Many food trends are driven by health motivations, but sometimes a health halo doesn’t translate into an actual benefit. A recent review in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology looked at the evidence for which fads have a heart health benefit and which have no clout.
Trends that align with science:
Legumes: foods like lentils, chickpeas, and beans are rapidly growing in popularity alongside the demand for plant protein, which is great news when it comes to heart health. The study authors noted legumes can contribute to heart health and provide valuable nutrients for overall health.
Added sugar: empty calories have a large role in disease development, so it’s no wonder there is demand for less added sugar in foods from consumers, public health organizations, and practitioners alike.
Tea: evidence for black and green teas live up to the health halo these beverages have had for centuries.
The study authors also note popular foods and nutrients like mushrooms, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids have good evidence for health benefits.
Trends that don’t align with science:
Coffee: coffee is hard to place, because some consumers think it is healthy and some think it is unhealthy. The study authors note that moderate coffee consumption can help reduce risk for chronic diseases like stroke or diabetes, but at the same time there are parts of the world pushing to declare a cancer warning on coffee.
Energy drinks: the study found energy drinks increase several risk factors for heart disease The bright side is that consumers may be catching on as demand for more natural, less intense energy drinks increases.
Fermented foods and seaweed: despite growing popularity, the authors noted there is still not enough evidence for the role of fermented foods and seaweed in heart health. This doesn’t mean the body of evidence for a health benefit won’t grow in the future, though.
Dairy: just like media headlines for dairy over the past few decades, the authors found mixed evidence for dairy’s role in heart health. This also aligns with fads we see related to dairy. On one hand, full-fat dairy products are making a return to popularity, but on the other hand there are groups of consumers avoiding dairy altogether. The appropriateness of dairy in a healthy diet can vary from person to person.
Access the article A Clinician’s Guide for Trending Cardiovascular Nutrition Controversies: Part II.