Top Health Trends of 2016

The biggest up-and-coming trends we can’t wait to try

Top Health Trends of 2016

From centuries-old health tonics to unusual modern foods, 2016 will be both a year of revolutionary health trends and a simultaneous return to our heritage. Some of these trends may already feel familiar, while a few will definitely surprise you.

Humans have been trying to tell the future for millennia, peering into crystal balls to forecast what tomorrow holds. When it comes to our health, market trends and insider experts have already identified the 10 top health trends of 2016 that are promising to reinvigorate our wellness journey. No crystal ball required.

Outdoor, adventure-based fitness

More and more of us are putting the “out” into “workout.” From adventure-based workouts such as obstacle courses and themed gymnastics, to outdoor-based workouts like parkour and hiking, exercise trends are getting back to nature.

One obstacle-course company, which already boasts more than a million annual participants in its regular races through mud, fire, and water, recently announced that it was partnering with a TV studio to launch a new reality series. The constant media spotlight will continue to boost participant numbers in the new year.

Outdoor calorie calculator

These calculations of calories burned relate to an average 155 lb (70 kg) adult doing the selected activity for 30 minutes.

  • obstacle courses and other vigorous-level calisthenics: 298 calories
  • horseback riding: 149 calories
  • snowshoeing: 298 calories
  • snorkelling: 186 calories
  • rock climbing: 298 calories
  • rowing: 316 calories
  • ice skating: 260 calories

Plant-based athletics

The stereotypical athlete’s diet, heavy on animal-based protein, will be getting a run for its money in 2016. “One trend I see intensifying is the number and visibility of professional athletes who are adopting plant-based diets as a competitive advantage,” says Dr. Garth Davis, medical director at the Davis Clinic. “As this movement reaches critical mass, the public is starting to question whether we truly need lots of animal protein in order to be strong and have big muscles.”

Davis reports that a plant-based diet may help improve athletic recovery and decrease muscle breakdown. The increasing number of vegan bodybuilders, mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters, boxers, and pro-level football and basketball players is changing public perceptions favourably. In 2016, Davis predicts people “will finally realize that the traditional mass-market animal agriculture is not the least bit natural [and] you will hear about people going vegetarian or vegan for their health.”

Local foods and self-reliant agriculture

With the increasing awareness surrounding factory farming issues, genetically modified (GM) foods, and global environment challenges, author and integrative nutrition health coach Tammi Hoerner predicts we’ll see a surge of interest in locally grown food with a focus on self-reliance—growing and preserving our own organic, heirloom, high quality food.

The average Canadian meal travels approximately 1,200 kilometres before arriving at our table, warns Canada’s David Suzuki Foundation, and this carries significant environmental impacts. Hoerner says she expects to see more of us growing our own food—even a small container garden on a patio can make a difference—and a greater push for food labelling regarding farm sources and GMOs.

“What I think is beautiful and inspiring is that the more people learn about the impact … of our food sources on our health and our planet, the more they are starting to take responsibility,” says Hoerner. “As people take this responsibility in their daily choices, they will naturally feel stronger, healthier. The better they feel, the more they will want to do.”

Tip

Don’t just think local. Think seasonal. Eating seasonal produce reduces our environmental impact because out-of-season produce requires more energy to grow, refrigerate, and transport over long distances.

Grass-fed meat and dairy

More than half of Canada’s farmable acreage can only grow grass, but when it comes to meat and dairy, that might be more of an opportunity than a challenge. Government scientists are currently conducting research trials on the potential commercial success of grass-fed beef on a large production scale.

The benefits aren’t just economic. Compared to conventional grain-fed beef, grass-fed beef is higher in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and other healthy fats. Similar health benefits show up in eggs from pastured hens and milk from grass-fed cows. This, plus more humane animal treatment and decreased environmental risks, is driving demand. Over the past year, farms in Manitoba have reported an up to 100 percent increase in sales for grass-fed beef.

Tip

Look for “grass fed” and “organic” on the label, preferably certified by a third-party agency. “Green fed” or “grass finished” terminology have no legal or regulated definitions and cannot be verified.

Increased attention on probiotics

“Although probiotics are well known for digestive care, people need to realize the benefits go way beyond the digestive system,” says digestive care expert Brenda Watson. “There is so much research popping up daily showing the relationship of our gut bacteria and environment to the health of the body overall.”

Watson notes that the probiotics in our gut have an effect on our immune system’s strength; on our brain health, including anxiety, depression, and mood disorders; on our cardiovascular system; and on our muscular and skeletal system.

Based on recent sales trends, probiotic sales are expected to grow by millions of dollars annually through 2020. “Fermented foods are starting to make a huge comeback as a way to … provide some of the beneficial bacteria that is so helpful to our health overall,” says Watson.

“Besides food, another great way to help get more probiotics is to take a supplement that can provide a variety of beneficial bacteria. Diversity and culture count are important when choosing a supplement, so look for a multistrain, high culture count supplement.”

“There are many things within our daily routine or lifestyle that could be detrimental to our good bacterial growth and things that we could do to help ensure the best possible situation for healthy bacteria levels,” says Watson. She suggests the following:

  • Avoid the overuse of antibiotics.
  • Drink filtered, unchlorinated water.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Eat healthy fibre, which is needed in the gut for proper bacteria growth.
  • Cut back on sugar intake.

Natural cosmetics and skin care

The cosmetics and skin care industry is a multibillion dollar market that shows no signs of slowing down. As we become more aware of the impact that our cosmetics and skin care choices have on our overall health, natural and organic products have become one of the fastest growing segments in the industry.

“With topical products, most things that we apply to our skin are quickly absorbed,” says registered nutritional consulting practitioner Lisa Petty in St. Catharines, Ontario. “That means toxins have direct access to our cells.”

Petty warns that some common ingredients in traditional cosmetics and skin care mess with our hormones, play a role in some forms of cancer, and can even cause fat gain. This New Year, we’ll see an increase in the amount of shelf space that stores devote to natural, organic skin care.

Tip

“Look for the Canada Organic logo for products that are 95 to 100 percent organic,” suggests Petty. “If a product is less than 95 percent organic, the product itself cannot be called organic, but labels will indicate which ingredients are organic.”

Bug-based foods

What has 15 percent more iron than spinach, two times more protein than beef, and as much vitamin B12 as salmon? Crickets. Expect to see more and more of this unusual food in health foods in 2016, predicts Mareya Ibrahim, a 20-year veteran of the natural products industry, chef, and author.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency allows a certain amount of accidental insect parts in our packaged goods, but Ibrahim says some manufacturers are featuring bugs as their star ingredient. “The industry is literally hopping with cricket powder, getting popular for its nutrient density, inexpensive nature, and low-on-the-food-chain environmentally conscious status,” she reports. “Don’t be surprised if cricket burgers start showing up at a local retailer, too.”

Other edible insects include some weevils, caterpillars, flies, and larvae. This nutritious food source has been declared a food for our future by the United Nations as a potential way to fight world hunger and lower agriculture-related pollution.

Re-evaluating our relationship with carbs

For years, we viewed carbohydrates as the bad guys, but we are starting to recognize the difference between healthy carbs and unhealthy carbs. Christy Brissette, a Toronto-based registered dietitian, calls this a trend away from a “whoa, carbs” mindset to a “slow carbs” mindset.

It’s all about the glycemic index (GI), which ranks foods based on how the carbs affect our blood sugar levels. “High-GI ‘fast carbs’ will lead to a crash in energy, mood, and focus and will cause you to crave more fast carbs,” explains Brissette. “Low-GI ‘slow carbs’ have the opposite effect: they lead to sustained energy and better concentration and mood.”

Brissette says slow carbs will be one of the biggest trends in 2016 because the Canadian Diabetes Association, with guidance from Health Canada, recently announced they are leading a low-GI food labelling initiative and will be launching an education program to support it. “Canadians can expect to see more resources, research, and educational programs on slow carbs and the glycemic index as we ramp up to seeing low-GI labels on foods,” predicts Brissette.

Carb swaps

For every high-GI carb, try a low-GI alternative:

  • brown rice instead of white rice
  • 100% whole-grain bread instead of white bread
  • whole steel-cut oats instead of instant oats
  • leafy greens instead of starchy vegetables

A return to traditional remedies

What’s old is new again. In 2016, we’ll see apple cider vinegar and other original health tonics make a big comeback, predicts holistic health author Susan Jones, PhD. “Consumers want to go back to the basics,” says Jones. “It is said that Hippocrates relied on apple cider vinegar as a standard remedy, [and] current scientific literature and users of apple cider vinegar … have corroborated its ability to help in the healing of high blood pressure, achy joints, sore throats, and many other conditions.”

Other traditional ingredients that will be big in 2016 include turmeric, an Indian spice rich in antioxidants; maca and spirulina, nutrient-dense ancient superfoods; and baobab, a medicinal fruit harvested in Africa for centuries. Expect to see these ingredients featured more and more in health food stores, both on their own and added to your favourite foods, according to Jones. “I recommend people start with food as close as possible to how it’s found in nature,” she says.

New interest on old remedies

Jones shares why these traditional cures are some of her favourites.

  • Baobab fruit: “[It’s] one of the most nutrient-rich fruits on the planet and is a good source of antioxidants and iron.”
  • Turmeric: “It contains curcumin … which reaches over 150 potential therapeutic activities, and includes antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties.”
  • Maca: “[It] increases libido, supports endocrine functionality, improves female fertility, and reduces mental stress and depression.”

Functional fitness for healthy aging

“With the population aging, functional fitness is on the rise,” says occupational therapist Suzanne Andrews, founder of a popular fitness television series. In Canada, senior citizens are the fastest-growing age group, and our government projects that this demographic trend will continue for decades.

Staying active may be one of the most important things we can do when it comes to healthy aging, with exercise estimated to add several years to our lifespan. Functional fitness movements, such as squats and lunges, prepare and strengthen us for everyday tasks, equip us with the strength and skills to avoid falls and similar injuries, improve our quality of life, and enhance our agility.

In the New Year, Andrews predicts that not only will more people be doing functional fitness, but they’ll also be doing it outside of traditional gym classes. “There are many people [who] can’t get to the gym,” she says, noting that online or home tutorials offer the convenience of fitness-on-demand and are “the wave of the future.”

To improve our bodies’ functional abilities and achieve the most health benefits, the Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging recommends that seniors get a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise a week. Less than 20 percent of Canadian seniors are currently reaching this benchmark.

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