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Possible diet, exercise, and wellness trends of 2018

Probiotic foods, gene-tested diets and open-air gyms: here's a look at the possible diet, exercise and wellness trends this year

Mindful eating and alternative workouts are set to be the buzzwords of 2018, judging by the health foods and fitness concepts that are trending at home, and globally. Nutritionists, physical trainers and wellness experts help us round up seven such trends in diet and fitness this year.

Probiotic foods

A recent Google Trends analysis report shows that “gut health" and “bloating" are amongst the fastest growing search terms in the US. However, this isn’t just a Western preoccupation. Over the last year, much has been written about the miraculous benefits of fermented foods (miso, kimchi), kombucha (a fermented tea) and kefir (a water- or milk-based probiotic beverage), which promote healthy gut bacteria.

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Swasti Aggarwal, food strategist at Delhi-based Foodhall, says they started stocking these products towards the end of 2017 and are expecting more such functional foods fortified with probiotics to hit the shelves. Nmami Agarwal, Delhi-based dietitian and founder of diet and nutrition brand Nmami Life, says, “In addition to your immune health, researchers have found probiotics effective in controlling body weight, it’s a good source of energy and nutrition and it helps balance the brain, both psychologically and neurologically."

So far, kombucha and kefir have been the domain of small-scale brewers who take orders or sell through farmers markets. But they may soon occupy retail space on supermarket shelves. Up next, look out for fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) with probiotics—chocolates, granola, cookies, among others. Yakult Danone, manufacturer of milk-based fermented probiotic drinks, might consider launch of new products in the Indian market next year, according to a PTI report.

Superfood powders

The nutrient-dense, raw, powdered version of roots (maca), seeds (hemp), algae (spirulina), fruits (acai berry) and greens (moringa) will line the shelves of health and food stores. Namu Kini, the co-founder and CEO of HappyHealthyMe, an organic food brand and grocery store in Bengaluru, says that superfood powders are their best-selling category. In fact, they have innovated to make their own superfood formula called Invincible Supergreens, a blend of seven superfoods such as moringa, amla, spirulina, wheatgrass, barley grass and aloe vera.

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“Next year, we plan to introduce more products under this category such as chlorella (an algae) which is incredible for detox and muscle recovery after workouts," Kini says. Aggarwal of Foodhall, which stocks over 25 such superfood powders, says, “Hemp seeds are rich in omega 3 fatty acids so the powder is particularly good for vegetarians who don’t find it in any other source." Similarly, spirulina is said to have 10 times more iron than spinach, while the Amazonian acai berries are rich in antioxidants. But it’s moringa that’s slated to be the superfood of 2018.

Shelar says, “It’s power-packed with proteins, calcium, B complex vitamins and micro nutrients that usually aren’t found in greens like vitamin C. It’s an energy booster and natural replacement for multivitamin pills." Blend these powders into your smoothie and soup or sprinkle over salads and breakfast bowls to give your immunity system a super boost.

Mental health

According to a survey by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, around 13% of Indians suffer from mental health problems. Shyam Bhat, psychiatrist at Bengaluru-based tech start-up Cure.fit, says more than 40% of urban people suffer from significant stress which is the root cause of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, depression and anxiety disorders. To battle stress, Bhat recommends getting 7-9 hours of sleep, a balanced diet and regular exercise. “Science proves the connection between mental health and gut health. The best diet includes plenty of vegetables and fruits, no processed food or sugar. Lack of sleep compounds stress, while exercise reduces stress hormones," Bhat says.

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He’s also optimistic about the growth of online therapy services that have made counselling and mental health experts more accessible to the public. “Unfortunately, there still is quite a bit of stigma and misinformation about mental disorders in our country and anything that increases awareness and accessibility is a welcome change," he says. “Hopefully, 2018 will see even more progress in terms of awareness as well as increasing initiatives from the government so that India can prevent the epidemic of stress, anxiety and depression."

Alternative workouts

From open-air gyms in public parks to pole fitness (pole dancing) and cycling clubs, there’s an attitudinal shift towards what defines a workout. The gym is no longer the go-to place for fitness buffs. Mumbai-based pole artist Aarifa Bhinderwala, who has taught over 200 students, says, “Pole, which is trending worldwide, is a sport and an art. It strengthens and gives great definition to every muscle in the body while building an iron core."

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Meanwhile, regulars at public parks would have noticed open-air gyms being installed there. From senior citizens to youngsters, all age groups now have free access to equipment with civic bodies across the country setting up such gyms in parks. The North Delhi Municipal Corporation, for instance, will soon set up 251 open air gyms in parks. Seventy-seven parks maintained by it are already equipped with such equipment, according to a UNI report. While it’s a great boost towards getting fit, Rishabh Telang, master trainer at Cult.fit, a chain of premium fitness centers started by tech start-up Cure.fit, has one concern. “The downside may be lack of guidance. If you have a good coach, it’s totally worth it and if not, you can download fitness apps / tutorials and learn all kind of body weight exercises through DIY fitness modules," Telang says.

Counting macronutrients, measuring fat loss

As the mindful eating trend gains momentum, the focus is set to shift to nutrient values instead of calorie counting. According to Aditi Shelar, nutrition and wellness expert at Revofit, a Mumbai-based health and fitness start-up, “It is time to divorce yourself from calories. Carbohydrates, fats and proteins are macronutrients essential for the body’s functioning. These nutrients provide 4Kcal, 9Kcal and 4Kcal per gram, respectively.

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The ideal consumption ratio, she says, is 30% fat, 30% proteins and 40% carbs. It’s important to note that fats in this case are polyunsaturated fats (such as avocados, olive oil) and carbs are the complex breed (vegetables, fruit and whole grains). “A weighing scale does not tell you how much fat you have on your body. It simply tells you how much your body weighs—including not just fat, but also muscle, bone, organs and water," says Shelar predicting that soon fat-loss goals will replace our obsession with weight. “Fat occupies more place than muscle but weighs a whole lot less. With stepping scales that measure body fat (Nokia just came out with the sleekest one yet), people will soon shift focus off weight," says Shelar

Nutrigenomics

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For those fed up with the repeated loss and gain of body weight as a result of dieting, Ryan Fernando, founder and chief nutritionist at Qua Nutrition in Bengaluru, has a solution: gene-tested diets. “Mapping the human genome has given us an in-depth understanding of how your body reacts to food. Even siblings in the same family eating the same food will have their genes interact differently to the food. Customized gene testing to discover which foods work with your genes or the ones that don’t will become the new avatar for nutritionists to apply to their counselling," says Fernando.

Activated charcoal

If you are on Instagram, you couldn’t have missed the black food trend that took social media by storm. Food-grade charcoal derived from wood, bamboo or coconut shells is popping up as a popular ingredient. From bread to pizza dough and ice creams, black food doesn’t just garner attention but also has health pay-offs. Chef Vicky Ratnani, who has curated the menu for Hello Green (Revofit’s health food segment), says, “Apart from ancient grains and seeds, we’ll see more of activated charcoal on menus across the country."

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Manasa Rajan, health and wellness coach at tech start-up Cure.fit, says, “Activated charcoal has actually been a traditional Ayurvedic remedy for an upset stomach. It possesses the unique ability to bind any substance which helps to relieve digestive gas, avoid food poisoning and even purify water." She has a word of caution though. “It can interfere with medication or supplements. So, don’t consume it without your doctor’s advice."

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