For the last six years, Natural Grocers has gathered its own nutrition education and purchasing and analytics teams, health and wellness experts, Registered Dietitians, and Certified Natural Foods Chefs to identify the Top 10 Nutrition Trends for the year ahead. Together, these specialists study consumer-shopping preferences and the latest research, along with the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on communities to predict these rising and shifting trends.
“As we look back at another year in which our communities have felt the obvious and hidden effects of a global pandemic, there is no denying that people are changing how they approach their health,” said Shelby Miller, M.S., Natural Grocers’ manager of scientific affairs and nutrition education, in a statement. “People are considering how their everyday choices affect their long-term health, and our trends for the coming year reflect how those decisions are intricately tied together to shape our wellbeing and our ability to thrive and flourish.”
Natural Grocers’ Top 10 Nutrition Trends for 2022
1. From Lifespan to “Healthspan”
While the focus is often on achieving a long lifespan, Natural Grocers asks, "What about healthspan—the years of life in which we are healthy and free of disease?" With a growing realization that healthspan is as important as lifespan, in 2022, consumers will focus not only on how long they can live, but also on how healthy they can live those years, predicts the company.
Consumers will seek to support health with diet, lifestyle and supplements throughout their lives, the Lakewood, Colo.-based company predicts. “[People] can maintain good health at any age by modulating inflammation in the body, supporting healthy blood sugar balance, reducing free radicals, supporting immune resilience, and maintaining liver health—a major, but often overlooked, cornerstone of health. As part of the focus on health in 2022, consumers will increasingly demand foundational supplements like a multivitamin; B complex; magnesium; vitamins C, D, and E; lecithin; milk thistle; and lutein.
2. Daily Immunity Support
Making an appearance on Natural Grocers’ trend list two years in a row, daily immune support is a big deal, says the company. “We know that getting sick is inevitable, but we’ve also come to understand that by nourishing our immune system every day, even when we aren’t sick, it will be primed and ready to go when the inevitable happens, making symptoms less severe and the duration shorter.”
This daily strategy includes getting sufficient amounts of immune-building nutrients daily, like vitamin C, vitamin D, and quercetin, but also demands a healthier diet. Reducing sugar and industrial seed oils like corn, soy and cottonseed as well as increasing physical activity will help to improve overall health, build immune resilience in the face of viruses like COVID-19, and extend healthspan.
3. Pets Get Healthy Too
Pet ownership skyrocketed during the pandemic, and just as people took an increased interest in supporting their own health and wellness, pet owners are now applying the same high standards when shopping for their furry friends. As pet owners become increasingly conscious pet parents, Natural Grocers predicts a continued increase in the demand for organic pet food and treats.
4. Women and BIPOC-Owned Health and Wellness Businesses Will Continue to Shine
Women and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) have always been an integral part of the entrepreneurial backbone of this country, and the health and wellness space is no different, says Natural Grocers, which predicts more women and BIPOC-owned businesses will bring their expertise, creativity and knowledge to the mix in 2022.
5. Pollution Nutrition
It is estimated that air pollution leads to at least seven million deaths worldwide every year, says Natural Grocers. Exposure is associated with asthma and lung dysfunction, neurological damage, heart disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality. In 2022, Natural Grocers predicts consumers will prioritize food choices to minimize air pollution from agricultural sources like Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and conventionally farmed crops. This includes choosing regeneratively-raised animal products and buying USDA-certified organic products as often as possible.
The grocer further believes people will fortifying their bodies with nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, antioxidant vitamins C and E, as well as super nutrients like sulfurophane, all of which have been shown to protect against the negative health effects of air pollution, says the company.
6. Healthy Snacking and Sensible Indulgences
“The COVID-19 pandemic transformed snacking,” says Natural Grocers. While snack sales surged earlier in the pandemic, as consumers sought comfort in a box of cookies or bag of chips, the pandemic also piqued consumer interest in finding snacks that feel indulgent, but are healthy. In 2022, expect to see the continued rise of sensible indulgences—treats such as dried or frozen fruit that bring joy, while also allowing consumers to maintain health and wellness goals.
7. Triumph Over Burnout
As people struggle with the emotional long-haul of living through a pandemic, they are also picking up new tools to better manage stress, says Natural Grocers, which predicts a great bounce back in 2022. “We’ll see an increased demand for adaptogens like rhodiola and cordyceps mushrooms, and nutrients like B1 (thiamin) and phosphatidylserine (PS) that help our bodies negate the harmful impact of stress,” says the company. These nutrients have been shown to boost motivation, support energy and decrease fatigue.
8. A New Look at Metabolism
While science has long said metabolism begins an inevitable decline as people age, Natural Grocers is taking stock in a new study published in the journal Science, which shows that metabolic rate doesn’t decline as early as was once thought. Instead, the study finds metabolism plateaus in people’s 20s to 50s, but doesn’t decline until their 60s and 70s.
“This has caused a significant paradigm shift because it means we have so much more control over our metabolism than previously thought,” says Natural Grocers, which predicts increased demand for products and lifestyle habits that help maintain metabolism by preserving muscle mass and supporting mitochondrial health. Supplements like branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), acetyl-L-carnitine, CoQ10, and alpha lipoic acid (ALA) will grow in popularity, says the company.
9. Virtual Wellness
Natural Grocers sees continued demand for everything from virtual therapy to virtual meetings to virtual school even after the pandemic is over. The company says it plans to continue its free virtual nutrition and health coaching.
10. Flavor Meets Function in the Kitchen
Finally, Natural grocers sees herbs and spices that make food more flavorful and healthful resonating with consumers. In 2022, ingredients such as cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, basil thyme, sage and rosemary will take center stage in the kitchen, predicts the company.
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