No matter how much we resist, somehow we always find ourselves kneeling down to worship at the altar of the latest health and wellness trends. Why? Well, while we might have some initial doubts about their plausibility, this is quickly pushed aside in the name of longevity, eternal youth, and happiness. We hope that these new foods, diets, and exercises will actually do what they preach. So one week we're all chowing down on the lunch bowl craze, the next we're swapping them for açai smoothies, followed by the latest superfoods snacks and a golden milk ice cream.
It seems like there's a new buzzed-about health trend every week, and that can be a big green pill to swallow. But as healthy living continues to sweep the world, the positive impact this is having on our personal vitality is something to rejoice. So we asked Livestrong expert Jess Barron to set the record straight and share the health and wellness trends that are in and out.
Meet the Expert
Jess Barron is the VP and GM for Livestrong, a leading healthy lifestyle site.
If the Google Trends data is anything to go by, Americans are officially hooked on matcha. Whether you drink it in its traditional tea form or you turn it into ice cream, matcha is loaded with benefits from powerful antioxidants to potent cancer-fighting properties, this stone-ground powdered green tea has become a staple in our daily diets.
What makes it so different from regular green tea? Barron says it's the powder form. "When you drink traditional green tea, you’re drinking a steeped infusion of the tea leaves," she said. "With matcha tea you’re drinking a powder made from the ground tea leaves mixed with water. This means matcha provides a more potent amount of both caffeine and antioxidants than regular green tea."
According to Barron, the polyphenols found in matcha have been tied to protection against heart disease and cancer, as well as better blood sugar regulation, anti-aging, and blood pressure reduction. "Another polyphenol in matcha called EGCG has been shown in research to boost metabolism and slow or halt the growth of cancer cells," she adds.
So what triggered the popularity explosion exactly? Barron attributes it to the time Gwyneth Paltrow Instagrammed her matcha latte in 2015.
Thanks to celebrities such as Katy Perry, media guru Arianna Huffington, and American director David Lynch, meditation is no longer just a trending topic or "out there" yoga practice; it's properly recognised as a revered wellness tool used daily across the world. Barron says the modern demand has seen an explosion in meditation apps (such as Headspace, Calm, and Stop Breathe and Think) and drop-in meditation studios.
"From Facebook notifications to Slack messages, there are so many more distractions in our lives now; people seem to be busier than ever," she said. "We’ve all heard again and again that meditation will help them relax and 'be present,' but for busy people with busy brains, meditating can feel like such a challenge. The new apps and gadgets offer free, short guided meditations to help users set daily and weekly meditation goals and stick to them." Just like Deepak Chopra’s one-minute meditation you can do at your desk with your eyes open. Now find me someone who doesn't have time for that.
If there's one health trend that really took off in 2015, it's the juice cleanse. Models and celebrities officially swapped their Starbucks lattes for a cold-pressed green juice, but according to Google Trends, our beloved nutrient-dense beverage is on the way out with a steady decline in interest since its peak in early 2014. But don't dismay just yet. "People still love juicing in order to increase their intake in fruits and veggies, but there are concerns around its environmental and health impacts," said Barron. "When juices are made, the pulp from the veggies and fruit and most of the fiber are discarded. This means juices are less filling than a green smoothie where the entire greens and fruits are blended within the drink."
Barron said another issue with juices is that they can contain a very high sugar content per bottle, especially the ones with apple juice. "Drinking green juices that are high in sugar (and low in fiber due to the removal of the fruit and veggie pulp) can set you up for a crash and hunger shortly after drinking them," she continued. "People are becoming more concerned about their sugar intake and more interested in consuming healthy delicious whole foods."
Move over veganism and vegetarianism, reducetarianism is here. The phrase was first coined by co-founder and president of the Reducetarian Foundation Brian Kateman after he introduced it on the TEDx Talk stage in 2014. The term (which continues to spike in popularity on Google Trends) empowers individuals to cut back on meat (meatless Monday's anyone?) and welcome more plants into their diet, which Kateman feels will be "at least, in part, a key to solving complex problems like global warming and the loss of biodiversity."
"Interest in reducetarian and vegan diets, as well as other plant-based eating and flexitarianism, continue to grow in popularity as concern grows over meat production’s environmental impact and the inhumane factory farming process," Barron told MyDomaine.
"The USDA expects a continued decline in meat consumption, with the average American eating 12.2% less meat today than in 2007," she continued. "In May, the Guardian reported veganism has increased 350% in the past 10 years in the U.K., largely among millennials who are becoming exposed to vegan eating options and recipes via Instagram. Many celebrities such as Beyoncé and Jay-Z have tried part-time vegan diets, and others such as Ellen Page, Alicia Silverstone, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Miley Cyrus, Russell Simmons, and Ellen DeGeneres are full-time vegans."
Buh-bye, rice, you've officially met your match. Cauliflower rice has arrived, and it's here to stay. Barron says it's exploded in popularity (Google Trends don't lie), and it's easy to see why. "It’s a low-carb, grain-free, paleo, and nutrient-rich substitute for regular rice," she said. "With just 25 calories per 1/2 cup of cauliflower rice compared with about 140 calories per 1/2 cup cooked white rice, you can see why diet- and health-conscious [people] are loving this."
We've written (and often debated) the "having it all" mantra and most of us have realised that it's almost impossible to achieve. According to Barron, both women and men in the U.S. are ditching the lean in message to "lean out" instead. They're opting out of marriage (America's marriage rate is at the lowest in 100 years), sex (millennials are having less), and babies (the U.S. fertility rate has fallen to the lowest levels on record).
"Women (and men) should opt out of careers and workplaces that hold them back," said Barron. "Women are still discriminated against in workplaces and getting paid less than their male counterparts, even getting passed over for promotions. If they feel they can’t be their authentic selves in a corporate environment, they subsequently choose to stay at home or start their own businesses."
Remember when Lena Dunham and Gisele Bündchen Instagrammed themselves doing acroyoga in 2015? Barron says that's also about the time when the acrobatics and yoga fusion took off. "It fosters communication and connection with your partner and it requires a ton of legs, arms and core strength to lift the other person into the air (when you are the base) and to keep yourself supported in the air (when you are the flyer)," she said. Google Trends agrees—acroyoga is on the rise.
We've heard of (and tried) many interesting wellness trends that have come and gone, but the sound bath is perhaps one of the most unique yet. The process involves you laying on the ground (on a yoga mat usually) while gongs, crystal singing bowls, and other calming instruments are played by a "sound healer" for around an hour. Barron said sound baths have become incredibly popular (especially in Los Angeles) with reservations a must as spots often sell out.
"The experience is incredibly relaxing, and the sounds transport your mind, taking it on a sensory journey, similar to the way a movie soundtrack does," she explained. "Sound baths can be something of a way to force your brain into a meditative state.
"Historically, sound has been used in various cultures for healing and wellness, from music and chanting/mantras to drumming, gonging, and crystal bowls. Sound baths can not only provide deep relaxation and the best night of sleep you’ve ever had, they can also help you feel more grounded and connected to the earth and the universe. Importantly, sound baths can also help alleviate issues such as anxiety, PTSD, sleep disorders, pain management, stress, and depression. I’m a huge fan!"
If you live in L.A., you can have a sound bath at Sound Space in Silverlake with Jamie Ford or with the "gong master" Guy Douglas at Unplug Meditation. Barron recommends taking a drive out to Joshua Tree to experience the Integratron's 60-minute sound bath.
Even if science says messy people are smarter, we've all succumbed to the KonMari method to eradicate clutter once and for all. And this minimal trend isn't going anywhere. "Getting rid of items and clothing that don’t 'bring you joy' is a great way to reinvigorate and bring energy to your home and life," said Barron. "Plus, the Kondo method of folding is addictive and creates way more space in your drawers." Learn what not to pack for a trip from a travel editor.
If you're an L.A. resident, you've probably seen the tank studios popping up in your neighborhood. Well you can expect to see more of them. The therapy first launched under the term sensory deprivation tank, but Barron says they rebranded to the "gentler-sounding" flotation therapy to widen its appeal. If you live in California, you can hit up Just Float in Pasadena, Float Lab in Westwood, and Pause in Venice.
"Floatation therapy is another easy way for stressed modern people to relieve stress, improve sleep, reduce chronic pain, and even enhance athletic performance," said Barron. "Being suspended and floating on the Epsom salts is an amazing feeling, and it brings you to a deep meditative state." Interest in float therapy has spiked on Google Trends in 2016.
Sweat lodges, or Temazcal as they're traditionally known in the Mayan and Aztec areas of Mexico, are becoming increasingly popular as part of meditation and/or yoga retreats where a traditional shaman recites chants and prayers to cleanse your mind and spirit. "Busy modern people are looking to ancient customs and cultures to help nourish, calm, and inspire their souls," said Barron. "The dark sensory deprivation of the sweat lodge or Temazcal, along with the heat and sweat releasing toxins and the challenge of facing your fears in the heat, help make Temazcal a memorable experience."
Ayuhuasca ceremonies are also on the rise with many coming to New York and Los Angeles as well as in the jungles of Peru.