Remember the asparagus water incident of 2015, in which a Whole Foods store was selling bottles of water containing stalks of that vegetable for $6 each? Turned out that was an obvious wellness-inspired food trend gone too far. But more often than not, knowing whether a new health trend is actually healthy or just marketing hype can be challenging.

We scoured industry blogs and spoke with experts, including our own, to see which upcoming trends in 2018 are nutritional duds and which actually may hold water. Some of these 10 trends aren’t new, and some are older trends with a new spin, but industry experts say they’ll be particularly popular among consumers in the new year.

Unusual Herbs

When was the last time you sprinkled some chervil, lovage, lemon balm, or papalo on a dish? According to the National Restaurant Association, you’ll be seeing a lot more of these leafy green herbs—which are botanically similar to parsley, celery, mint, and cilantro, respectively—on restaurant menus, and possibly in grocery store aisles. Like all fresh herbs, they’re good for your health.

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“By adding herbs to your food, you can reduce or even eliminate the salt you add and still have a tasty meal,” says CR’s Ellen Klosz, a Consumer Reports nutritionist, “thereby reducing your sodium intake and making a healthier dish.”

Though they’re not typically eaten in large enough quantities to have a big effect on your daily intake of vitamins and minerals, they do help. One tablespoon of dried chervil, for example, has 26 milligrams of calcium and 90 milligrams of potassium; and lovage is high in vitamin C. Fresh versions of herbs can also be tossed into salads with other nutritious dark leafy greens.  

Hot Sauce

This spicy condiment has been a mainstay in consumers’ cupboards and fridges for decades, but 2017 saw countless unique varieties heating up industry trade shows and grocery store aisles, and that trend is expected to continue. Think everything from milder types with hints of ginger and citrus to painfully hot blends made with extra spicy varietals, such as ghost pepper and the Carolina Reaper.

And capsaicin, the compound that puts the heat in peppers, can have health benefits, too. Hot peppers have been associated with a longer life, improved blood flow, and a healthy metabolism, and may also be protective against bacteria that have been linked with inflammation and disease. A recent study found that spicy food lovers not only preferred to eat less salty foods but also ate an estimated half a teaspoon less of it per day than people who didn’t like spicy foods, and had lower blood pressure.

“Hot sauces provide a different taste profile to your food in a similar way that herbs do, and because many contain sodium, you don't have to add salt,” says Klosz. “It’s also low in calories and contains some vitamin C from the peppers.”

Watch the sodium content, though. For example, just 1 teaspoon of popular brand Frank’s Redhot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce has 190 milligrams of sodium. That can add up quickly if you’re not careful.

Sparkling Beverages

“Sugar is now the number one thing people want to avoid in their diets,” says Darren Seifer, a food and beverage industry analyst at The NPD Group, a market research firm. In fact, he says, 70 percent of adults are trying to either cut down or eliminate the ingredient altogether. And one strategy they’re using is cutting out sugary beverages. “The trends in beverages reflect a move toward purity,” says Seifer. “Particularly at restaurants, we see that bottled and seltzer water is a top beverage.”

Sparkling water is a bubbly alternative to sugary sodas and can help keep you hydrated, says Klosz. “Some people find it difficult to drink enough plain water because they simply find it boring, so sparkling beverages like seltzer are a good option,” she says, because the bubbles make it interesting. But check labels before you buy. While seltzer is usually sugar- and calorie-free, some sparkling waters contain sugars, and others have non-nutritive sweeteners (such as aspartame and sucralose). “They may not be noticeable on the label unless you look at the ingredients,” Klosz says. 

Better-for-You Snack Foods

Crispy snap peas, Brussels sprouts and beet chips, chickpea puffs—if anything was evident from last summer’s Fancy Food Show, it’s that healthier snacks are in. Our professional food tasters hit the show floor and sampled a variety of veggie-, nut-, and legume-based chips and puffs. While they’re not as nutritious as the raw ingredients they’re made from, they typically have more fiber, fewer calories, and less sodium than traditional crispy snack foods. For instance, our food tasters sampled the Vegan White Cheddar and Far Out Fajita Hippeas Organic Chickpea Puffs, which were both crispy and crunchy. Made with chickpea flour, rice flour, and pea fiber, they had more fiber (3 grams), fewer calories (130), and less sodium (135 to 150 mg) than a 1-ounce serving of Cheez Doodles.

Edible Flowers

Perennial plants such as pansies, nasturtiums, geraniums, and the like no longer just belong in gardens, they’re also right for your dinner plate. Most known for their place in Asian, European, and Middle Eastern cuisines, consumers and restaurant chefs in the U.S. are harnessing their color, fragrance, and flavor to punch up salads, soups, entrées, desserts, and drinks.

And they might have some health benefits, too. More studies are needed, but some suggest that their phytochemicals (plant compounds) might provide a shot of antioxidants, and help to reduce inflammation, cancer, obesity, and give your brain health a boost.

Just be careful what you pick: Not all flowers are edible; and flowers, plants, or bouquets purchased from nurseries, florists, or garden centers should not be eaten because they may have been sprayed with pesticides. When shopping at your grocery store, choose flowers packaged in rigid containers that are labeled as food.  

Meat Raised Without Antibiotics

We’ve all heard the bad news about antibiotic resistance: Overuse of these life-saving drugs, especially in agriculture, are driving up cases of antibiotic resistance in humans. In 2017 there was much progress in reducing antibiotic use in chickens raised for food, says Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports. "In 2018, we hope to see producers making more of an effort to eliminate them in beef and pork, too."

Buying meat and poultry raised without antibiotics or those labeled organic (organic standards prohibit antibiotic use) is a simple strategy consumers can use to help combat global antibiotic resistance. They can also support restaurants that have “no-antibiotic” policies. "Several large chains, including McDonald's, Wendy's, Subway, and Taco Bell, are now serving only 'no-antibiotic' chicken," says Halloran. "​In 2018, we hope to see at least some additional chains source some of their beef and pork from 'no-antibiotic' producers."

Functional Mushrooms

Varieties such as reishi, chaga, cordyceps, and lion’s mane will be starring in unlikely products, such as bottled drinks, coffees, smoothies, and teas, Whole Foods predicts. “The rich flavors also lend themselves to mushroom broths, while the earthy, creamy notes pair well with cocoa, chocolate, or coffee flavors,” the company said in a press release.

Though they don’t have magical healing properties, mushrooms in general offer a healthy mix of vitamins and nutrients, such as niacin, selenium, copper, and riboflavin. And their texture and savory flavor make them good substitutes for meat. 

Plant Protein

It’s exactly what it sounds like: protein that comes from plants—whether that’s lentils, quinoa, tofu, or flax seeds. Though this trend hasn’t gone totally mainstream yet, says Seifer, it’s something that seems to be catching on in processed foods, such as veggie burgers, crackers, and even pastas. Plant proteins can be a healthy source of protein, says CR’s Klosz, but some research suggests plants don’t provide as much of or the same kinds of protein as an animal, so take that into consideration if you’re relying on them as your main protein source. 


First, there was juicing; now, souping—a new trend of consuming a blended soup, which is often chilled, as a drink. Unlike juicing—which has been criticized for being high in sugar and low in fiber—souping at least retains some of the vegetable nutrients, and notably the fiber, that are often squeezed out of a juice. But like juices, they don’t have magical healing properties and won’t “detox” you, so to speak.

Soups in general can be healthy and satisfying because they’re often packed with nutrients and protein, but watch the sodium: Some premade products can contain more than half your daily allowance. Our food-tasting team sampled the Beet and Cabbage Fawen Drinkable Soup at last summer’s Fancy Food Show in New York City. It tasted fresh, with a mild beet and cabbage flavor and a hint of cumin. At 60 calories and 340 milligrams of sodium per cup, with no added sugars or artificial preservatives, and a thick, textured taste, these soups can be a healthy, filling snack for most people on the go.  

Activated Charcoal

Have you noticed this black powder turning up everywhere, from supplements, smoothies, cocktails, and lattes to face masks and bar soaps? The compound is a useful antidote for drug overdoses in the emergency room, but its promises to cleanse your insides, reduce body odor and bad breath, stop gas and bloating, brighten skin, clear acne, and even whiten teeth are largely unfounded. For better ways to accomplish all of these things, see our story here