Every January, I post the top foods that you should try in the coming new year. My suggestions are based on trends, availability and most important, nutrient density. Last year was a great year in food. It focused on getting back to the basics with our diet -- something this nutritionist just loved! The world of food in 2014 will continue to evolve. This year, we will see ongoing trends related to the local food movement, ancient grains, cooking over processed, and quality calories over quantity calories. Are you ready to get started with your 2014 diet? Here are 14 foods to stock your kitchen with today!
Canary seeds -- As gluten-free diets continue to dominate in 2014, the desire for more gluten-free options will prevail. While gluten-free grains are making a big comeback (think quinoa, millet, buckwheat, corn, etc.), look to the world of seeds to provide a few "grain" options as well! A 2013 study found that a new variety of canary seeds made suitable for human consumption by de-hulling was not only gluten-free, but provided more protein than other gluten-free grains. De-hulled canary seeds can be pulverized into flour for use in bread and other grain products.
Shichimi Togarashi -- This Japanese spice will be hot in 2014... literally! Shichimi Togarashi is a blend of seven different spices and often includes chili powder, orange or tangerine peel, black and white sesame seeds and seaweed. What does it not have? Salt! Not only will this up-and-comer be a new spice in the ethnic cuisine trend, it can serve as an option for great taste (on fish, chicken, noodles, etc.) without the salt. Further, with its antioxidant rich ingredients, this mix may play a role in helping you keep your risk for high blood pressure and heart disease down!
Beluga Lentils -- A great example of old being new again, expect to see plenty of lentil dishes on the menu this year. What's so great about them? How about everything? Several studies have pointed out the benefits of legume consumption on prevention and management of chronic disease, but it's beluga lentils' rich black color that give it a one up on its other lentil counterparts. Black Anthocyanin's in these little beads have been found in other foods to be tops in fighting inflammation, cancer and heart disease.
Avocado oil -- Avocado oil is often hailed for its high content of healthy monounsaturated fats, yet, many of us shy away from it because we're not sure how to cook with it. While chefs across the nation will be using it in your pricey restaurant entrées, you can use it at home in dressings, dips, and marinades. Added benefit: Consuming more of it may help to increase your healthy HDL cholesterol levels!
Black soybeans -- Expect this bean to become more mainstream in 2014 as a "weight loss" food. A 2007 study found black soybeans to have an "anti-obesity" effect in rats.
Coffee -- If you've been searching for a fancy drink in the morning, stop looking. Chances are high it won't hold a mug to the most basic drink we know next to water. Coffee could literally be the secret bullet superfood we've all been looking for. Here are a few "wows to consider: prevention of certain cancers and diabetes, strengthens DNA, great for skin and... drum roll... lowers early risk of death!
Beet juice -- This year will see continued emergence of drinks galore. In your quest to find the one that makes the most sense for you, why not try something simple? Beet juice has been found in several studies to promote brain health , lower blood pressure and even enhance athletic performance .
Ricotta -- Cheese has always been a popular staple in the American Diet but some of the spreadable cheeses often get overlooked as options in recipes. Enter ricotta, the gritty white cheese that may in fact be "whey" better than some other options. Why? Because it's packed with protein, something that studies told us was very important in keeping muscle up while losing weight. Further, protein specifically from dairy was found to be protective of bone health in women trying to shed the pounds.
Salsify -- This root vegetable may not be a staple on your plate just yet, but you can expect to see it popping up at restaurants in the coming year. Salsify also goes by the name "oyster plant" and resembles a parsnip. The low-calorie, high-fiber profile of root vegetables can help in keeping weight and belly fat down.
Sesame seeds -- These overlooked little seeds should be making a comeback in your pantry this year due to their high levels of calcium and zinc (almost 20 percent of your daily dose of each). One small study found that sesame seed consumption helped with improving lipid and glucose profiles in pre-diabetic patients and a 2010 study found similar findings in an animal model.
Apples -- Can you eat 365 apples this year? You should. A 2011 study and a 2013 study showed that apple consumption helped to lower lousy LDL cholesterol. A 2011 study found a link between apple consumption and reduced risk of ulcerative colitis. A 2009 study found that apple consumption may help to ward off breast cancer and a 2011 study found that eating apples could expand your lifespan by 10 percent.
Za'atar -- This Middle Eastern spice blend made a strong showing in the past year and will continue to grow in popularity. This tasty mixture of sumac seeds, thyme, salt and sesame seeds goes well sprinkled on flatbread or mixed into a marinade for chicken. Speaking of chicken, why not use Za'atar to reduce your risk of a food-borne illness? Studies have linked sumac berries and thyme to decreased incidence of food borne pathogens.
Tempeh (fermented soybean) -- Prepare yourself: 2014 will be the year of the gut. While historical evidence has linked harmful gut bacteria to everything from increasing diabetes risk to formation of autoimmune diseases, healthy gut bacteria are now being hailed as a possible solution in disease prevention. One way to make your gut gorgeous is by consuming fermented foods. Probiotics in fermented foods can help with digestion and may play a role in fighting off obesity and the effects of chronic stress.
Teff -- This gluten-free grain is high in calcium, vitamin C and taste! Best of all, up to 40 percent of the teff grain is considered a "resistant starch," which is literally starch you can't digest. A 2013 study found that a diet rich in resistant starches may help in the prevention of IBS and formation of colorectal cancer.