The Facts Behind Current Diet Trends

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Recently, Guiding Stars Scientific Advisor Kitty Broihier and I presented to our peers in the ARC Health and Wellness Community. We highlighted current nutrition and diet trends that likely influence your shopping list. Our goal was to highlight the intersection between these trends and your health. In some cases, there are health benefits associated with the latest fad in diet and nutrition. But sometimes what’s in vogue and what’s good for you don’t quite align. Here are some highlights from our presentation.

Gut Health

The gut health trend:

Nearly 50% of people report that digestive health is important, with 25% saying it’s a “top priority.” Beyond digestion, there’s a lot more awareness of the connection between the gut and overall health. And that has led to a huge increase in the number of products designed to enhance the gut microbiome. Advertisements for probiotic supplements and food are likely infusing your social media feeds. And more products are making their way to your supermarket shelves. It can be very tempting to self-diagnose or try something new when you’re seeking to enhance your gut health.

What nutrition experts want you to know:

If you’re one of the 40% of people worldwide who suffers from digestive discomfort, seek medical advice rather than self-diagnosing. You may read about or see something on social media that seems to describe you and your symptoms. But that information isn’t always accurate and could cause you to incorrectly treat or overlook a more serious illness. Interested in starting a probiotic regimen to enhance your gut health? Choose the strain that makes sense for you—or a Guiding Stars earning kombucha, kefir, or another probiotic food.

Prioritizing Plant-Based

The plant-based trend:

The U.S. is outpacing the global market on sales of plant-based and vegetarian/vegan products. (Plant-based milk alternatives lead the way.) A whopping sixty percent of Americans report that they seek a plant-based diet to be healthier. In most cases, however, they let the plant-based “call out” on product packaging guide what they buy. And ironically, only a small minority (1 in 10) meet the daily guidance for fruit and vegetable consumption. 

What nutrition experts want you to know:

Sometimes when we’re focused on one attribute, like plant-based, we overlook other aspects of a product that may be undesirable. For example, plant-based meat alternatives can contain more salt, saturated fat, and other ingredients that’s not found in animal meat. Careful consideration of what products we’re choosing is essential (especially because the plant-based claim can mean many things). As a rule, a balanced, plant-based diet should include colorful fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and grains. Let Guiding Stars guide you toward the most nutrient-dense plant-based options.

Keto Diet

The keto trend:

Growth in products with the keto claim is happening in almost every category of the market. This includes protein powders, supplements, soda, dairy products, snacks, candy, granola, and cold cereal. What’s interesting about the keto diet trend is that it’s difficult to assess what consumers are looking for. Is it products with more protein or less sugar? In either case, most aren’t following a traditional keto diet, which is defined as 70% or more calories from fat.

What nutrition experts want you to know:

As with the plant-based diet, we encourage consumers to seek keto-based foods with caution. In many cases, there are ingredients and other attributes of these products that people may not realize they’re consuming. While it’s true that some lose weight when following a keto diet, it’s also possible to experience a negative outcome. For example, if the diet includes high saturated fat foods, increased cholesterol can occur. A “modified” keto diet that highlights leaner, high-protein options may be best.