Superfoods are the health world's darling -- who doesn't want an extra bang for your nutritional buck? These nutrient-packed foods are useful building blocks and supplements for a healthy lifestyle. As we start the new year and new decade, jump in to see which superfoods we'll be hearing about, and maybe even consuming, in 2020.
Move over adaptogens, there's a new set of herbs in town. While 2019 may have been the year of adaptogens, a class of herbs that help us adapt to long term, chronic stress, 2020 will bring nervines to fame, according to holistic health practitioner and herbalist Rachelle Robinett.
Adaptogens help to tame our stress response over an extended period of time, while nervines, such as chamomile, lemonbalm, passionflower and oatstraw, amongst others, help calm our nerves in the moment, easing us from fight or flight into rest and digest mode.
If you're having an anxiety filled day, need to speak to your boss about a raise or have the pre-flight jitters, nervines may help settle your nerves within a few minutes. Robinett even invented a gummy form of nervines, nerve-less HRBLS, to take when you don't have a moment to brew a cup of tea. Or you can try something like lemonbalm extract.
Chlorella is a powerhouse algae that will only grow in popularity in 2020 due to its vast health implications and nutritional benefits. Chlorella is a complete protein (it has all nine protein amino acids) and is high in B12, as well as various other vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It's also known to help rid the body of toxins by binding to heavy metals.
If you're trying chlorella on for size, be sure to get tablets or powder from a brand that pulverizes the indigestible outer shell, like Sun Chlorella, or you won't be reaping any of the benefits. I even add the powder to salad dressings, soups or sauces for an added health boost.
Move over movie-theater chocolate. While chocolate is certainly not a new food to the market, raw cacao, including super dark chocolate, is being embraced in a new way for its health benefits. Raw cacao is very high in antioxidants including polyphenols and flavonoids, has protein and fiber, is high in magnesium and iron and can even boost your mood. (But really, who is in a bad mood while eating chocolate?)
In 2020, we will see raw cacao and dark chocolate continue to be embraced as a health food and integrated as a superfood -- just opt for 70% or higher dark chocolate, or go for 100% if you can handle it! Try adding raw cacao powder to smoothies.
Similar to fiber, prebiotics are essential to gut health. Over the past few years we saw the rise in probiotics as supplements and the frenzy of them being added to every snack and drink (probiotic chips, anyone?), making way for their precursors, prebiotics, to shine.
Prebiotics are a form of indigestible plant fibers which serve as a necessary precursor that probiotics feed off of. Specific foods such as sunchokes, chicory, asparagus, garlic, oats and a handful of other vegetables, herbs and grains are natural sources of prebiotics, and you can also get your boost in powdered form, or even via prebiotic filled sodas, such as OLIPOP. Robinett points out that some wellness practitioners even consider prebiotics more important than probiotics for gut health.
Fiber is probably not new to you in 2020, but its health benefits are being more widely celebrated as a cornerstone to wellness in both the holistic and conventional medical systems. Proper fiber intake helps you regulate blood sugar, ensure regular bowel movements (which are key to overall health) and feeds the good bacteria in our gut -- and we know that our gut health is essential for overall health -- amongst a host of other potential benefits.
Many fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, as are nuts and legumes. In 2020 we'll see healthy snacks packed with fiber as well, and a movement to swap out low fiber foods for their higher-fiber counterparts. Robinett, who calls fiber the fourth macronutrient, recommends adding acacia fiber, a tasteless form of insoluble fiber, to your smoothies for an added boost.
Continuing on the theme of gut health, optimizing digestion is key to overall health. Digestive bitters stimulate your body's own digestive enzymes, preparing it to break down your food properly, reducing gas and bloating and allowing you to absorb all the vitamins, minerals and other beneficial compounds you're consuming.
We know bitters are already celebrated in the world of cocktails, and now it's time to start looking at taking them before your meals for added digestive support. The easiest way to take bitters before a meal is in liquid or spray form like Urban Moonshine's herbalist-formulated bitters, but you can also consider adding bitter herbal teas into your daily routine like dandelion root, burdock or chamomile.
This was written by Sara Weinreb, writer, sustainability and design thinking strategist, herbalist-in-training and host of the Medium Well podcast. Sara's writing on sustainability, wellness, mindful living and mission-driven business has been featured in Forbes, mindbodygreen, USA Today, Byrdie and Cherry Bombe, among others. When she's not writing and shopping in the bulk section of health food stores, you can find Sara on the yoga mat, making herbal elixirs, having solo dance parties and hanging out with her growing collection of plants. She shares her adventures and misadventures at @saraweinreb.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.