Every year, new food trends arise as people prepare for summer. And every year, trends that have little to no nutritional value are mislabeled as “healthy diet” or “superfoods.”
Superfoods are primarily a marketing ploy with potential health benefits, according to Megan Coats, Campus Dining’s registered dietitian. Acai, salmon, kale, quinoa and other vibrant foods are not new, yet they have been recently reintroduced as life-changing foods.
“Companies are smart and realizing that that is kind of the angle and the direction that consumers are going,” Coats said. “And they will do anything to latch on to the next big thing.”
Social media also contributes to the fast spread of food trends. According to Health Education Action Team (HEAT) member and nutrition sophomore Corrin Kalinich, health blogs and fitness Instagrammers with a lot of followers have major leverage in publicizing these foods.
“I think what those people are saying, not necessarily because of their credentials, but because they have a lot of following, it is easy for [them to make] those [foods] become a trend,” Kalinich said.
Debunking health trend myths
Acai bowls are known for being an aesthetically pleasing healthy food choice. Unfortunately, they are more of a dessert than most people think.
Since acai is pure fruit and is typically topped with more fruit, it is extremely high in sugar. Coats said acai bowls typically range from about 60 to 70 grams of sugar, which is equivalent to the number of grams in a fruit smoothie. Even though the sugar in acai is natural, it should not be consumed in great volumes too frequently.
“It is definitely a misconception that they are a very healthful option. There really isn’t a lot of protein in them,” Coats said. “So you’re going to have a spike in your blood sugar and then you’re going to come down and crash and feel pretty crummy afterwards.”
Another food trend on the rise is known as a Ketone or Ketogenic diet. It consists of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet which was originally intended to help reduce risk of seizures in epileptic children, Coats said.
Despite its purpose, it has become popular among many non-epileptic people. Yet it does not have any apparent health benefits and there is no scientific research to support claims surrounding the diet’s healthiness. According to Kalinich, if the diet is not balanced correctly, it could lead to a disruption in the body’s pH levels, which would lead to ketosis, a potentially fatal illness.
“In general, I think that with a lot of these diets, some of them are considered fads and they could have negative affects on your health so it’s always a good idea to talk to a registered dietitian,” HEAT member and nutrition senior Jose Martinez-Luna said.
Martinez-Luna said most people do not think of the longterm effects of jumping on a bandwagon. Talking to a registered dietitian and listening to your body are key elements to finding foods that work best for you.
Health trends worth trying
Even though sugary acai bowls and misunderstood diets cloud the credibility of new food trends, some are actually a good addition to college students’ lives.
Kombucha and other fermented foods are known for their pro-biotic qualities, Coats said.
“When you look at real kombucha you’ll see that kind of milky substance in there and that is actually the fermented bacteria that is good for [the] gut,” Coats said.
Alternatives to expensive health trends
Trends, both actually and seemingly healthy, tend to be over-marketed and expensive. However, there are many other ways for students to live healthfully and acquire the same nutrients while avoiding paying for an overpriced meal.
“I don’t think you have to follow trends in order to be healthy, and even some trends aren’t healthy,” Kalinich said. “You might be eating all those superfoods, maybe one to five superfoods, all the time, but you’re not getting a bunch of variety … so, in a sense, you’re not getting a bunch of different other vitamins and nutrients.”
Simple fruits and vegetables such as apples and carrots are equally as healthy as most advertised superfoods, yet they are not considered life-changing because they are common.
“Fruits and vegetables are superfoods as it is. So I think that making sure students are eating a variety of food to make sure they get all of the nutrients that [their] bodies need [is an equally efficient diet],” Coats said.