As we look ahead to the health trends we can expect in 2022, the changes in our diets, fitness routines, and self-care feel especially vital this year. 2021 felt hopeful, after vaccinations allowed us to see a light at the end of the tunnel, but as we enter 2022, there is still so much unpredictability. The good news? If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that true wellness should actually make us feel better. And that means that health trends are now less about the prettiest supplement or coolest workout and more about continuing to grow, heal, and improve our quality of life.
To find out about health trends for this year (that will actually be worth adapting into our routines instead of passing fads), I asked registered dietician Melissa Rifkin what we can expect. Rifkin is a leading voice in nutrition and is all about sustainable, nutrient-dense, and delicious ways of eating. Here are the nutrition trends she says you will probably want to add to your routine in 2022.
1. Prioritizing microbiome health
So you already know that gut health is important, and while you might already take a probiotic supplement, Rifkin predicted that we’ll prioritize adding gut-friendly foods to our diets with not only probiotics (like in fermented foods such a kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, etc.) but with prebiotics too. “We have heard about probiotics for years now, and prebiotics (the ‘food’ source for probiotics) will continue to become more of a focus in gut health,” Rifkin said. In other words, that probiotic supplement or spoonful of sauerkraut isn’t really going to do anything if the beneficial bacteria doesn’t have “food” to keep it alive. Enter: prebiotics, or a type of fiber that acts as food for probiotics. Find it in foods like bananas, dandelion greens, garlic, onions, and asparagus.
2. Eating for stress management
Ever since stress took over our lives in 2020, we all became way more conscious of stress relief in our exercise routine (hello, yoga flows!), self-care (shout out to my CBD bath soak), and work life (let’s normalize actually taking a lunch break). In 2022, we’ll be more aware of stress management with our diets too. And no, I’m not talking about bingeing a pint of Ben & Jerry’s after a long workday. “We will hear more about how stress can negatively impact the body and what various ways to manage stress,” Rifkin explained. For example, there will be more focus on adaptogens (more info below) and brain-healthy foods and more awareness on the effect caffeine has on stress levels. To start, incorporate more foods known for brain health like leafy greens or fatty fish, and experiment with decaf coffee or matcha to see if you notice a difference in stress levels.
3. Adaptogens in food
As adaptogens like Ashwagandha and Maca recently took over supplement shelves and wellness routines, the entire world became familiar with the ancient superfoods that have been used for thousands of years in ancient traditions like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. “Adaptogens are compounds that help alleviate stress and reduce anxiety. These are typically of plant origin and may be a helpful tool in stress and anxiety management,” Rifkin said. While you may have seen adaptogens in pill or powder form, expect to see them much more often in your favorite food products, including everything from chocolate bars to teas to yogurts, making it the most delicious way to reduce anxiety. For a supplement, Rifkin likes MONAT Immune Support.
4. Growing your own produce
Even if you don’t think you have a green thumb, you’re about to get one. “From herbs to fruits and veggies, there are benefits to growing produce at home,” Rifkin explained. “You have more control over the amount of chemicals your food is exposed to, and gardening may actually help improve health by encouraging the consumption of produce, getting you outside more, and as a form of stress management.” In other words, people (even in cities) are relying less and less on grocery stores and food suppliers and growing their own when possible. If you don’t have a backyard or it’s too cold where you are to get outside, an indoor herb garden can do the trick (try it on a windowsill or with a light that mimics sunlight). No matter how you decide to grow your own produce, you’ll get healthier, cleaner, and cheaper herbs or veggies in every meal.
5. Harnessing the power of leafy greens
OK, so eating leafy greens is nothing new (doesn’t the majority of your paycheck go to Sweetgreen too?), but the food and health world will only continue to lean into the power of spinach, kale, and arugula (oh my!). “This year, you’ll likely see a push to include more greens in your diet,” Rifkin predicted. “Fiber, vitamin K, folate, and magnesium are just some of the nutrients found in these nutritious veggies.” For an easy place to start, aim to get leafy greens with two meals a day, whether that’s adding kale to your omelet, ordering a side salad with takeout, or DIYing a smoothie with spinach for an afternoon snack. You can also expect your favorite greens to show up in more sections than the produce aisle, from kale gnocchi (shoutout to Trader Joe’s) to tortilla chips made with spinach. In other words, the veggies your mom forced you to eat as a kid are only going to diversify and grow in popularity in 2022.