My Take on Five Trendy Foods ( Part One)

The Scoop on Five Trendy Foods: Hemp

When it comes to food trends, it’s sometimes hard to distinguish the health from the hype. Certain ingredients catch hold, often with very vocal proponents telling us it’s the dietary game changer we’ve  all been looking for. But is it really too good to be true? Here I share my thoughts on five of the hottest ingredients in the marketplace.

Honey Vanilla Almond Milk / momskitchenhandbook.com

1. Almond Milk — The rise in almond milk sales over the past few years has been stratospheric. Ditto for other plant-based milks, such as hemp and coconut milk. I happen to be rather fond of almond milk, particularly when made in my very own kitchen. That said, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to stocking your pantry. For starters, homemade almond milk has very little calcium (conversely, most store-bought almond milk is calcium-fortified, so measures up well relative to cow’s milk). In addition, almond milk and most other plant-based milks have relatively little protein, sometimes less than a gram per cup (compared to eight grams in cow’s milk and six in soy).  Lastly, almond milk is often made with a lot more than almonds, notably added sugars,  flavors, thickeners, and other additives.

My take: Read the list of ingredients on the label to find the purest almond milk and look elsewhere for your protein. If you enjoy homemade almond milk, consider it a delicious and wholesome beverage rather than a  rich source of calcium or protein.

 

Quick and Crispy Skillet Kale

2. Kale

Kale has been the “it girl” of the produce aisle for several years, and it doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon. Few trends are as welcome by nutrition professionals as this one. It’s an enormously nourishing vegetable, delivering fiber, folic acids, protein, and host of other nutrients.  Is there a downside? Possibly. A study at Oregon State University found very high intakes of cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, can interfere with thyroid hormones and lead to hypothyroidism.

My take: Don’t panic. To me, concerns about too much kale is just a reminder to include variety in your diet. Yes, kale is good for you, but getting micro-focused on a single food means we miss out on the rest of what’s colorful, flavorful, and nutritious in the produce aisle. Have your kale, but don’t forget about the carrots,  squash, peppers, onions, cabbage, avocados, sweet potatoes, herbs, fennel, and tomatoes, too.

The Scoop on Five Trendy Foods: Hemp2. Hemp Seeds

It’s the age of the tiny seed; chia, flax, and hemp are all the rage. Hemp seeds seem particularly fashionable of late, and for good reason. They’re little nuggets of nutrition that add texture and flavor to food. Two tablespoons pack 5 grams of protein, vitamin E, and a nice dose of Omega-3 fats, which most of us could use a lot more of, all at 90 calories.

My take: Try it. Adding a spoonful of hemp seeds to your oatmeal, smoothie, or lunch salad appears to have little downside. But think, also, about experimenting with other tiny seeds, too — chia, sesame, and flax to be exact. I’m a big believer in variety.

Boba Tea / momskitchenhandbook.com4. Boba Tea — Last year my kids began asking to make pit stops at Boba Guys, a local shop specializing in small batch boba tea. If you’re unfamiliar with boba (also called bubble tea), it’s a cold milky tea with tapioca pearls that settle at the bottom of the cup. Strange and strangely delicious, but with a few potential issues 1) Caffeine. Most boba is made with caffeinated tea, which is not recommended for kids. 2) Sugar. And lots of it. A 16-ounce tea from Lollicup, for example, has 36 grams of sugar. Even if you estimate that 14 grams is the naturally occurring sugar from a cup of milk, that’s still nearly 6 teaspoons of added sugar. 3) Artificial ingredients. While some boba shops use pure ingredients, plenty rely on artificial ones. 4) Tapioca. There has been some concern that chemical compounds in tapioca pearls may be associated with cancer, while further tests have concluded it to be safe. For very young children, large tapoica balls may present a choking hazard.

My take: If you enjoy boba tea, consider it a treat and enjoy it occasionally. When you do drink it, share, since the portion is  often a large serving. Also, look for decaf boba for your kids and keep it out of the hands of the littlest ones in your house.

The Scoop on Five Trendy Foods: Coconut Oil

5. Coconut  Oil — Coconut seems to be the darling of the marketplace these days, showing up in all its various forms, from coconut flour to coconut sugar. For the purposes of this post, let’s stick with coconut oil, a flavorful fat that, like butter, is solid at room temperature. There’s no doubt that this aromatic oil has its merits in cooking. It does a bang up job in a batch of popcorn and is brilliant in a loaf of banana bread. However, it’s a little too soon to peg coconut oil as the cooking cure-all many people purport it to be.  The research underway about its potential health benefits is exciting, but it’s too soon to draw firm conclusions as to whether it truly does raise metabolism, protect against Alzheimer’s Disease, or any of the other common claims. What we do know is that coconut oil is a highly saturated fat, the type of fat that raises  LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. At the same time, some of the fat in coconut oil is of a type known to raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol as well. Confusing, I know.  And like all fats, coconut oil is concentrated in calories, about 120 per tablespoon.

My take? The jury is still out on coconut oil and its healthy upsides. For now, enjoy it in moderation, but don’t ditch the olive oil as your kitchen staple. When you do buy coconut oil, look for cold pressed virgin coconut oil, since it’s processed without chemicals or heat.

What’s your take on some of today’s trendy ingredients?

P.S. You might want to check out Part Two of this series for my thoughts on five more trendy foods.

P.P.S. Gratitude to my intern, Courtney Woo, a registered dietitian-in-training, for the research that went into this post.

Comments

02.02.2015 at 5:11 PM #

Monica

Thanks so much for your thoughts on coconut oil. I want the miracle cure claims to be true because I like the flavor it adds to stir fries and cooked greens, but have been wary of the saturated fat. Your advice is so reasonable. Use it in moderation, don’t drink it by the gallonful as some less well researched blogs might recommend. Please weigh in on the whole milk versus nonfat milk issue if you can! Thanks!!

02.02.2015 at 5:11 PM #

katiemorford

Coconut oil with greens does sound delicious. As for whole milk, that’s a big question…Maybe I’ll include that one in my follow up “Trends” post. Stay tuned.

02.02.2015 at 9:41 PM #

Rebecca @BeTrulyNourished

Great post! Variety is the spice of life

02.02.2015 at 9:41 PM #

katiemorford

Yes indeed, Rebecca!

02.03.2015 at 7:44 AM #

Cassie @ Almost Getting it Together

I love all these “trendy” foods… I never drink bubble tea because it’s super caloric and try to stick to minimal coconut oil but I love (pure) almond milk, kale and hemp seeds!

02.03.2015 at 7:44 AM #

katiemorford

Thanks Cassie. Yes, no shortage of calories in bubble tea. I think it’s easy to be lulled into thinking it’s not really the treat that it is because it’s called tea.

02.03.2015 at 8:03 AM #

Liz - Meal Makeover Mom

What an informative post. I can’t wait to share this one with everyone. I’ve been excited about hemp lately and plan to eat more of it. We’re already on the flax and chia bandwagon, so it’s definitely time to give hemp the attention it deserves!

02.03.2015 at 8:03 AM #

katiemorford

Thanks Liz. Hemp is relatively new to me, but I love it’s nutty flavor.

02.03.2015 at 8:14 AM #

Sally at Real Mom Nutrition

Love this reasonable (and sane!) approach. I love your advice of not being “micro-focused” on one food or ingredient. So important in today’s world of extreme food hype and sensational headlines. Great post!

02.03.2015 at 8:14 AM #

katiemorford

Thanks Sally. It’s very easy to want to believe the hype, but things are usually a little more complicated than they appear, as you well know.

02.03.2015 at 11:23 AM #

Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine

Love them all except I’ve never had Boba tea!

02.03.2015 at 11:23 AM #

katiemorford

It can be pretty delicious if you can get a good one.

02.03.2015 at 3:11 PM #

Lauren @ Bite of Health

This is great! I always have people asking me my take on Coconut Oil and Hemp seeds and this sums it up perfectly!

02.03.2015 at 3:11 PM #

katiemorford

These can be tricky issues to convey,so I appreciate your comment.

02.03.2015 at 3:35 PM #

Cynthia Jones

Hi Katie,
I switched to almond milk from soy for my lactose-free lattes, trying to reduce calories and under the impression that almond milk is better for folks than soy. It seems that while almond milk has risen in favor, soy has dropped. When buying almond milk for home, I can read the ingredients and try and find the one w/least sugar, etc., but at the coffee shop it isn’t my choice. Where do you come down on the almond milk vs. soy debate, especially when one is not able to chose which product is used in a nice latte treat?
Thank you, Cynthia

02.03.2015 at 3:35 PM #

katiemorford

Hi Cynthia,

Good question. Soy was all the rage a number of years ago and then, as trends go, it quickly went out of favor when concerns arose over estrogen and cancer. I think it’s an example of so many of these food trends where folks go from 0 to 60…eating all soy all the time. Again, it brings me back to the issue of variety and balance. Nothing wrong, in my opinion, with drinking soy milk, if that’s what you like, in balance with lots of other foods and beverages. I’d say, when you are enjoying a latte out, use whatever milk you like best. Perhaps ask the barista what type of almond milk they use. Is it sweetened? Flavored? Hope that helps.

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