Women love trendy health foods because it’s fun to
have new things to eat and cook if they taste good and aren’t “bad” for you. But
do the top trendy health foods live up to their health claims? Let’s take them one
by one so you can decide for yourself.
1. Chia seeds
What they say: promote weight loss, kill cravings,
balance blood sugar, lower cholesterol
What we know: Harvested from Salvia hispanica,
chia seeds are unprocessed gluten-free whole
grains that contain omega-3 fatty acids and minerals and are high in protein and
fiber. The protein and fiber help you feel full for longer though weight loss promotion
is a stretch. One small study showed that a mixture with chia and a bunch of other
ingredients had some effects on triglycerides and insulin.
What to expect: Add chia seeds (white or black)
to your diet for their fiber and antioxidant potential, not for weight loss or cholesterol-lowering.
Note that one tablespoon of chia seeds has 60 calories. Mixed with water, chia seeds
turn into a gel and can be used to thicken foods.
How to eat them: Sprinkle or grind up and add to
yogurt, smoothies, pancakes and cookies.
What they say: lowers cholesterol, treats high blood
pressure, helps cure cancer
What we know: This sour yogurt-like fermented milk
drink has steadily gained space on supermarket shelves but kefir’s benefits aren’t
well proven in humans yet. One older human study says drinking it daily for 4 weeks
reduces cholesterol but only slightly. With mixed study results about its effects
on blood pressure, kefir’s bacterial starter cultures seem to show some anti-cancer
cell activity — but only in the lab. One little study a few years back showed extra
activity in cancer-fighting immune “killer” cells.” The strongest research shows
kefir’s best effects are on digestion.
What to expect: If you like its distinctive tangy
taste, drink plain, unsweetened kefir for its decent amounts of protein, calcium
and potassium. Kefir can also help with lactose digestion by reducing gas and bloating
by a whopping 70%. Skip the commercial flavored varieties of kefir which have added
How to eat it: Straight from the package, in smoothies,
with natural flavors, like vanilla, added at home.
3. Almond milk
What they say: dairy-free, high nutrient content,
low in calories, no cholesterol, replacement for breast milk
What we know: Considered America’s favorite milk
substitute, almond milk is tasty but is just 2% almonds and a lot of water. To get
the same protein of a handful of almonds, you’d have to drink an entire carton of
almond milk. Almond milk naturally contains vitamin E but calcium, potassium and
other vitamins are added. Some almond milk-fed infants have developed nutrient deficiencies.
What to expect: Unsweetened, unflavored almond milk
is low in calories but a serving of “original” almond milk has a fraction of the
protein of a handful of almonds along with a fair amount of salt. You’ll also swallow
between 7-16 grams of hidden sugar per serving! Almond milk is low in calories compared
to almonds or regular milk but without the key nutrients.
How to eat it: Unsweetened or “lite” versions, unflavored,
can be used in place of milk as an ingredient in other foods with an
additional protein source. Watch out for additives like carrageenan.
What they say: reduces inflammation, helps with arthritis,
fights cancers, treats digestive issues
What we know: Turmeric (Curcuma longa),
used medicinally for thousands of years, is a central spice in curries and other
Indian foods and has been studied extensively, along with its coloring agent, curcumin.
As a well-established antioxidant, turmeric also appears to reduce levels of two
inflammatory enzymes and may help stop blood platelets from clumping. It has positive
preliminary research on its anti-cancer properties and heart health support, and
helps with digestive symptoms, and even ulcerative colitis.
What to expect: Turmeric and curcumin are safe to
consume and appear to have antioxidant properties that can help prevent and treat
chronic inflammation diseases according to recent research. In small amounts, it
relieves digestive symptoms.
How to eat it: Add turmeric or curcumin to curries,
stews and soups, and even sweet foods and drinks. If you want to supplement your
food intake, the best
products have improved absorbability without causing stomach upset.
What they say: cures digestive problems, relieves
joint pain, improves longevity, detoxifies
What we know: Kombucha is an ancient green or black
tea (Camellia sinensis) that has been fermented with sugar, yeast fungi
and bacteria until it becomes fizzy and cloudy. It contains probiotics (and some
prebiotics) and more antioxidants that
regular teas, but that’s about all we know. Traditionally made at home,
kombucha can be overfermented or handled improperly and may turn toxic and upset
your stomach, though worse effects have been reported.
What to expect: If you like its vinegary taste and
clumpy consistency, you may get some digestive assistance from kombucha’s bacteria
but no other benefits have been confirmed. Not everyone can stomach it.
How to eat it: Choose commercially produced kombucha
for safety’s sake but don’t drink more
than 14 ounces at a time, and look for low sugar varieties.
What they say: fights cancer, assists weight loss,
has anti-aging benefits, reduces heart disease risk
What we know: Matcha is powdered whole green tea
leaves and is packed with antioxidants. Because it contains caffeine and theanine,
matcha might help you concentrate and stay alert. Many of the concentrated phytonutrients
in matcha have been shown to have health benefits, including boosting metabolism.
What to expect: Matcha has a distinctive grassy
tea flavor and is extremely potent. Its polyphenol content is well-established but
because the whole leaf is consumed, lead content can be 30 times higher than regular
green tea. Traditionally used in Japanese tea ceremonies, matcha is fine in small
amounts (1 cup a day) and is appealing for its beautiful green color.
How to eat it: As tea (1 teaspoon matcha with 1/3
cup hot, not boiling, water) or blend small amounts into lattes or smoothies. Limit
daily intake to one serving, perhaps with a pinch of sugar. Experts say matcha should
be prepared and consumed almost meditatively, which may have additional relaxation
7. Sea vegetables
What they say: treat yeast infections, assist weight
loss, relieve arthritis, prevent cancer, regulate estrogen, detoxify
What we know: Edible sea vegetables and seaweeds
are from the algae family. They include dulse (Palmaria palmata), kelp
(Laminaria), wakame (Undaria pinnatifida) and the favorite: nori
(Porphyra tenera) which is used to wrap sushi. Sea vegetables are packed
with vitamins (C, B2, A) fiber, manganese and protein, and have so much iodine that
it’s easy to get too much. They also contain sulfated polysaccharides or fucoidans,
phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and cardiovascular benefits. Anti-cancer
effects look promising, especially for post-menopausal breast cancer, but need more
What to expect: Dried sea vegetables and products
retain their nutrition content with only about 50 calories for two servings. Sea
vegetable fiber may help with digestion and reduce fat absorption. Sea vegetables
also have lots of calcium and a good supply of omega-3s, especially for vegetarians.
How to eat them: Wrap sushi and sandwich foods, and
eat alone as snacks to satisfy a salty craving. Soak them and add to salads, soup
and vegetable dishes. Limit intake to one ounce per day so you don’t get too much
At Women’s Health Network, we love trying trendy health foods — as long as they
live up to their claims. We like being able to experiment with unusual ingredients
and bring new dishes to the dinner table. Some health food trends will thrill your
taste buds more than others so give them all a try!
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https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23847105 Accessed 9.29.16.
Hanai H, Iida T, Takeuchi K, Watanabe F, Maruyama Y, Andoh A, et al. Curcumin maintenance
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He Y, Yue Y, Zheng X, Zhang K, Chen S, Du Z. Curcumin, Inflammation, and Chronic
Diseases: How Are They Linked? Molecules 2015, 20, 9183-9213.
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A case of Kombucha tea toxicity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19460826 Accessed
Cumashi A, Ushakova NA, Preobrazhenskaya ME et al. A comparative study of the anti-inflammatory,
anticoagulant, antiangiogenic, and antiadhesive activities of nine different fucoidans
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Teas J, Vena, D, Cone L, Irhimeh M. The consumption of seaweed as a protective factor
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