The hippest word to flaunt when talking nutrition in 2020 will be PLANT-BASED. It’s actually a lifestyle trend, as health, environmental and ethical concerns drive more people around the world to eat clean and live clean. So there are plant-based snacks, plant-based milks, plant-based meats, plant-based drinks, plant-based protein, now doing the rounds. A plant-based diet consists largely of foods derived from plants—veggies, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits—and with few or no animal products thrown in. In 2020, it is slated to flourish, with startup companies taking up the challenge to deliver more plant-based alternatives with improved nutritional profiles. So lookout for bean pastas, quinoa burgers, Lavender latte and mushroom coffee this year.
And while you are at it, do think back—at least, a few millennia. For, ANCIENT GRAINS that have remained largely unchanged for thousands of years are on a come-back trail. The world is busy embracing quinoa and chia. And in India, the grains that graced our traditional platters for millennia—amaranth or rajgira, barley (jau), bajra (pearl millet), jowar (great millet), ragi (finger millet), arke (kodo millet), buckwheat (kuttu) and a host of others—are being celebrated once again. The health-conscious Indian knows that they are nutrient-dense, pack more vitamins, minerals, fibre and can lower cholesterol, heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes risks. They are gluten-free and thrive on less pesticides, fertilisers and water. Lookout for creative foods and recipes with these heritage grains in 2020.
What else to keep an eye out for? REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE. Or the possibility of using land to improve the environment and help fight climate change, has made it the latest buzzword. It’s a system of farming that abides by the idea that healthy food comes from healthy soil. And it focuses on four principles: enrich soil, increase biodiversity, improve watersheds and enhance the health of the entire ecosystem. Regenerative agriculture works with and relies on nature, not harsh chemicals or methods, and has the potential to build production and reduce pollution. And it excites farmers, scientists and consumers alike. Expect to see food brands using regenerative practices more and more.
If you wish to make a New Year’s Resolution about losing weight, join the INTERMITTENT FASTING club. Apparently, this is how the human race survived (and thrived) for millennia. Broadly, it is a pattern of eating when you don’t eat during a set amount of time. So you eat less and you lose weight as your metabolic system breaks down fat for energy. Research shows that the health benefits of intermittent fasting are spectacular: you don’t just lose weight, fasting reduces inflammation, improving your heart and brain health, boosting your longevity.
PRETTY PEA, PLEASE. The humble green pea is having its moment under the sun. Nutritionally, peas are packed with all the good things: protein, fibre, minerals, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. In fact, pea protein is being hailed as the newest star—with eight of the amino acids that our bodies cannot naturally produce—making it the perfect addition to any meal you care to have. Pea protein is also very filling. You won’t need to eat much to have your appetite well under control.
HUMAN MILK BANKS, to source and supply donated milk for babies in need, is fast emerging as a powerful intervention tool for child survival. Lack of breastmilk increases the vulnerability to illness of infants, especially preterm and low birth-weight, and can be fatal. Yet, many miss out on mothers’ milk due to difficulty in suckling, poor or no lactation in mothers, admission away from their mothers in neonatal intensive care units with inadequate systems to collect, store and feed mothers’ milk, abandonment, mothers’ illness or death. A donor human milk from a breast milk bank is recommended as the next best alternative.
There’s a surge of new interest in GUT HEALTH. To be precise, the trillions of microbes that reside in your digestive tracts and help you digest food. It is now believed that they also impact your immune system, digestion, blood sugar, weight control and even sleep cycles. Poor diet can put them out of whack and your health. No wonder, numerous “gut health boosting” products related to gut health—including fibre-rich foods, probiotics and prebiotics—are gaining in popularity.
Here’s your chance to EAT A RAINBOW and boost up your health.
Let’s start with green. You are filled up with antioxidants, anti-cancer phyto chemicals, vitamins A, C, E, K, iron and zinc, when you have green veggies and fruits. They boost your immune system and protect your cells against damage. Try orange or yellow: rich with antioxidant carotenoids, they protect your cells, organs and tissues, lower the risk of cancer and heart disease, repair muscles, lower blood pressure, boost the immune system and aid in eye health. Red fruits and veggies have phytonutrient lycopene, that helps battle cancer, heart disease, cataracts and asthma. Purple and blue have anthocyanins, lutein, vitamin C and zeaxanthin, that work as antioxidants, reduce colds, treat urinary infections, inflammation, eye health, boost immunity, support digestion.
After years of labelling TRIBAL FARMING practices “backward,” and forcing tribal people to adopt the “modern” farming, Indian officialdom is finally changing its tune. It is now being recognised that tribal farming is climate-smart, harms the ecology the least, provides most nutritious foods to man and animals and can be a model of sustainability. First, the practice of saving seeds from previous year’s crops, provides diversity as well as preserves heritage grains. Planting a wide variety of crops, in rotation, ensures diversity, soil fertility and protection against the vagaries of nature. Animals fertilise fallow fields with manure as they feed on nutritious crop residues. With the world advocating sustainable and organic farming to achieve global food and nutritional security, in the wake of climate change, tribal farming shows the way.
Last but not least, NUTRITION GOES PERSONAL. The field is called “nutrigenomics,” or the science at the interface of human genome, nutrition and health. And “personalised nutrition” is emerging as a pattern of diet that can be tailored to a person’s specific needs—based on genetic testing—to optimise their health. And It is fast gaining traction in the fitness and sports worlds: from the type of exercise that best suits one, to the supplements to take and avoid and the nutrition that “matches” one’s genes. Keep an eye on the ongoing research, for personalised nutrition is the “future” of food.