Web MD -- In my 15 years as a registered dietitian, I've been very reluctant to jump on "nutrition bandwagons." I like to take my time, watch the science and make the best decision possible.
Yet over the last several years I've found myself adopting some of the hottest nutrition trends. A lot of it has to do with the science but another reason is the compelling stories behind them.
So with that in mind, here the top 5 nutrition trends that I believe are most worth your time (and why).
1. Know Your Vitamin D Level: Even someone who eats an excellent diet is likely to fall short on dietary vitamin D. That's because for millions of years the sun was the primary source of the hormone-like vitamin, not food.
As modern lives evolved, with much more time spent indoors and wariness regarding the risk of skin cancer, the sun as a source of D has decreased dramatically. Consider that a half an hour in peak ultra-violet sun produces about 10,000IU of vitamin D while a glass of milk contains only 100IU.
While vitamin D is most known for its role in bone health, it also has been linked to the reduced risk of certain cancers, heart disease, immune disorders and infectious diseases.
The best way to determine if you are getting enough D is to get your blood levels checked. While there still isn't consensus on optimal lab values, according to the CDC website, levels between 20-32ng/ml are considered sufficient. Your physician can then direct you whether or not to supplement — and how much is beneficial.
2. Eat Real food: After watching the fat-free products rise (and fall) on the market followed by the low-carb craze, the real food movement has been a breath of fresh air. Nutrition enthusiasts agree that eating food in its natural state is good for health — and ultimately tastes better.
The truth is no one needs to memorize complicated nutrition numbers to eat well. Just stick to the perimeter of the grocery store and carefully pick convenience foods, sticking with more whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean protein sources.
3. Look for DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid): This omega 3 fatty acid has been popping up in many food products. Why? It plays an important role in brain/eye development in infants and young children and reduced inflammation and cardiac death in adults. It used to be much easier to get DHA from food when animals were fed in their natural habitat but now the primary source is seafood.
It is estimated that adults get 135mg of DHA and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) per day while international guidelines recommend 500mg (the US is lagging in making recommendations). Some people think they get enough omega-3 fatty acids from foods like flax and walnuts (alpha-linolenic acid) but plant foods do not contain DHA and only negligible amounts can be made by the body.
Bottom line: eat fish (especially fatty fish) twice a week or consider supplementing with fish oils as most fortified food products contain small amounts of DHA.
4. Get More Plant Foods: While vegetarianism is nothing new, the benefits of eating more plant foods have gotten increased attention recently. For too many years the focus has been on diet no-no's, including fat, meat and foods that are rich in calories. Now we are moving towards the addition of quality foods, which I fully support.
According to a recent study published in Journal of the American Medical Association, people who added more plant-based foods to their diets such as soy, plant sterols, nuts, oats and barley had a 10% greater reduction in LDL (bad cholesterol) compared to the group that followed a diet low in saturated fat.
5. Become a Mindful Eater: I am a firm believer that how someone eats is just as important as what they eat. When feeding ourselves drops as a priority, it shows up not only in food choices but how much food is eaten.
Being mindful and listening to your body, instead of focusing on external cues to eat, has life-changing effects on health and mental well being. The mindful eating trend reminds us all to slow down, enjoy our food and listen to the natural wisdom of our bodies.
So that's it. What nutrition trends have you adopted and why?