We’ve heard about the year’s top food trends, which, fortunately, project that a slew of smarter, healthier foods will soon be making their way to restaurant menus and store shelves.
But how will that affect our shopping, cooking and eating habits over the next 12 months? Read on for my 12 items to consider adding to your cart for a balanced diet in 2013.
Beans: Yeah, they’re fiber-rich and “good for the heart,” but did you also know that beans are a good plant-based source of iron for vegetarians? One thing to note, however: Because your body can’t absorb the form of iron in plant-based foods as well as it can the form found in beef and poultry, be sure to pair beans with a vitamin C-rich food, such as sweet potatoes or lemon juice, to boost absorption.
Bison: With a sweeter, richer flavor – plus less fat and fewer calories – bison is an elegant alternative to your customary red meat, beef. Swap out ground bison for any recipe calling for ground turkey or beef for a flavor-packed meal that’s also high in protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Coffee: Even though it has a long history of being blamed for a variety of ills, newer studies have shown that coffee may have benefits, such as protecting against Parkinson's disease, type 2 diabetes and liver cancer. And according to this recent study, it may also function as a pain reliever, so drink up – but do so in moderation to avoid restlessness, anxiety, irritability and sleeplessness.
Eggs: Once shunned by those watching their cholesterol, a daily egg can most definitely fit into a healthy eating plan. Not only does one egg contain six grams of high-quality protein and all nine essential amino acids, but this incredible, edible food offers a host of other health benefits, as well.
Goat: Did you know that goat is the most-consumed meat in the world (nearly 70 percent of all red meat consumed globally is goat)?! Me neither, but after the popularity of goat cheese, milk and yogurt, this sustainable herbivore is poised to make its debut on more American tables.
Grapes: First cultivated as early as 5,000 BC, grapes were first brought to the US in the 17th century, where they migrated to the central valley of California. But because they’re loaded with phytonutrients (plant chemicals that contain protective, disease-preventing, compounds), this “queen of fruits” is getting a modern upgrade from mere snack to center stage in meals a la this pasta with sausage and red grapes recipe.
Kale: A nutrient- and antioxidant-packed veggie that’s everywhere these days, kale’s popularity shows no signs of slowing. Look for firm, bright leaves, which can be sautéed with olive oil and garlic or tossed raw in a salad with an acidic dressing to help temper the bitterness.
Kefir: Dubbed “an ancient antidote for modern maladies,” Kefir is a fermented milk drink made with kefir grains that’s been getting attention as of late. Why? Well, we all know that yogurt contains “good bacteria,” but while 500ml of yogurt has close to 1.5 trillion organisms, the same amount of kefir contains a mind-numbing five trillion friendly bacteria, which help maintain gut health and diminish the incidence of age-related intestinal illness.
Nuts: A favorite snack of choice among many people who follow a paleo diet, nuts and seeds are rich sources of heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Walnuts are a perfect pick, with their high level of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that’s been linked to heart health and improved mood; plus their high mono- and polyunsaturated-fat content also helps reduce total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels while maintaining healthy levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.
Organic produce: Sometimes it’s less about what you put into your body, and more about what you leave out. But before you buy, confirm that you’re choosing USDA-certified organic because it is one of the few guarantees that produce, meats and other products are created without using synthetic pesticides or herbicides, genetically modified ingredients, antibiotics or growth hormones.
Quinoa: First, learn to pronounce it correctly (keen-wa), and then fall in love with this light, crunchy, protein-packed whole grain. A staple of peasants in the high Andes, it’s gone mainstream here, with U.S. imports of Peruvian quinoa more than quadrupling between 2007 and 2011. Stave off hunger with my favorite gluten-free, ready-to-eat cluster snacks from I Heart Keenwah, which come in yummy flavor combinations such as almond, cranberry cashew, chocolate sea salt and ginger peanut.
Tea: Believe it or not, tea is good for more than just drinking. Think outside the cup and incorporate it into your cooking in everything from braising liquids and marinades to sauces and desserts for a new depth of flavor and antioxidants galore. Check out some recipe ideas from the Food Network’s Healthy Eats section for inspiration.