One thing about a massive global health crisis: It makes us step back and consider what we’re putting in our bodies. While 2020 was all about comfort food, 2021 will be all about making ourselves as strong and healthy as possible (and hugging all our friends, which is also good for you). Read on to find out about the new superfoods you’ll see on menus and supermarket shelves in the year ahead — ingredients that will help you stay strong, lower stress and entice you to take some food adventures.
Fiona Zublin, Senior Editor
1. Irish Moss
We’ve all gotten used to eating seaweed in our sushi, but this red algae — which grows around the Atlantic and is popular in Jamaica — is starting to gain popularity as a health supplement for its concentration of vitamin A, folate and magnesium, among other nutritional benefits. It’s also marketed as an aphrodisiac in Jamaica, where men drink a canned beverage known as Jamaican Irish Moss — though there’s not much scientific backup for the virility claims.
What to make: Your own homemade Jamaican Irish Moss, of course! This recipe includes traditional healthy ingredients, like flax, and some not-so-healthy ones, like Guinness.
Long used in traditional Indian medicine, this root — also known as Indian ginseng — is thought to help with stress and anxiety. It’s part of a class of plants known as adaptogens, which seem to have beneficial effects on the body even if we’re not always sure why. Other popular uses for the herb include building strength and memory skills and shoring up sexual prowess. Some preliminary studies even show it can be useful against cancer cells, though that’s not yet been proven in humans.
What to make: This recipe for moon milk yields a buttery spiced drink to relax you (and bonus, the gold color comes from another superfood, turmeric).
Legalization of marijuana made huge strides in 2020, and purveyors of the herb are acting accordingly. While pot brownies have been around for decades, the legitimacy and ubiquity of weed and its byproducts are creating a revolution in CBD food. Useful in fighting insomnia, anxiety and even acne, CBD oil is a powerful new ingredient for your home kitchen (or just buy a bag of weed gummies if you can’t be bothered).
What to make: Try this instead of brownies: Smooth, luxurious chocolate mousse can be topped with raspberries and mint, and served in dainty, individual glass jars to make your first dinner parties of 2021 as special as they can possibly be.
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These became a lockdown superfood because they make you feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder preparing for winter on the prairie, and because you swiftly learn that you never again have to pay $6.99 for a jar of fancy brined cukes (or carrots or beets) if you just plan ahead a little bit. These probiotic-packed snacks also have lots of vitamins (depending on the veggies you use), and have even been shown to ease muscle cramps.
What to make: You can pickle just about anything (try a pickled green bean in your next bloody mary), but we love this quick pickled red onion recipe for its versatility. You can scatter them on tacos, spread them on avocado toast or just eat them out of the jar while you try to decide which leftovers to have for lunch.
We’re calling it: This is the next yuzu. These small fruits, which resemble limes, are mostly produced in the same Japanese prefecture where they’ve been growing since ancient times. They’re not usually eaten whole, but rather juiced and zested for their tangy flavor that works for both sweet and savory recipes. Fun fact: They’re a traditional ingredient in authentic ponzu, aka the sauce that makes poke so great.
What to make: Cookies! That’s always the answer. If you can’t get fresh sudachis, you can order bottles of the juice, which will be enough to make a batch of these soft, tart cookies that, with the addition of cream cheese and vanilla, mellow the citrus flavor.
OK, you already know about chickpeas. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s to stock our pantry with wall-to-wall chickpeas. They’re the perfect legume: Great in soups, curries, as a roasted snack, pureed into a spread — you can even use the liquid from canned chickpeas as a vegan egg substitute. But in 2021, maybe branch out and try chickpea pasta, a gluten-free option for your winter cupboard.
What to make: We had to rack our brains for a recommendation because most of our favorite pasta dishes are garnished with chickpeas — but throw those chickpea noodles into this top-notch puttanesca for a hearty weeknight dinner.
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Rich in fiber, antioxidants and magnesium, pumpkin seeds are a definite superfood. Sure, most of us only dig into these goodies once a year when we feel bad about wasting the guts of a jack o’lantern. But let 2021 be the year that you turn them into your work-from-home snack. Pepitas (that’s the cute name for them) are already a popular addition to Mexican dishes, and now they’re being used to make nouveau tofu known as Pumfu.
What to make: You can roast pumpkin seeds with just about any spice blend — salty, spicy or sweet. To blend two of those three, try this recipe, which combines cinnamon sugar and sea salt for a buttery, addictive snack.
2. Water Kefir
This is our new favorite way to get those probiotics. Unlike standard kefir, which ferments milk to make a yogurty beverage, this is closer to a LaCroix — just better for you. With origins in the 19th century, this supposedly immunity-boosting drink is both carbonated and fermented, giving it a vibe somewhere between nonalcoholic beer, kombucha and fancy soda. Our favorite fact: One of its colloquial names is California Bees.
What to make: Your own water kefir, of course! Order the grains from a specialist, then mix them with sugar and water, and leave it on your counter for a day or two. Once you’re comfortable, maybe start experimenting with flavors like ginger or hibiscus.
A staple in Ethiopian cuisine, this gluten-free grain is also gaining popularity with farmers responding to climate change. They are drawn to it for its drought-resistant properties while you may be more excited by the health perks of the world’s smallest grain. Teff is a good source of protein and contains lots of beneficial minerals, along with a high dose of the amino acid lysine.
What to make: You could try your hand at injera, the traditional bread that accompanies most Ethiopian meals. But why not begin with breakfast? This recipe for teff pancakes or waffles will give your day an unexpectedly delicious start, especially when you top it with caramelized bananas.
Now that everyone’s accepted fake beef and chicken patties, it’s time for the new frontier: fishless fish. With increased awareness of the way commercial fishing destroys ecosystems (and how warming oceans may be inhospitable to our favorite fish), many companies are turning to plant-based alternatives. Companies like Good Catch are hoping to satisfy your love of canned tuna with their products, though there’s no fishless alternative to sashimi-grade bluefin — yet.
2. Off to Sleep
In my day, we turned to caffeine-filled drinks to stay up all night. But 2020’s mass sleep disruption — 36 percent of Americans in one survey said fretting about COVID-19 was disrupting their rest — has created a new phenomenon: the sleep drink. Even Pepsi is jumping on the bandwagon with a somnolent beverage called Driftwell that it hopes will be the next chamomile tea.
3. Presentation Is Key
Pinterest’s annual analysis of trends across its user boards picked up on a new phenomenon: Everyone’s really into fancy charcuterie boards. But that doesn’t have to mean loading up on processed meats: Searches for “fruit charcuterie board” doubled year-on-year. This isn’t necessarily a healthy trend though, since searches for “dessert charcuterie board” tripled in the same period. It’s all about the choices you make.
The legendary star of Cooley High, The Wire and Fargo opens up about his glittering career. Glynn Turman is brought to tears when talking about co-starring with the late Chadwick Boseman, shares candid insights into his regrets and life lessons, and gives a sneak peek of his new movie, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Subscribe now to get this episode as soon as it drops.
Even though demand for coconut has grown massively across the West as coconut oil and coconut water gain more and more fans, the farmers who actually grow them are looking at a dire future, squeezed by low prices. An OZY Investigation shows how farmers in Indonesia and the Philippines may have to abandon the enterprise altogether.
You may have heard that these chlorophyll-packed sprouts can fight cancer, boost your immunity or rid the body of waste. Problem is, there’s no solid scientific evidence to back up these claims. So, if you are partaking, we hope you like the taste.
Some are predicting that this darling of ’80s hippie parents will make a comeback in 2021. And to that we say: over our dead bodies. Too long we were told that it was “just as good as chocolate.” Spoiler: It’s not.
Sure, Gwyneth Paltrow loves it and everyone is making masks out of it on TikTok. But this spice — which, yes, has anti-inflammatory properties — is irritating in another way: It stains absolutely everything. Don’t come crying to us when your skin, clothes, hair and fancy pots have a dull yellow sheen for weeks (or forever).