande a cease-and-desist letter, the seltzer’s viral popularity among young people was only beginning. As more influential writers, comedians and artists began touting cans of LaCroix, 2016 saw T-shirts printed with the words “LaCroixs Over Boys“ written on them. New York artist Chloe Wise erected a painting in homage to the token colorful can; Williamsburg Wholefoods assembled nothing short of a LaCroix shrine; and tickets to a class on painting your own LaCroix can sold out in seconds. This year the water transcends its original position as a healthy alternative to soda, becoming a cultural symbol greater than itself: In a digital age where ironic detachment is king, liking LaCroix has become synonymous with showing the world that you’re in touch with trends while also defending yourself from the embarrassment of being earnest. This is the rare power that makes LaCroix 2016’s ultimate superfood. Not even kale could do this much for its troops.