It’s hard to ignore those trendy foods that seem to take over the supermarket isles and our Instagram feeds, but which are really worth the hype? From coconut oil to nutrient waters, we take decode the latest food fads –
1. Coconut oil
Claim to fame: Boosts weight loss
Some research has suggested that the oil’s levels of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) may be easier to burn off than to store as body fat. Not so fast. ‘Coconut oil contains much lower MCT levels than what has been used in research to increase metabolism and weight-loss, so you can’t assume it will have the same impact,’ says sport dietitian Marni Sumbal. Dieters also claim coconut oil boosts feelings of satiety, making you eat less. But a 2017 study in the European Journal of Nutrition found it did a worse job at taming hunger than olive oil and had no impact on fat-burning metabolism.
‘Simply adding calorie-dense coconut oil to your diet without trimming calories elsewhere will lead to weight gain,’ says Sumbal. Instead, increase your miles and focus on what you eat. Modest amounts of coconut oil, in salads or cooking, can play a part.
2. Bone broth
Claim to fame: Improves joint health
Made from roasted animal bones and connective tissues, bone broth is touted as a source of collagen, a protein that helps build bones, tendons, ligaments and skin. ‘The belief that any collagen in bone broth would boost collagen formation [and directly impact joint health] is wishful thinking,’ says Dr William H Percy of the University of South Dakota, US. ’Our digestive systems break down collagen in bone broth into individual amino acids, and these will be used wherever they’re needed.’
And because it’s not a regulated food, the nutritional content can vary, making it impossible to know how much collagen you’re getting.
But while bone broth isn’t a cure-all drink, it is high in protein and electrolytes, making it good for recovery.
3. Sprouted grains
Claim to fame: Value-added carbs
The new trend: making normal foods – such as granola, tortilla chips and flours – with sprouted grains, which means the grains have germinated. This process can boost the food’s antioxidant, protein, folate and vitamin C levels, according to dietitian Molly Kimball. It’s still unclear if sprouted grains can boost athletic performance, but because only wholegrains can be sprouted (versus refined), you’re likely to be eating healthier.
Research shows sprouted breads may keep your energy levels stable and could be easier on your stomach.
4. Nutrient waters
Claim to fame: Smarter hydration
Cactus, watermelon and maple waters (to name a few) are hydrating, but most of the other ‘perks’ are thanks to marketing. ‘Yes, many of these drinks may supply nutrients like calcium or vitamin C, but the levels are so low that runners who eat a balanced diet get enough of them anyway,’ says Kimball. And don’t let the word ‘water’ fool you into thinking they’re not calorific, says Kimball. ‘If you’re drinking a few bottles a day, those extra calories add up,’ she says.
Stick with water and use a sports drink if you need extra calories or electrolytes for hot runs that last 60 minutes or more.
5. Grass-fed meat and dairy
Claim to fame: Omega-3 power
Research has shown grass-fed cows have lower levels of saturated fat and inflammation-inducing omega-6 fats, and higher levels of vitamin E and heart-healthy omega-3s. When it comes to meat or dairy, grass-fed is the way to go, says nutritionist Bonnie Taub-Dix.
Make the most of your postrun burger and chocolate milk by buying the pricier stuff.