Say sayonara to kale and açai! A new class of superfoods is ready for their culinary moment in 2020.
Nutrition is an ever-evolving science. It seems like every single day we learn more about the health benefits of popular foods, and are introduced to those we never knew existed.
We’ve come a long way since the banana was named the first superfood following World War I. Since then, we’ve had dozens of foods deemed “superfoods,” a term used to describe nutrient-dense foods that can have a majorly beneficial impact on your health. They are basically the superheroes of the grocery store.
We asked some of the nation’s top nutritionists to predict what nuts, seeds, berries and vegetables will be going mainstream in 2020 — and it’s likely there are more than a few you have never even heard of.
This article contains general information and opinions related to nutrition, health and food. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such, and should not be used to diagnose, treat, or manage any disease or disorder. If you have any concerns or questions about your health or diet, always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.
A sweet-smelling herb you probably haven’t heard of, lemon balm, can help kill viruses, bacteria and other pathogens, according to Dr. Greene. It is also can be calming to the nerves in the intestinal tract and liver, strengthen lymphocytes, may be used for digestive issues like bloating and gas, and is even said to help some people with menstrual cramps, headaches, toothaches, anxiety, sleep issues, ADHD, autoimmune conditions, high blood pressure, insect bites, sores and more. In addition to using the herb as a tincture, you can also use it to make an herbal tea.
According to plant-based pharmacist and nutritionist Bobby Price, some of the most potent superfoods for healing and health are two sea vegetables: Irish sea moss and bladderwrack.
“Sea vegetables like Irish moss are rich in potassium chloride, which helps to remove edema and balance blood pressure,” says Dr. Price. “Bladderwrack improves digestion, boosts the immune system, increases energy, reduces inflammation, helps with weight loss and reduces the hardening of the arteries.”
In the powder form, both moss and bladderwrack can be added in your smoothie. Or, if you prefer to consume it another way, you can cook the moss for 10 to 15 minutes, and it will turn into a gel which can be blended in a nut milk. Add cinnamon and a natural sweetener, like agave or dates.
MORE: Are ‘superfoods’ actually superior to other healthy foods?
According to Brigitte Zeitlin of BZ Nutrition, and Manitoba Harvest partner, hemp seeds actually have double the protein, more omegas and fewer carbs than both flax and chia seeds, making them the perfect seed-staple to have in your pantry.
“Hemp seeds are also a really easy and delicious way to increase your healthy fat intake, which will keep you full and have you feeling satisfied and energized for longer periods, preventing you from overeating or gaining weight,” Zeitlin says.
Additionally, hemp seeds boost a healthy immune system, as they have all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot make on its own. Amino acids are then used by the body to create proteins that run into enzymes, hormones and antibodies that our immune system uses to fight infections and diseases.
MORE: Overnight oats with nut butter, berries & bee pollen is a healthy on-the-go breakfast
Because hemp seeds are super versatile and delicious, they make an easy addition to any sweet or savory meal. “In the morning, I’ll sprinkle hemp on my avocado toast or in my oatmeal, and for dinner I’ll toss them into my veggie stir-fry to boost the protein,” Zeitlin says.
According to Splendid Spoon founder Nicole Centeno, pea protein is one of the few plant-based proteins considered complete, containing all nine essential amino acids to build muscle tissue. “Plus, it’s one of the most eco-friendly of the plant-based alternatives,” Centeno points out.
Eating it is easy. Simply mix it in with any smoothie, pureed soup or pesto to boost your protein intake.
MORE: English pea toast is the new avocado toast (Spoiler: It’s delicious)
Reishi mushrooms have been studied for their ability to combat anxiety and depression, as well as their effect on relaxation. With stress and anxiety at an all-time high, and compounds like CBD under increasing scrutiny from the FDA, reishi mushrooms offer a great alternative. Add the powder to lattes, hot chocolate or smoothies, or try it in a mushroom soup!
MORE: Superfood maitake mushroom tacos pack a powerful nutritional punch
Turmeric has been used for centuries, not only to flavor, color and preserve foods, but as a medicinal remedy, and registered dietitian and nutritionist for Jamba Sarah Marjoram expects we’ll see even more of it in 2020.
“It works as a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory and is a powerful antioxidant,” she says of its health benefits. While tumeric can be blended into smoothies and added to soups and stews, Marjoram says it can be incorporated into any dish. “I’ve even seen it used when brewing hot tea to add some additional health benefits,” she adds.
MORE: Mood-boosting recipe: Turmeric breakfast muffins that help relieve anxiety
Watermelon seeds must be sprouted and shelled before enjoying, but the benefits are worth it, according to nutritionist Ali Bourgerie. “These seeds are packed with protein, magnesium, vitamin B and essential fats,” Bourgerie says. You can either roast watermelon seeds (similarly to pumpkin seeds) and sprinkle them over yogurt, add them to a smoothie, or you can eat them alone as a snack.
Indian gooseberry/Amla berry
This bitter-tasting fruit, symbolic in Buddhist belief, is going to have a moment in 2020, suggests restorative physician Sherri Greene. According to Dr. Greene, the antioxidant-rich and vitamin-C-packed berry can be added to your smoothie or juice for a variety of health benefits. These include lowering your blood sugar and cholesterol, protecting your liver from toxins, and even helping to restore glucose.
A sister to the goji and acai berries, maqui berries are less bitter and more mild, but they pack a huge antioxidant punch that helps with blood sugar regulation and digestion, according to Bourgerie. You will most likely find this superfood in a powdered form, and you can enjoy it in breakfast bowls, smoothies and baked goods.
Fermented black garlic
Yes, you can ferment garlic — and it’s even better for you than the bulb alone. “The fermentation process gives the garlic a sweeter flavor, and doesn’t leave you with the bad breath,” Bourgerie says. “It also has double the natural antioxidants [compared to] regular garlic.”
Enjoy it the same way you do the raw bulb — in sauces, in a stir-fry, etc.
MORE: Vegan sun-dried tomato Parmesan garlic knots are the perfect bread option for your holiday meals
Popular back in the day, prunes — otherwise known as dried plums — are going to make a comeback, according to Erin Palinski-Wade.
“GI health is a hot topic, and prunes are packed full of beneficial fiber to help your gut, but that’s not all they do,” Palinski-Wade says. “Eating just five to six prunes per day has been shown to help prevent bone loss, which is great news to women (and men!) at risk for osteoporosis.”
Prunes can be enjoyed alone, but they can also be used as a sugar substitute in almost any baked good. Simply swap out added sugar with pureed prunes for natural sweetness with fewer carbs, more fiber, and no added sugar.
MORE: How to make an immunity-boosting tonic to help fight colds and flu
Avocados are one of the MVPs of superfoods. “They are a nutritional powerhouse with some well-supported health benefits,” Marjoram says. “They are loaded with heart-healthy fats, packed with fiber, have more potassium than a banana, and are full of antioxidants.”
While their creamy, rich texture makes them delicious plain or in a traditional Mexican guacamole, Marjoram expects we will start to see avocados being used in more creative ways. “It’s a delicious ingredient to add to a smoothie, for example, and adds an extra nutritional punch and has associated health benefits.”
According to Monica Auslander Moreno, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition, you can think of avocado oil as the new coconut oil. “It has a high smoke point, so it’s perfect for roasting, but it doesn’t make everything you eat taste like coconut,” she says.
It also has a preferable fatty acid profile — much less saturated fat and more monounsaturated fat. And, since it has a very mild flavor, it can be used to cook almost anything! “Rub it on any vegetables and pop them in the oven. Use it to cook pancakes and eggs,” Moreno suggests.
MORE: Try vegan chocolate spiced cupcakes with avocado frosting for healthier holidays
Interestingly, buckwheat has no wheat — it’s gluten-free! “Buckwheat is a whole grain that is more nutrient-dense and heartier than wheat, and has more fiber, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, folate, fiber and protein,” says Moreno. It can be eaten as a side dish, like quinoa, by boiling it, and it can also be made into a “groatmeal” (because the little pieces are called groats).
“When ground into a flour, it’s a great swap for wheat flour for pancakes, waffles and bread,” Moreno says. “It’s very dense and filling — a great avenue to satiety.”
Matcha has been having its day for a few years now, but in 2020 it will start making a mark beyond the drinkable form. “Matcha powder is packed with beneficial antioxidants, like its famed EGCG, that can help heal cellular damage, and it contains enough caffeine to wake you but not jolt you because of its unique L-theanine content,” Moreno says.
In addition to drinking and brewing it, you can bake with matcha. “Add it into mixes for waffles, pancakes, breads, oatmeals, overnight oats, puddings, smoothies, brownies, cakes, cookies and even pesto sauce,” she suggests.
MORE: Insanely delicious matcha coconut waffles that are vegan & gluten free
“Much of human history comes from the Middle East, so I’m thrilled we are returning to our roots with this sesame seed paste,” Moreno says.
As more and more schools become nut-free because of allergy concerns, Moreno points out that tahini is usually permitted since it’s from a seed, and not a nut.
“It’s a creamy source of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, fiber, protein, calcium, iron and magnesium,” she adds. Use it in place of peanut butter on T+J sandwiches (tahini + jam) on sprouted bread, and fold it into pureed chickpeas with some salt and lemon for a homemade hummus dip.