By Patrice Powers-Barker, OSU Extension, Lucas County
The Truth Contributor
While we don’t know exactly what the new year will bring, there are tendencies about consumer choices and educated guesses about what food trends will continue and possibly pick up in 2024. Here are just a few of the predictions and themes from the food industry and professional organizations such as the World Public Health Nutrition Congress 2024.
As we continue to learn more every year about the positive connections between hydration and physical and mental health, we will continue to focus on hydration. Certainly, water is a great choice for a thirst-quenching drink as well as to keep hydrated. By the time you feel thirsty, your body is already starting to experience dehydration. Plain water not your first choice? Enjoy a hot tea or add some flavor to your cold glass of water. Not only is drinking enough water and other liquids important for hydration but our food choices can also help prevent dehydration. As expected, many plant foods like fruits and vegetables contribute to our hydration.
The University of Maine Extension explains that gut health refers to the health of our gut microbiome—the bacteria that lines our digestive tract. The good bacteria of our gut can help our health with improved digestion, sleep health, brain health, and can help prevent some diseases! Two types of food that help our gut health are probiotics and prebiotics.
Prebiotics are food for the probiotics, and when consumed, they cause more healthy gut bacteria to grow. Sources of prebiotics can be found where you can find fiber, so think fruits, vegetables, dried beans and whole grains. Some examples of foods that contain prebiotics include fruit like apples and bananas, vegetables like asparagus, garlic, lentils, and sweet potatoes and whole grains like oatmeal.
Probiotics, live (good) bacteria, when eaten in adequate amounts, can create health benefits. Different types of probiotics can have different benefits to our health. Many of these foods include fermentation as part of their production. Some examples of these foods are aged cheeses such as cheddar, cottage cheese, and feta, kefir (fermented milk drink), Kombucha (sweet, fermented tea), Miso soup, pickles, sauerkraut, tempeh (made from fermented soy beans), and yogurt.
There is a lot of focus on protein in the food industry with more sources of protein available on the market. More snack items are marketed as a good source of protein and more plant-based protein foods (such as vegetarian burgers) are on menus. Many individuals eat enough protein throughout the day so the emphasis should be on lean, healthy sources of protein. Sometimes older individuals do not eat enough protein. It is something to discuss with your doctor or registered dietitian.
You might be adding a protein food to your snack or meals. For snacks, enjoy some nuts, seeds, or yogurt. At meals, add more fish and seafood. Enjoy legumes like dry beans and lentils for salads or in cozy, winter soups.
Sustainability is a general term that can include many different examples. For instance, the packaging of food in environmentally conscious ways can benefit the environment. Another topic of sustainability and food includes food waste. There is much interest in how to make our food last longer and how to best use food. In the home kitchen this might include planned-overs, composting scrap ends of fruits and vegetables, and looking for new recipes to use all parts of different types of foods. In the food industry, upcycling and repurposing foods or using ingredients that would otherwise be discarded is becoming more common.
Whole person health
We are much more aware that fad diets are not healthy choices for people. A focus on personal health should also offer comfort and enjoyment. Enjoy your food choices! One hope for the new year is that there is continued, long term trends of well-rounded, sustainable diets, which are very different than strict, short-term, fad, diets. One example of a healthy eating pattern is the Mediterranean diet. It offers choices, a wide range of foods and tastes, and helps create a healthy lifestyle, not a strict diet.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs has a series about Whole Health information. They describe Whole Health as approach to health that empowers and enables individuals to take charge of their health and well well-being and life a healthy lifestyle. They have an equation that says “Me + Self Care + Professional Care + Community = Whole Health”. In a similar way, our personal choices about food should be about ourselves, recommendations from our health care professionals, and supported by our community. Happy New Year! Enjoy some of these foods and drinks that are available to support your healthy choices.