By Kristin Kirkpatrick, RD, LD, Prevention
Chia seeds? In our rearview mirror. Kale? So 2013! Make way for these new superfoods of the new year.
These overlooked little seeds should be making a comeback in your pantry this year due to their high levels of calcium and zinc (almost 20% of your daily dose of each). One small study found that sesame seed consumption helped with improving lipid and glucose profiles in pre-diabetic patients, and a 2010 study reported similar findings in an animal model.
Expect to see plenty of lentil dishes on the menu this year. What's so great about them? How about everything? Several studies have pointed out the benefits of legume consumption on prevention and management of chronic disease, but it's beluga lentils rich black color that give it an edge on other lentils. Any time we have a very rich color in a fruit, vegetable, or even a bean, the more color, the more benefit to your health. Black anthocyanins in these little beads have been found in other foods to be tops in fighting inflammation, cancer and heart disease. (Want more immunity solutions? Here are 23 immune-boosting strategies you can trust.)
Avocado oil is often hailed for its high content of healthy monounsaturated fats, yet many of us shy away from it because we're not sure how to cook with it. While chefs across the nation will be using it in your pricey restaurant entrées, you can use it at home in dressings, dips, and marinades. Added benefit: consuming more of it may help to increase your healthy HDL cholesterol levels. (Try these 5-ingredient salad dressings to get you started.)
Expect this bean to become more mainstream in 2014 as a potential weight loss food: A 2007 study found black soybeans to have an "anti-obesity" effect in rats.
For whatever reason, there's this perception that coffee is bad for us. But coffee is actually the greatest source of antioxidants worldwide. A few of its impressive acts: coffee helps prevent diabetes and certain cancers, strengthens DNA, is great for skin, and lowers early risk of death.
This year will see a continued emergence of health drinks galore. In your quest to find the one that works for you, give beet juice a try. It's been found in several studies to promote brain health, lower blood pressure, and even enhance athletic performance.
This Japanese spice will be hot in 2014--literally! Shichimi Togarashi is a blend of seven different spices and often includes chili powder, orange or tangerine peel, black and white sesame seeds and seaweed. What does it not have? Salt! Not only will this up-and-comer be a new spice in the ethnic cuisine trend, it can serve as an option for great taste (on fish, chicken, noodles, etc.) without the salt. Further, with its antioxidant rich ingredients, this mix may play a role in lowering your risk for high blood pressure and heart disease.
Cheese has always been a popular staple in the American diet, but the spreadable cheeses often get overlooked as options in recipes. Enter ricotta, the gritty white cheese that may in fact be "whey" better than some other options. Why? Because it's packed with protein, something that studies tell us is very important in keeping muscle up while losing weight. Further, protein specifically from dairy was found to be protective of bone health in women trying to shed pounds.
This root vegetable may not be a staple on your plate just yet, but you can expect to see it popping up at restaurants in the coming year. Salsify also goes by the name "oyster plant" and resembles a parsnip. The low-calorie, high-fiber profile of root vegetables can help keep weight and belly fat down (much like these 15 new belly-flattening recipes.)
Blueberries probably get all the credit for being high in antioxidants and saving your life, but apples have as many--if not more!--studies looking at their benefits. A 2011 study and a 2012 study showed that apple consumption helped to lower bad LDL cholesterol. Another 2011 study found a link between apple consumption and reduced risk of ulcerative colitis. Yet another found that apple consumption may help to ward off breast cancer, and another found that eating apples could expand your lifespan by 10 percent.
My 2014 challenge to you: Eat 365 apples this year! The very latest apple study shows that an apple a day slashes your risk of death from heart attack and stroke. (Bored with plain apples? Bite into these 17 ridiculously tasty apple recipes.)
This Middle Eastern spice blend of sumac seeds, thyme, salt, and sesame seeds made a strong showing in the past year and will continue to grow in popularity. Sprinkle it on flatbread or mix into a marinade for chicken. Speaking of chicken, za'atar can actually reduce your risk of a foodborne illness: Studies have linked sumac berries and thyme to decreased incidence of foodborne pathogens.
Prepare yourself: 2014 will be the year of the gut. While historical evidence has linked harmful gut bacteria to everything from increasing diabetes risk to the formation of autoimmune diseases, healthy gut bacteria are now being hailed as a possible solution in disease prevention. One way to make your gut gorgeous is by consuming fermented foods-like tempeh, or fermented soybeans. Probiotics in fermented foods can help with digestion, and may play a role in fighting off obesity and the effects of chronic stress. (Learn more about how gut bacteria seriously affects your health, here.)
This gluten-free grain is full of calcium, vitamin C, and taste! Best of all, up to 40% of the teff grain is considered a "resistant starch" which is literally starch you can't digest. A 2013 study found that a diet rich in resistant starches may help in the prevention of IBS and formation of colorectal cancer. Use teff flour in baked goods, pancakes, or waffles, or dredge fish or chicken through it to sauté.
Right now, they're more likely to be fed to a bird than to a human. But once we de-hull canary seeds, they have the ability to be ground into flours and can be put into gluten-free products.
While gluten-free grains like quinoa are making a big comeback, look to the world of seeds to provide a few "grain" options as well. A 2013 study found that a new variety of canary seeds made suitable for human consumption by de-hulling was not only gluten-free, but provided more protein than other gluten-free grains.
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--Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, is Wellness Manager at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.