by Dr. Will Cole

With a recent Top Trends in Prepared Foods in 2017 report stating that veganism has risen 500 percent from 2014, 6 percent of Americans now identify as vegan compared to just 1 percent three years ago. So, why the rise in popularity?

Well, research continues to show us the benefits of a plant-based diet and it’s pretty difficult to argue with science. This growing awareness in the health benefits of plant foods allows us to make more conscious decisions about what we put into our body to maximize our nutrients and get in everything we need for optimal health without animal based foods. And based off of the recently released Whole Foods 2018 food trend report, one thing is abundantly clear – 2018 is the year of plants. Here are some of my favorite next-level plant foods that are going to be in your grocery carts starting this new year:

1. Flower power

Lavender-infused drinks are already quite popular, but 2018 will take floral-inspired goodies to a whole new level. We’ll be seeing everything from rose to the new-kid-on-the-block elderflower (derived from the flowers of the elderberry tree) in all types of main courses and drinks. Wellness aficionados will love this increased popularity as the father of modern medicine Hippocrates, once referred to elderberry as his “medicine chest.” This was due to its powerful antiviral and antimicrobial abilities. Whole flowers and petals will even be added into dishes to bring an eye-catching visual to accompany the sweet and soft flavors from these florals.

2. Bleeding veggies

Soy veggie burger? That is so 1995. Instead, we’ll all be reaching for veggie burgers that bleed like real animal meat. We are definitely in the new millennium now. While it may seem like witchcraft, these burgers actually get their blood-red juiciness from all-natural beetroot juice to keep your burger 100% plant-based. And the similarities don’t just stop at looks; it tastes similar too.

The iron molecule, heme, is found in all plants and animal protein. Due to its particularly high amounts in animal protein, it is responsible for giving your traditional burger its distinct beefy flavor. These new plant-based burgers use this molecule to its advantage by using plant-derived heme to give it that familiar beefy taste.

3. Zero-waste veggies

One of the huge benefits of a plant-based lifestyle is the positive impact it can have on the environment. Food companies are putting this idea to work and are coming up with new products that reduce food waste by using parts of vegetables that are commonly thrown away.

Instead of just composting these items (which is another great environmentally conscious way to reduce waste) companies are creating salads that use the leftover green parts of veggies and even pickling things like watermelon rinds! Put in a little elbow grease in your kitchen and make your own version of these products to make an impact in your own home.

4. Plants go keto

Low-carb, high-fat diets – the ketogenic diet in particular – are rising in popularity. This diet has been used for many years as a natural treatment for children with epilepsy. However, growing research has shown its ability to help improve gut health, inflammation, fatigue, and blood sugar and many people are starting to catch on. The ketogenic diet is a go-to tool I use often in my functional medicine clinic.

Since this diet focuses so much on healthy fats, most people mainly eat animal and dairy proteins, making it a seemingly impossible diet for vegetarian and vegan diets. But more plant-based dieters are exploring a ketogenic diet by using natural plant-based fats such as coconuts and avocados. With the way things are going, my guess is that you’ll begin to see a huge diet in the general population, including one of the last places you would expect: plant-based. You can read more about being a ketogenic vegan in this article with Dr. Carrie Diulus, M.D.

5. Elevated fungi

I’ve talked about adaptogenic mushrooms plenty in the past and it seems like the food industry is finally taking advantage of the healing power of these fungi. Mushrooms like cordyceps, lion’s mane, chaga, and reishi were once difficult to shop for and only really found in powdered form. You’d think I was a mad scientist with my mixing different powders to make different superfood tonics.

But those days are long gone! We’ll have a fungal overgrowth this year with mushrooms being added to everything from mushroom-infused teas, bottled coffees, hot chocolate, soups and even skin care products!

Photo: Stocksy

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