The newest health food trends are often unexpected. Who could’ve guessed that crickets would be the next exciting form of sustainable protein, or that pasta could be made from lentils, chickpeas, peas, quinoa, or black beans? They might appear random, but new — or newly discovered — health foods don’t pop up spontaneously; they evolve from the timely alignment of science, technology, ingenuity, and public perception.
The health foods everyone was talking about in 2016 are a reflection of these factors. A surge of scientific evidence demonstrating the health consequences of consuming too much sugar, dairy, and red meat has motivated food companies, both small and large, to increase their use of alternative ingredients. As a result, natural, zero-calorie sweeteners, nut milks, and vegetarian and sustainable protein sources have exploded in popularity.
But it’s not only science that dictates which new foods will appear on grocery store shelves: All food products need to first withstand the test of public approval. People’s perceptions of certain foods, whether based on recent documentary films, books, articles, or Facebook posts, ultimately have the greatest influence over the future trajectory of the food industry.
Here are the ten health foods everyone was talking about in 2016.