You may have heard about all the must-eat fermented foods on the market, the coconut oil craze, or daily apple cider vinegar tonics. Everywhere we turn, we are bombarded by food advertisements and nutrition claims, some true, others not so much. Read on to learn about a few current food trends to become a more well-informed consumer!
- Coconut oil - Coconut oil has gained popularity in recent years as a miracle food that supposedly prevents heart disease, reduces inflammation, and supports weight loss. However, most of these claims aren't supported by credible research. Coconut oil has a very high saturated fat content, which is known to raise cholesterol levels and increase heart disease and stroke risk. In most cases, alternative fat sources such as olive or canola oil can serve to provide more of the healthy, unsaturated fats and less saturated fat.
- Apple cider vinegar - Apple cider vinegar, or ACV, is made from apples. Its commonly used in salad dressings, marinades, or even added to boiling eggs to prevent the shells from cracking. It's been recognized by some as a cure-all tonic for several ailments including sore throats, digestive issues, and high blood sugar. A handful of small-scale research studies found regular consumption of apple cider vinegar may support lowering blood sugar levels, however, similar results were seen with consumption of other vinegar types. Further research is necessary to substantiate these results. ACV should not be used in place of a healthy diet or medications prescribed to regulate blood sugar. Use caution if consuming ACV in larger amounts, the acidity may cause tooth enamel erosion.
- Matcha tea - Matcha is a brightly colored green powder made from ground green tea leaves. Green tea is loaded with catechins, a form of antioxidants when consumed, may prevent or delay cell damage. The antioxidants found in matcha are concentrated in a small amount of powder. Research suggests that the consumption of green tea may reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. However, additional research is needed to comprehend how they support health. Matcha is regularly served hot or cold as a latte and blended into smoothies or added to baked goods (see recipe below). Some people prefer matcha as a lower caffeine alternative to coffee.
- Kimchi - Kimchi is a Korean vegetable side dish, made with a variety of vegetables, like cabbage, scallions, radishes, or carrots, spices, and other flavors. Traditionally, it is served over steamed rice, with grilled meats, or as an accompaniment to Korean noodle dishes. Kimchi is fermented in a jar for several days to achieve its notable sour, spicy, and umami flavors, which will vary depending on the ingredients and the length of fermentation. Fermentation gives it a significant probiotic profile. Probiotics support gut health and normal digestive function. Research is ongoing to determine if gut bacteria is responsible for more than just digestive health. Additional health benefits of consuming kimchi include lowering cancer risk, and improved cholesterol levels.
It can be difficult to determine accurate health information from a half-truth or marketing ploy. To learn more about new products you see popping up on the shelves of your local grocery store, check out evidence-based references such as eatright.org, heart.org, or diabetes.org.
Visit eatright.org for additional resources and current information about food and nutrition.