Health news delivered in two sentences or less tends to just make us more confused about what is truly good for our bodies, or gives us permission to continue along with our vices. Nevertheless, we know that there is constant interest in the secrets to our wellness and I am a huge advocate for informed decisions. Here are the trends to watch for in 2020, and whether or not they are worth your time.
1. Meat alternatives
- The Beyond Meat burger and various similar options have been introduced in the last year, giving meat-free alternatives a centre stage role instead of being hidden in the fine print. The benefits of a plant-based diet, and environmental and cardiovascular concerns of conventional meat-eating are widely documented. We will begin seeing more and more animal alternative products on the market this year, like plant-based tuna as an example.
Vote: I love seeing inclusive eating practices that allow vegetarians and vegans to have better access to food choices. My only hesitation is to watch the ingredients since many of these meat-free products have very long ingredient lists, and aren't very 'natural'. I would, however, be in support of reducing meat intake, ramping up plants like vegetables and choosing vegetarian proteins such as black beans and lentils, if you tolerate them.
2. CBD and Cannabinoids
- We're starting to see great research on cannabinoids for pain, sleep and seizures. As the science catches up and stigmas decline, we will likely expand our use of these products. In the future, there will be consideration for other active components of plant-based medicines, like the good results of psilocybin (the active ingredient of magic mushrooms) for treatment-resistant depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Watch for more studies in this area.
Vote: Seek medical advice on this one, don't self prescribe ... the doses are different for medical usage.
3. Home Workouts
- I've heard from many of you that you LOVE your Peloton bikes. If you haven't heard of this (the commercials are everywhere) it's a home exercise bike but you can participate in group classes online. What's driving this trend seems to be that people just aren't finding the time to commit to leaving the house to exercise, or they need to fit in workouts while children are sleeping. This bike is simply one example, but there are many ways to stay active without leaving your house.
Verdict: Ultimately, find what works for you and just do something. Anything. Move your body. We'll work out the kinks later.
4. Wearable Health
Fit Bits have been around for awhile now, but the market for wearable health devices is still there. Really, we just like knowing stuff and having insights about ourselves so if there's a watch or a ring that can tell us how we're sleeping, what our heart rate is, and how many steps we've taken... well, we think that's pretty cool.
Vote: If having data gives you peace of mind or helps you stay on track, then go for it. Just be cautious about wearing devices all the time as we don't always know the long term effects. Also, try not to sleep with it on all the time, since some people are sensitive to electromagnetic frequencies.
5. Green Beauty
Finally we are accounting for the real architecture of the skin, and not just laying down chemicals or stripping away the natural oils that we actually need to create a healthy barrier from the world. Likewise, we are starting to pay more attention to the fact that things actually do get absorbed through the skin, so being conscious of your make-up ingredients is important too.
Verdict: Yay for natural skin care!
Last year it was cauliflower rice and cauliflower pizza crust, now chickpeas are showing up in some places. Chickpeas are a source of vegetarian protein, but aren't a vegetable source like cauliflower.
Vote: I tend to find people to be missing more veggies than they are to be protein deficient, but you'll have to weigh this one out for your own nutritional needs. Not everyone is good at digesting legumes so pay attention to any symptoms you have if you're eating them. Basically, there's a new food trend every few months (remember pomegranates?). Eating a variety of foods is truly the key.
7. Lymphatic treatments
I've talked about the lymphatic system ever since becoming a Naturopathic Doctor. The lymph is a fluid that houses our immune system but also carries waste away from the cells. Unlike blood, there's no pump like the heart to move lymph around our bodies efficiently so we rely on gravity, muscle contractions, and other means of getting the lymph moving. Some great examples are: exercise (especially jumping on a mini trampoline), saunas, hot/cold contrast showers, massage, homeopathics and dry skin brushing.
Verdict: It's very important to have well-functioning lymphatics, and very common to see sluggish movement that could use a little nudge.
8. Air purifiers
Indoor air quality is a concern, especially as people are spending more and more time indoors and living in brand new houses or doing renovations that are still off-gassing chemicals.
Vote: If you're thinking of purchasing an air purifier make sure to do some research first, there is a lot of variability on the market. In the meantime, have a look at some house plants that are known for cleaning the air.
9. Sleep benefits
You and I have spent a great deal of time talking about sleep, but sleep benefits are going to be generating some headlines as we move into the new year - particularly how sleep pertains to hormones.
Verdict: Sleep is our time to recover and repair our bodies. Without good quality sleep we see stress levels go up, hormones become imbalanced, pain is much worse, and cardiovascular risk is higher, to name just a few outcomes. Yes, sleep can be difficult if we are anxious or in pain as well. But, if you're someone who chooses to only get 6 hours rest you may want to rethink that TV in your bedroom.
Again with the idea that people are too busy, telemedicine is becoming more popular.
Vote: I feel there is tremendous therapeutic benefit to in-person appointments, but realize that phone or computer consultations have their place as well. Ask me if this is something you are interested in.
11. Mindfulness is Here to Stay
Breathing, being mindful, and connecting your brain with your body have amazing health outcomes for stress, sleep, pain, digestive health, anxiety and overall healing. There are multiple ways to practice being more mindful like journaling, doing yoga, breathing quietly for 5 minutes or even graduating into meditation. A lot of people don't give it enough time before giving up, finding it hard to focus or stay on track with it. My suggestion is to start slowly and work up to longer amounts of time.
Verdict: Mindfulness is here to stay because it works.
12. Simple Home Cooking
As food becomes more expensive, and people want to stay away from fast food options, there's a trend towards cooking at home. Let's be honest, though, we're not all Martha Stewart or Pintrest experts. However, learning to cook simple, healthy meals at home can be hugely rewarding and a big cost savings. Now with recipes available in just a few clicks we can easily turn leftovers into new creative meals, find a way to use up peppers, figure out what to do with that frozen kale, or accommodate your daughter's dairy-free friend. My patients that have tried programs like Hello Fresh have been happy with how engaged their kids have been in preparing meals too.
Verdict: Learning how to take care of yourself or your family in healthful ways will serve many benefits now and in the future.
A Note on Keto: The ultimate trend of the past two years, eating a Ketogenic diet has been helpful for weight loss and brain health. For those of you who have been on Keto for 1+ years, it's probably time to consider transitioning to a more sustainable way of eating, or supporting your liver and kidney health. I've seen people who have have great success with Keto, but I've also seen bloodwork show elevated cholesterol and liver enzymes or reduced kidney function when we've checked it out as part of a wellness plan.
When it comes to your health, try not to listen to every headline and instead focus on what works best for you and your body. Trends will come and go. Just be open to new things to try, but incorporate them into what you've already found to be helpful.
I wish you a wonderful start to the New Year! I can't wait to see you soon,