Move over kale, quinoa, and coconut water! Er, that's so 2016.
There are some new superfoods on the block, packed with powerful nutritional benefits and exotic tastes. They might sound rather bizarre but, five years ago, who could have predicted we'd be drinking collagen and feasting on avocado toast.
These are the superfood trends you should not only watch out for, but get excited about.
1. Nut oils
Nut butters exploded into the mainstream last year, with many choosing to give up animal products in favor of a plant-based diet. Following suit, nut oils are the new breed of superfood cooking essentials, with cold-pressed almond, cashew, walnut, and hazelnut oils set to be a healthier alternative to the average olive, vegetable, or sunflower varieties.
While the nutritional content may be largely quite similar, it's worth remembering that not all fat is created equal. Nut oils typically contain less damaging trans fats and are much healthier for the heart. I sampled cold-pressed almond oil at a new plant-based cafe in Miami — it's fabulous when dressed over a salad. If you're allergic to nuts, you could try avocado oil, which is coined to be the next coconut oil, as it's great for cooking!
Matcha, maca, spirulina, and green tea powder have previously ruled the roost when it comes to supercharging your smoothies, but there’s a new supergreen in town — and it sounds more like a new dance craze than something you'd actually consume. Packed with vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and amino acids, the fine, velvety powder comes from the fast-growing Moringa tree, native to India, Pakistan, and Nepal.
Try sprinkling it into smoothies, yogurts, and juices. On first impression, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a more peppery version of green tea, but the taste is a touch more bitter. Moringa is said to help manage blood sugar and stabilize histamine production. And despite being totally caffeine-free, it makes for a fabulous natural energy booster.
3. Chaga mushrooms
Admittedly, these don't look very appetizing, with a lumpy exterior that resembles burnt charcoal. But these powerful fungi are high in fiber, which makes them fantastic for regulating the digestive system, while its anti-inflammatory properties can also help soothe any inflammation in the bowels. The high level of antioxidants is another impressive superfood quality of the chaga, with further studies showing that it supports the immune system by increasing the production of certain immune cells.
While you can buy a packet of chaga to crunch, we're more likely to be seeing them on the hot drinks menu as “mushroom coffee.”
4. Cassava flour
Move over buckwheat and coconut flour! Used traditionally in Bali and South Asia, this beautifully soft powder is a much closer alternative to wheat for gluten-free eaters. It’s paleo-friendly, vegan-friendly, and nut-free, too.
It's not necessarily a superfood in the sense that it doesn't offer an overwhelming amount of nutritional benefit that we couldn't get elsewhere. But it deserved a place on the list because it’s a perfect fit for plant-based recipes due to its root vegetable base and nonallergenic properties. I tried a savory bread dish made with cassava flour while on my travels and it had a delicious hearty flavor — with none of the worries about bloating or IBS irritation that traditional gluten-based flours can cause.
5. Watermelon seeds
Taking over from chia, pumpkin, and sesame, watermelon seeds will soon be the new buzz word among superfood fanatics. To enjoy the full goodness, they need to be sprouted and shelled before consumption. But it's worth the hassle — a one cup serving contains 31 grams of protein and is also a fantastic source of magnesium, vitamin B, and both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Eat them alone as a snack — try roasting them! — or sprinkle them over fruit, yogurt, or atop your acai breakfast bowl for a nutritious boost!
6. Maqui berries
Apparently goji and acai have had their moment, it's time to let their low-sugar sister shine. With a less bitter taste and milder flavor, these hard working berries contain a big dose of antioxidants and they can help regulate blood sugar, aid digestion, and boost metabolism.
Likely to spring up in powder form and be consumed much like acai — in breakfast bowls, smoothies, and juices — it contains a rainbow of vitamins, minerals, anti-inflammatory properties, as well as fiber. Add two tablespoons of freeze-dried powder to your breakfast smoothie for a superfood hit!
7. Tiger nuts
The incredible superfood benefits of tiger nuts are slowly but surely making their presence known and weaving their way into modern takes on popular sweet and savory recipes. The small, raisin-shaped nuts contain high amounts of dietary fiber, potassium, and vegetable protein and have prebiotics which aid in digestion. They’re also a great source of magnesium, which is a natural muscle relaxer that helps maintain healthy kidneys and also prevents menstrual issues in women.
They can be easily ground to make flour, or compressed as an alternative to cow’s milk.
8. Probiotic waters
2016 was the year where probiotics really started making their way into the mainstream rather than being purely something health-conscious individuals kept a secret. They'd not only crop up in supplements, but also in chocolate and yogurts too. Making it even easier for us to boost our gut flora and maintain a healthy digestive system, gut-friendly waters will soon be in our refrigerators. Why eat your probiotics when you can drink them, eh?
Offering a more functional delivery, the good bacteria will be in the right place in a matter of seconds by drinking it in liquid form. I can personally vouch for taking a daily probiotic (I use a capsule form for now, Alflorex) as a way of maintaining equilibrium in your gut. If you experience regular IBS troubles and irritation, I'd definitely recommend weaving one into your daily routine.
So, there we have it. Before long, expect to be sipping chaga coffee while you chow down on a maqui and moringa bowl, topped with watermelon seeds and tiger nuts. You heard it here first!
Scarlett Dixon is a U.K.-based journalist, lifestyle blogger, and YouTuber who runs networking events in London for bloggers and social media experts. She has a keen interest in speaking out about anything that might be deemed taboo, and a lengthy bucket list. She’s also a keen traveler and is passionate about sharing the message that IBS doesn’t have to hold you back in life! Visit her website and Twitter.