Food Woo Trends in 2015: Dumb Diets, Stupid Foods, and Uninformed Consumers
January 7, 2015
The new year is upon us, and as happens every year, food writers and publications everywhere are declaring the hot new food trends for 2015. Not surprisingly, the lists are full of pseudoscientific food woo. As it went last year, a survey of dietitians by Today's Dietitian magazine appears to be a primary driver of many of these lists, and I will note which ideas seem to originate from the TD survey when I can.
Dumb Diets Aren't Going Anywhere.
Dietitians apparently see the gluten-free diet fad continuing to be a thing in 2015, which is not surprising given the momentum it has coming out of 2014. The TD survey, which also correctly predicted that gluten-free would be big last year, notes that this popularity comes despite a "lack of evidence to support eating a wheat- or gluten-free diet for weight loss". Or for any other reason other than because of actual celiac disease, for that matter. The trend can't die, apparently, until marketers have milked it for all it's worth. I can't wait for gluten-free baking dishes, coffee makers, and iPhones.
The Paleo diet was also big in 2014, and many websites are talking it up as a diet likely to trend in 2015 (more on the Paleo diet here). Riding on the Paleo's coattails is the the keto diet, which is basically the Atkins diet come around again for another try: low carb, high fat, and trying to put the body into a state it isn't supposed to stay in all day (ketosis). It seems that even in diet woo land they're running out of new ideas at this point. In general, the TD survey predicted that any diet promoting "good fats" over carbohydrates would remain popular.
Meanwhile, The Guardian thinks that "bulletproof" will be the trend, and specifically the Bulletproof Diet. Tech entrepreneur Dave Asprey has a website dedicated to his diet, anchored by the bulletproof coffee recipe he helped popularize; you won't be at all surprised that there's a book and an e-store full of things to purchase. Like all bad gimmick diets is based on dodgy science and built to be stupidly easy to follow; in the case of the Bulletproof Diet, Asprey has divided all foods into three categories based on how "bulletproof" they are. My prediction: Starbucks will put bulletproof coffee on the menu this year if the Bulletproof Diet gains enough traction.
Superfoods Will Continue to be a Thing
Can we just kill the word superfoods please? Apparently not, because it's cropping up again in predictions this year. The TD survery says that this year's unfortunate winner of the superlame title will be seeds and nuts, though "kale, Greek yogurt, coconut products and avocado" are apparently also poised to remain unnaturally popular, as are the "ancient grains" like quinoa. Denver Westword thinks the new superfood seed will specifically be hemp seeds, the "new chia seeds," though that's coming from a state where marijuana is legal and so it must be assumed that the writer was high.
Oh, and then there's cauliflower. Apparently it's poised to become the "new kale," according to the New York Daily News and several other outlets ... though it was supposed to become "the new kale" last year, too. The Washington Post says to "expect to see cauliflower grated to make a flour substitute in pizza crust, mashed (instead of mashed potatoes) and roasted." Speaking as someone who was on the Atkins diet way back in 2004, I can say with some certainty that none of these ideas is new (I can also say that mashed cauliflower is most definitely NOT a satisfying substitute for mashed potatoes). However, as noted before, there are apparently few new food woo ideas under the sun, and it's only fitting that cauliflower come back into style if Atkins-style diets are, too.
Another plant you're likely to hear about in 2015 is moringa, a leafy tree grown in the Congo and elsewhere that has already been given the superfood title by some publications. Think of it as a protein powder substitute, capable of being easily mixed into a shake and therefore being easy to sell at the smoothie bar for just a dollar more. Sales of powdered moringa are up quite a bit, and the benefits of consuming moringa are just as broad and unsupported as you'd expect -- including, not surprisingly, "detoxification." Let's hope moringa doesn't do to the developing world what quinoa did to South America, though.
People Still Won't Do Their Research
Once again, the TD survey predicts that consumers will continue to rely on poor sources for their dietary information, such as diet blogs and websites where they "receive the most misinformation". The dietitians surveyed overwhelmingly agreed that "the mass quantity of nutrition information and misinformation is more likely to lead to consumer confusion and lack of diet improvement." And given how many people have started happily dropping butter into their coffee and swishing coconut oil in 2014, it's hard to disagree with that assessment.
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