En español | Step aside, kale. There’s a new superfood in town — mushrooms. Researchers say that certain compounds found in the humble fungi may ward off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by boosting the production of a chemical called nerve growth factor, or NGF, and also by protecting against inflammation.
Authors of the study, which appeared in the January edition of the Journal of Medicinal Food, refer to mushrooms as a “functional food” — a food with the ability to have a “potentially positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition.”
They note that preliminary findings suggest mushrooms “may fulfill a preventive function against the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” although more extensive animal and human studies are needed.
In addition to mushrooms, you can also expect watermelon seeds to burst onto the food scene in a big way this year, according to food market research company Mintel’s 2017 global food and drink trends. As a kid, you may have believed that swallowing a seed could cause the fruit to grow inside your stomach. But these seeds will certainly not bear fruit if swallowed — and they may benefit you health-wise.
Not only are they rich in magnesium, vitamin B and good fats, but only a small handful of watermelon seeds packs 10 grams of protein. There is a catch though: To reap the biggest health reward, the seeds need to be sprouted, shelled and dried rather than eaten straight from the fruit. Generally speaking, sprouted seeds often boast more nutrients than their non-sprouted counterparts.
Also lauded as a superfood for 2017: black currant supplements. Like the beetroot, black currants are rich in nitric oxide content and are being held up for their positive impact on muscle recovery and fat-burning.
What's more, some studies have shown that black currants could slow down the aging process — thanks to their antioxidants — as well as help prevent diabetes.
While some may have grown weary of the constant onslaught of food trends, don't expect the marketing of products as superfoods to go away anytime soon. Indeed Mintel revealed that between 2011 and 2015, there was a dramatic 202 percent increase globally in the number of new food and drink products launched containing the terms “superfood,” “superfruit” or “supergrain.”
For those of you who find the idea of chomping down on watermelon seeds — or adding more mushrooms and black currants to your diet — distasteful, there are always the nutritional darlings from previous years to keep you satisfied: beets, cherries, chia seeds, avocados and sauerkraut all still pack a very healthy punch.
And if there’s one thing you can rely on when it comes to superfoods, it’s that there will always be new ones next year.