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Health Trends in 2014

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From "super" foods like quinoa and kale, meal plans like the Paleo diet, and fitness crazes such as Tabata training, 2013 had its fair share of health trends. New ways to get and stay healthy are always in the spotlight as more than 30 percent of Americans are classified as obese, according to the CDC. So what's in store for 2014? Here are some predictions for trends you may see in your gym, supermarket, or hear around the water cooler this year. Find out if they're worth incorporating into your lifestyle.

Ancient Is "In."
Chances are at the beginning of 2013 you didn't even know how to pronounce quinoa (KEEN-wah) and now you're seeing the protein-packed grain in everything from salads to desserts. Quinoa is known as an ancient grain since it's been around for thousands of years, and it's not the only one on the market. Ancient grains are becoming more and more popular because of their high fiber content, which Americans are lacking, and unique nutrient attributes. Amaranth, like quinoa, is gluten-free, which appeals to those suffering from celiac disease, and contains the amino acid (protein-building block) lysine, which is absent in most grains. Freekeh, wheat-harvested and roasted when it's young, is another one on the rise with double the fiber of average grains to keep you fuller, longer. Incorporating more whole grains into your day not only helps with weight loss, but can stabilize your blood glucose and help lower blood cholesterol.

You're Super Enough.
You may see more of these "super" foods on ingredient labels or available for inclusion at a juice or salad bar near you. There will always be new foods that are marketed as being especially good for health or weight loss. But it's important to remember that foods touted as "super" don't necessarily have powers that you can't find in traditional, often cheaper, alternatives. Here are several examples:

Hemp seeds: Chia and flax are old news as there's another seed on the market that packs in about 50 percent more protein making it a good source for vegans and vegetarians. Typically, hemp seeds, hearts, or powder are sprinkled on cereal, in salads, added to smoothies, or eaten alone. While hemp seeds do contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, they are in a 1:3 ratio to omega-6 fatty acids. So if you're someone who doesn't eat fish or other good sources of the inflammation-reducing fatty acid, remember that you can get twice as much omega-3 with chia and flax. Note: While hemp is from the same plant as marijuana, it contains extremely low levels of THC, the substance that gives you a high.

Buffaloberries: While not yet widely commercially harvested, the buffaloberry could be the next superfruit, according to a study published in the Journal of Food Science. The fruit contains high levels of lycopene, the antioxidant, cancer-fighting substance commonly associated with tomatoes. These berries grow on many Indian reservations and can flourish in tough conditions. In addition to eating the berry as is, the acidity makes these berries a great candidate for wine and several wine producers have shown interest. I'll drink to that! In the interim, you can get antioxidants on the cheap year-round with any type of frozen berries and fresh veggies, such as tomatoes and carrots.

Matcha green tea: More and more brands are incorporating matcha green tea powder into their products due to research that shows that catechins, or antioxidants, found within the powder can be up to 100 times more bioavailable than in regular green tea. That's because matcha powder is made from grinding the entire Camellia sinensis leaf, instead of steeping the leaves as is done for regular green tea. In addition to disease-fighting power, research shows that compounds in green tea, most notably the catechin Epigallocatechin gallate (ECGC), may boost metabolism. However, on its own, remember that one food or drink will not work to keep you healthy or maintain your weight.

Let's Get Functional.
The term "functional fitness," or workouts that incorporate strength training to make activities of daily life easier, has been around for years but is becoming more and more prevalent, especially marketed towards older adults. While lifting weights or going for a run can be a great workout, they focus on working muscles independently. Therefore, you may be able to run six miles but still throw your back out when lifting a suitcase into the overhead compartment. Functional fitness helps muscles work together in tandem, incorporating balance and coordination and can also help promote weight loss.

Eating Local.
An overarching trend that will continue into 2014 is the desire to eat locally sourced food. When food doesn't need to travel as far and doesn't go through as much handling, more nutrients are retained and the food is less likely to be contaminated. In addition to being healthier, eating local helps reduce your carbon footprint as well as supports your local economy. To get started, check out your local farmers market and learn what's in season in your area.

Have you already embraced or will you try any of these health trends?

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