SUPER FOOD: Matcha has become a popular ingredient among foodies.
Health trends come and go. While some may last the whole year, others are short-lived and seasonal.

With the new year having just started many people have made it their mission to stay healthy.

We spoke to nutrition experts about what’s trendy this year concerning health, and which trends to keep from last year and what to discard.

Mbali Mapholi, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Association for Dietetics in South Africa, says many of the health trends we saw in 2017 will still be making a comeback in 2018.

She predicts that the door-to-door meal deliveries or meal kits that come with ingredients and recipes will be a growing trend.

“Most people lead busy lifestyles and work longer hours but because they still want a healthy structured eating, this option becomes a solution,” says Mapholi.

She adds that fitness is on many people’s lips this year.

“Improving fitness will be a goal for many people in 2018. The fitness trend of tracking steps for reward programmes will continue.”

Given the fact that gadgets play a major role in fitness lifestyle, many people are expected to buy fit bands, downloading fitness apps on their smartphone or using other devices that track their activity levels for rewards and points.

And for many, weekend park runs or walks around the neighbourhood are becoming more popular.

“Gym membership can be very expensive and newer gyms with cheaper monthly subscriptions have now emerged.”

Another prediction is that many people will follow super foods health trends.

“We saw a couple of these that hit South African shores in 2017. Common super foods that were popular last year that will continue to trend this year include turmeric golden milk, activated charcoal, and apple cider vinegar, kefir, kombucha, kale and seaweeds.”

A newer super food trend that many South African coffee shops and restaurants may be including this year is matcha - a ground powder from green tea leaves.

This product is used to make cappuccinos, some baked products and many more.

Organic or “untouched” foods with no preservatives, additives or colouring, will also become increasingly popular, while whole foods such as full cream dairy products are trendier compared to low fat or fat free dairy products.

Megan Lee from the Heart and Stroke Foundation says while the trusted DASH diet and Mediterranean diet still top the yearly charts as the healthiest diets, plant-based eating is becoming increasingly popular.

For most people, shunning all animal foods may be a step too far, and thus the flexitarian trend continues to grow. For the unacquainted, trying out meatless or green Monday could be a gentle introduction to eating less meat and more vegetables. “It’s important to remember that cutting out animal products is not synonymous with healthy eating, but doing it cleverly can definitely have health benefits.”

She says green eating is also more environmentally conscious, and often this trend overlaps with eating more seasonal, locally produced and less processed foods.

Healthy food in general has seen a surge in popularity. There are many elements to this, such as the nutrient content of foods, how foods are grown, and the health benefits of specific foods.

It’s important to remember that the benefits of super foods are often exaggerated.

Within that context, it’s often fun to experiment with new ingredients that improve nutritional variety and introduce new tastes.

Gut health is also one of the trends that South Africans are obsessing about, and this trend is set to continue in 2018, as people are becoming more aware about the importance of a healthy digestive system.

“Dietary fibre and probiotics, especially from fermented foods and beverages such as kombucha, will therefore continue to be a health trend as they promote healthy gut microflora.”

Like many other experts, she predicts that the gadget trend will make a comeback because it provides personalised weight loss advice.

“Various apps, some based on scientific studies, can help to set goals and promote positive behaviour change. Some even offer your own health coach or dietitian on call when you need them.”