Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

Every new year brings a fresh batch of trendy ingredients and dishes that impact how we eat. From eco-friendly growing practices to quinoa's first cousin and an insect-based flour, here are the dozen foods we expect to get big in 2017. 

December 14, 2016

Will cactus water be this year's kombucha? Or could faux bloody burgers trump jackfruit as the new go-to vegan meat alternative? Only time will tell, but if we had to bet on it, we suspect these dozen foods will make the biggest waves in the food world in 2017.

1. Cactus Water

Move aside, coconut water. There's a newer (and stranger) water in town. Drawn from the fruit of the prickly pear cactus, cactus water is a new hydrating drink marketed as a preferred post-workout beverge. The fruit is puréed and combined with lemon juice and filtered water to create the final product. This plant-based drink has only half the calories and sugar of coconut water, and it is rich in taurine and antioxidants. Its flavor is described as mellow with notes similar to berries, watermelon, and kiwis.

 Photo: PhenomArtlover / Getty

2. Biodynamic

A biodynamic label on a piece of food tells you a bit about how that food was grown. The non-profit Demeter USA certifies biodynamic farms. Before a farm can earn that distinction, it has to meet the requirements of the National Organic Program, and a practicing biodynamic farm has to meet all organic farming requirements, focus on keeping everything generated within their own farm (think animals for manure, medicinal plants for pest control, etc.), and must set aside 10 percent of their acreage for biodiversity. In short, anything you buy labeled "biodynamic" is similar to organic, but with a bigger emphasis on sustainability.

3. Breadfruit

You may have recently seen breadfruit popping up in food-related headlines. It's touted as the new superfood, but that claim has nothing to do with the food's antioxidant levels or purported ability to prevent certain diseases. Instead, it earns that honor almost entirely because of claims that it could help world hunger. This football sized fruit is grown in tropical areas like Samoa, Hawaii, and the Caribbean, but it isn't widely available in the United States. Breadfruit is easy to grow and abundantly producing, which means it can produce food to feed people more easily than many traditional foods.. It is high in carbohydrates (energy), fiber, potassium, iron, and other nutrients. Its nutritional makeup makes it ideal for people who need to pack in calories and nutrients easily to avoid hunger or starvation. The food's texture is described as bland and mushy, so don't expect to see it on menus near you any time soon. Still, this new superfood may be changing the lives of those in need, and that's a food we're certainly excited to see.

4. Kaniwa

Yes, the word looks an awful lot like how quinoa is pronounced, and you can expect to see a lot more from the mighty grain's phonetically similar cousin in 2017. Grown in South America, this small seed is half the size of quinoa, with a reddish appearance and nutty flavor. The texture retains a slightly crunchy bite, making it a fun texture twist for side dishes and bowls. This little grain is packed with protein, fiber, and it's naturally gluten-free. We expect to hear more about this super seed soon.

5. Moringa

Moringa is described by some as "the new turmeric." Native to sub-Himalayan areas, moringa is a green leafy plant that is packed with vitamins like A, C, and E. Studies have found it may help fight inflammation, boost brain health, and protect the cardiovascular system. It's commonly sold in powdered or oil extract versions. The powder, studies suggest, is safe for human consumption, although large doses may have a laxative effect. The extracts have a potential to be toxic, too, so avoid those. Moringa powder can be added to your morning smoothies for a quick nutrition burst, or add it to warm water and drink it as you would tea.

 Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

​​​6. Fermented Veggies

Fermenting raw produce generates gut-healthy probiotics. Not to be confused with pickling, fermenting transforms food by unleashing benign bacteria that generate a highly acidic environment. The bacteria feed on sugars that are present and generate more healthy bacteria. Foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha are healthy, fermented sources of probiotics as long as they are not pasteurized. With the rise in probiotic interests and gut health, we expect to see more and more fermented foods on the grocery store shelves. If you're into DIY, many fermented foods, like sauerkraut and labneh, can be easily and safely made at home.

7. Cricket Flour

Eco-friendly, sustainable cricket flour packs plenty of protein and iron into small doses. While eating bugs isn't a new concept (millions of people around the world consume insects on a regular basis), interest is just beginning to spike in the United States. Advertised as an environmentally-friendly source of protein and a bug you can easily raise in your own home, crickets are causing quite the intrigued stir among food and sustainability advocates. For those too squeamish to consume crickets whole, which are often described as "crunchy" when properly cooked, cricket flour is available. Less obvious and likely slightly easier to stomach than the whole bugs, cricket flour can easily be added to baked goods and other dishes for a boost of protein and iron. 

8. Grade B Maple Syrup

Boasting more antioxidants and a deeper maple flavor than traditional Grade A maple syrup, Grade B is the new syrup to reach for in 2017. Grade B maple syrup is darker and bolder than what usually comes to mind when you think of maple syrup. Still, Grade B is no lesser in quality than A. The only difference is in color and flavor. At a cheaper price and with more nutrients, it's a great choice to get more "bang for your buck."

9. Sweet Potato Leaves

We can't get enough of the sweet root-tuber, so why not appreciate its leaves too? A perfect example of no-waste, root-to-fruit cooking, these tender, lightly peppery leaves work in the same ways you would use spinach or kale. Excellent for salads, stir-frys, or stews, there's a world of uses for this flavorful food. Find them at farmers markets and Asian groceries.

10. Skyr

Just beginning to make a stir in the United States, this Icelandic low-fat, high-protein dairy is loaded with live cultures and has a creamy-smooth texture that's thicker than Greek yogurt. Considered a type of cheese in its country of origin, skyr is most commonly found in the yogurt section in U.S. grocery stores. To create skyr, the producer heats the milk with a small portion of previously made skyr. Then, you set up a drainage system. Drape cheesecloth into a strainer, and set the strainer over a large bowl. Scoop the mixture onto the cheesecloth. Cover the bowl, and let the skyr sit and drain for hours, even after the curds have formed. In a few hours, you will have a homemade skyr-style yogurt. If you'd rather buy than DIY, our favorite skyr brands are Icelandic Provisions and Siggi's, available at stores nationwide.

11. Beyond Meat Burgers

Vegans and vegetarians, rejoice: Beyond Meat's plant-based burgers, with a whopping 20g protein per patty, offer a pretty darn close approximation of ground beef taste and texture. Our taste test even left some staff member saying "You could serve me this at a barbecue, and I just might not know the difference." With the environmental and ethical impacts of meat consumption on many minds, plant-based options like the Beyond Meat Burgers are predicted to rise in popularity in the coming years. Currently, these faux burgers are available at select Whole Foods in the meat section.

12. Alternative Pastas

While not exactly a new concept, alternatives to traditional wheat pasta are slowly making themselves a small section at your local grocery store. Brightly-colored products created with red lentils, black beans, and even edamame offer classic pasta texture while packing in the protein and being totally gluten-free. A side-by-side comparison of red lentil pasta and whole-wheat pasta reveals that the legume-based product has 10 more calories, 1.5 fewer grams of fat, and 12 more grams of protein. 

We don't know where 2017 will lead us in terms of government, fashion, or music, but we have a pretty good idea where we're headed in the food world. Look for these dozen trends in the coming year. Each has the potential to dramatically shift a major portion of the food culture, so get ahead of the curve by exploring the food trends we think will have you eating better, healthier and more sustainably.