turmeric and its medicinal propertiesA few weeks ago I promised a “part two” for my Five Trendy Foods series. Here you have it, my two cents on some of what’s hot in the marketplace. You can find part one by going here. 

TURMERIC

Talk about trendy, this spice, long prized in Central Asia for its culinary and medicinal properties, appears to be the “it” girl of 2015. When fresh, this small root looks much like ginger; when dried, it has a vibrant yellow color that will stain your fingers and embellish your coooking (think Indian curries). Turmeric is hot on the scene in large part because it shows promise as a natural anti-inflammatory, with evidence building for its benefit in the prevention of chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease. Indeed, some research has shown it to be as powerful as some pharmaceuticals, but the jury is still out as to the right amount or form of this powerful little spice.

My take: For nutritional benefits, it’s too soon to draw conclusions about how and how much to ingest, along with potential risks and side effects when taken in large amounts. Until more is known, I’m happy to enjoy this wonderful aromatic in my cooking and trust that it may be doing me some good (along with so many other herbs and spices). It has a warm, earthy, almost buttery flavor that I enjoy in soups, vegetable dishes, frittatas, and in spice rubs for meat, fish, and poultry. You can also add fresh turmeric to your smoothies and juices. It’s used in this recipe for Shakshuka along with these Moroccan Spiced Walnuts.

bulletproof coffeeBULLETPROOF COFFEE

Bulletproof Coffee took the trend spotters by storm last fall, showing up everywhere from The Tonight Show to the New York Times. It’s a preparation of coffee developed by a tech entrepreneur who had a life-changing moment after drinking yak butter tea in the Himalayas. He returned and invented his own brew that he claims will make you feel “bulletproof”. The recipe involves combining a cup of coffee with 1 to 2 tablespoons grass fed butter, 1 to 2 tablespoons MCT oil, and running it in a blender. It’s meant as a replacement for your morning meal and said to do everything from promote weight loss to increase mental clarity.

My Take: With all due respect to Mr. Asprey, I’m going to invoke my grandmother here and declare “hogwash”… that is until Asprey produces some evidence to support his health claims. Stirring 1/4 cup of fat into your coffee as a replacement for a wholesome breakfast doesn’t add up for me. What it does is translate to about 450 calories of pure fat in a single cup, without an ounce of protein, a gram of fiber, a vegetable, a fruit, or any of the other elements I look for in a balanced meal.

nutritionalyeast017

NUTRITIONAL YEAST

This is a strain of yeast that’s dried and sold in powder or flake form in organic markets, specialty stores, and some supermarkets. Long favored by the vegan community, it lends a cheesy, savory flavor to food while delivering a hefty dose of vitamin B12 (a nutrient hard to get in a vegan diet). It’s a vitamin and mineral powerhouse. Two tablespoons of Red Star Nutritional Yeast Flakes, for example, supplies 133 % of daily needs for B12 along with sky high levels of other B vitamins, zinc, selenium, 8 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber.

My Take: Vegan or not, if you’re curious, nutritional yeast is worth a try. Consider it an addition to your flavor pantry and experiment (it’s tasty sprinkled over popcorn and added to kale chips).  It might be particularly handy for those looking to punch up taste without a lot of salt, since it’s low in sodium. Keep in mind two things: 1) It’s so high in B vitamins that you can overdo it, so use it in moderation 2) It’s high in purines, which means not so good for those suffering from gout.

Yogurt with berries on Mom's Kitchen Handbook

FERMENTED FOODS

“Fermented” has become a buzz word for hawking everything from snack bars to sports drinks, but what does it really mean? Fermentation is an ancient process of adding microorganisms, such as bacteria, to foods and allowing them to thrive. The result can alter the food’s flavor, texture, and nutritional value. Fermentation does some of the work of breaking down food, which can make it easier to digest and the nutrients more readily absorbed. Those who don’t tolerate milk, for example, may be able to down a glass of kefir (fermented milk) without a problem. Fermented foods also have the potential to deliver “good bacteria” to your gut, which may have a positive impact on the immune system. Much research is underway for using probiotic-rich foods to promote health and prevent disease, but we are a ways off from firm conclusions and recommendations.

My Take: Actively seek to incorporate a variety of fermented foods into your diet, such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, and tempeh, being mindful about the quality you buy. There is a world of difference between that little container of flavored yogurt with the colored sprinkles and the big tub of plain yogurt with live and active cultures written on the label. Also, if you aren’t accustomed to eating a lot of fermented foods, start slow. If may take your digestive system a little time to adjust.

FULL FAT DAIRY

On first glance, whole milk and full fat yogurt may not strike you as particuarly trendy. But movement is afoot for those with a longstanding skim milk habit to switch to full fat instead. Here’s why: A number of studies have come out suggesting healthy upsides to drinking whole milk dairy foods instead of their reduced fat counterparts. Indeed some research found that those who consumed full fat products were less likely to be obese. Other studies linked dairy fat to reduced risk for heart disease and a decrease in disease-related inflammation. Counterintuitive? Yes.

My Take: I have to admit, since this research began showing up, I’ve found myself adding the occasional tub of full fat yogurt to my grocery cart. It’s a real treat. And I’ve found when I eat it, I tend to feel satisfied sooner and eat less (one potential explanation for the obesity research results). That said, it’s early days yet on these finding and my staples continue to be 1 percent when it comes to milk and low or non-fat for other dairy foods. The calories and saturated fat in whole milk dairy are undeniably so much higher that I’m not ready to make the switch. That said, children under two are still advised to eat full fat dairy foods.

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