Natural Grocers has released the fifth annual Top 10 Nutrition Trends predictions, a composite of the most anticipated and unexpected health, food and nutrition trends for 2021.
Natural Grocers’ Nutrition Education team, made up of health and wellness experts – ranging from Registered Dietitians to Certified Natural Foods Chefs – collaborated with retailer’s buyers and analysts. For 2021 trend predictions, the team studied consumer-shopping preferences and recent research, taking a closer look at the impact COVID-19 has had on its communities.
“Our trends this year are dramatically different than previous years’ in that they’re far less fleeting. COVID-19 is a pandemic that sits on top of another pandemic in the United States of malnutrition and poor long-term health,” said Shelby Miller, MS, Natural Grocers’ manager of scientific affairs and nutrition education. “Hence, 2021 holds broader trends that focus on improving nutrition to support our own health, as well as the health of our communities and our environment.”
Below are the Top 10 Nutrition Trends for 2021 from Natural Grocers.
Our health is d-pendent on Vitamin D
While there are many things in life outside of our control, knowing our vitamin D levels is a simple step we can all take to elevate our health and the health of our families—it is something you can own as a proactive tool to be rooted in health. This unique nutrient plays a critical role in whether or not your immune system functions sufficiently and responds as needed. It is essential for lung health, supporting positive moods, brain function, and cognition, a healthy weight, a healthy pregnancy, children’s health, healthy blood sugar levels, healthy blood pressure, bone health, and muscle tone. Between 40 and 80 percent of American adults are outright deficient in vitamin D, while approximately 90 percent have suboptimal levels. Achieving optimal levels (between 30 and 50 ng/mL) of vitamin D through supplementation is crucial to experiencing its full range of benefits. Because darker skin hampers the body’s ability to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight, supplementation is especially important for people of color. A national survey reported average serum vitamin D concentrations of 28.1 ng/mL, 21.6 ng/mL, and 16.9 ng/mL in Caucasian, Mexican American, and African American adults aged 20 years and older, respectively. Vitamin D is a nutrient all of us should be focused on, and we all need to know our levels, but this is especially important for those with darker complexions.
Everyday immune support for the long haul
Rather than trying to boost immunity when we’ve already fallen victim to whatever bug is going around, we have recognized the importance of “armoring up” and supporting our immune system on a daily basis so it can function optimally over the long haul. Dietary supplements make daily, long-term immune support so easy and are backed by a mountain of research validating their health benefits. Boosting immune competence comes from nutrients you’re likely already familiar with vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc are three basics that are easy, affordable, and effective.
Better blood sugar balance
A growing body of research is showing that SARS-CoV-2 utilizes sugar to reproduce and that individuals with type-2 diabetes are at a higher risk of hospitalization and complications from COVID-19. We know that supporting blood sugar balance is a key method to be rooted in health. There are lots of ways to achieve healthy blood sugar balance.
Whatever your health goals are and wherever your starting line is, there are many options to support healthy blood sugar balance. Ideas include giving up sugar-sweetened beverages, eliminating added sugar by trying a seven-day, no-added-sugar detox, or even trying out the ketogenic (keto) diet. Adding supplements that support blood sugar balance to your routine can help too—for example, alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is well-known to support insulin sensitivity and glucose utilization. No matter which route is chosen, it’s certain that balancing blood sugar will result in better mood, more balanced energy levels and overall long-term health.
De-stressing in a healthy way
2020 was messy in so many ways, and sometimes overwhelmed us with stress, but it also highlighted the importance of compassion and empathy. Compassion and empathy are crucial for helping us de-stress, and de-stressing is crucial for health. De-stressing is also remarkably beneficial for our immune health, as stress hormones like cortisol significantly impair our immune response. So, not only is de-stressing by offering compassion and empathy good for others, it’s also good for us, and in a meaningful way.
We can all de-stress in a healthy way in two simple steps: Step one is to give our bodies the nutrients to support their ability to better cope with stress. These include magnesium, EPA and DHA from fish oil, B vitamins, vitamin C, phosphatidylserine (PS), curcumin, and adaptogenic herbs like rhodiola. Step two is to practice compassion and empathy. There are numerous benefits to practicing compassion and empathy, especially during a global pandemic. In addition to helping us connect with others, being empathetic also helps us regulate our emotions in times of stress.
Olive oil makes a comeback
While coconut oil has had a well-deserved reign in the spotlight, 2021 will see olive oil making a comeback. Olive oil has always had a place in the “good fat” category, and for worthy reasons. This long-beloved oil has a well-known role in the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet—its noteworthy phenols and polyphenols contribute to its many nutrition superpowers, including its well-documented, anti-inflammatory activities.
Consumer research is showing that while personal health is still a major driver for buying organic, consumers are shifting to buying organic for environmental reasons. This has led to the coining of the term “climatarian,” an individual who is making food choices with the intention of changing how our food is grown—shifting from a chemical-intensive model to one that promotes soil health, biodiversity, and healthy ecosystems—an important way to address climate change.
Affordable, Healthy Meals at Home
Most of us have been cooking at home more since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, and while many of us had fun exploring complicated new recipes, and did so much baking in the beginning we had baked goods for days, as the months passed and we realized we’re in this for the long haul, priorities shifted and now we’re on the search for easy meals that taste good, and are also affordable and healthy. Consumers are looking for quick and affordable solutions to cooking, meal planning, and meals that do not require a lot of prep. 2021 will pave the way to reinventing what cooking at home looks like, and Natural Grocers is leading the way with its good4u Meal Deals—dinner and lunch ideas, with some breakfast offerings coming soon, to feed your family affordably with healthy and delicious foods.
Vegetables will be front and center
Over the years, nutrition advice has changed so much it’s led to more confusion than clarity about what and what not to eat, but one nutrition recommendation that has remained constant is that we all need to eat more vegetables. Produce in any form—canned, frozen, and fresh—provides what’s known as nutrient density. A nutrient dense food is something that packs loads of nutrition in the form of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients and plays a huge role in reducing our risk of chronic diseases. Veggies are some of the most nutrient dense foods out there, which is why they’ve remained a crucial part of diet recommendations, even amidst the whirlwind of changing nutrition advice. In 2021, as part of our effort to be rooted in health, we’ll make it a priority to try new veggies, incorporate more produce-laden recipes into our repertoires, and discover new weekly staples that leave us feeling healthy and satisfied.
Get back to the basics to be rooted in health
SARS-CoV-2 is a virus that thrives on poor health, and it has forced us to recognize just how unhealthy we are as a country. As we move into 2021, we will be going back to the basics to take control of—and actively improve—our health. It’s time to finally prioritize sleep, clean up our diets, make time for exercise and daily movement, and recognize the value of key, foundational supplements. It almost seems too simple. Yet, there’s no denying that by prioritizing our own health, we also support the overall health of our communities.
Customized fitness nutrition
With many people still avoiding gyms and group fitness studios, it’s given us the opportunity to not only perfect our at-home exercise routines, but to also optimize our workouts with real foods and targeted supplements. In 2021, we’ll see a decline in grab-and-go, post-workout foods and a rise in customized fitness nutrition and supplementation. Rather than grabbing a water and protein bar after our work out of the day, in 2021 we will transition toward pairing whole, real foods with supplements that fuel movement and aid recovery. We will explore magnesium to support healthy muscle recovery, MCT oil to fuel more explosive workouts, collagen to support healthy joints and ligaments, beets and greens powders for healthy blood flow to muscles during our workouts and a B-complex vitamin to keep us energized for our workouts.
Lakewood, Colorado-based Natural Grocers‘ Top 10 Nutrition Trends for 2021 also offer “try this trend” tips for those who want to test them out for themselves in the coming months.