Aquafaba to Spirulina: The Foods That Defined 2016

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Which foods wafted from obscurity to mainstream vernacular in the last 365 days? We took a look at the stories we wrote, the recipes we created, and the conversations we had around our offices every day to decide which foods shaped what we bought, cooked, and ate in 2016.

Alkaline Water

Often touted as a superior form of hydration, alkaline water is a less acidic water. Pure water has a pH of 7, but alkaline water has a pH above 7 (0 being the most acidic; 14 being the most alkaline). Alkaline water advocates claim this pH difference creates a more healthful environment in your body. The more basic water, they say, provides increased energy and may slow aging.

Aquafaba

Sometimes referred to by the less savory name of “bean juice,” aquafaba is the leftover liquid that remains after cooking a batch of beans. This magical liquid, which used to be poured down the drain on a regular basis, has been found to be a fantastic vegan egg alternative. Whipping it results in light, fluffy texture that mimics egg whites, but it also creates a great binder for baked goods or breading foods. Although most recipes usually use chickpea liquid, it works with other bean varieties as well.

Curcumin

A member of the ginger family, this naturally produced molecule is what gives some plants, like turmeric, their bright color and pungent flavor. Often sold as a supplement and natural food coloring, curcumin has been studied and found to have possible anti-inflammatory benefits.

Cucurbitaceae

An odd word for something you’re likely familiar with, cucurbitaceae is a plant family of over 900 species. Of those plants, the family includes some foods we can’t get enough of, like squashes, zucchini, pumpkins, and some gourds. Fall favorites like butternut or spaghetti squash are in the cucurbitaceae category, making it a favored family tree. As healthy eaters look for alternatives to traditional carb-heavy or gluten-rich foods, the cucurbitaceae family will continue to grow.

Kefir

A thick drinking-style yogurt, kefir is a product that has roots in the mountainous area between modern-day Russia and Georgia. Cultured five to eight times longer than traditional yogurt, it has a tangy flavor and contains a large amount of gut-healthy probiotic strains. Opt for the plain varieties, like in our Kefir Golden Milk, because flavored kefir usually has added sugar to counteract the sour taste.

Kombucha

A fizzy tea, kombucha has taken over the refrigerated drink section of many grocery stores. Tea, flavorings, and sugar are fermented with SCOBY (a special culture of bacteria and yeast) to create a probiotic-rich product. It has a similar yeast-y flavor to beer, due to the fermentation process. The bubbles make it a great gut-friendly soda alternatives. Just keep an eye out for plain or lightly sweetened versions to avoid overloading on sugar.

Spatchcock

Not the most appealing word but certainly among the hottest cooking techniques this year, spatchcocking can make a huge difference in cooking time for poultry. Roasting a chicken in under an hour? Easily do-able with this simple method. Spatchcocking requires cutting out the bird’s backbone, whether turkey or chicken, then spreading it out with the skin facing up. The spread-out meat will cook faster and more evenly, as explained in our How to Spatchcock guide.

Spirulina

Often advertised as a superfood, this fresh water blue-green algae has been a mainstay on many smoothie and juicing establishments’ menus. Usually served in a powdered form, spirulina quickly turns any dish where its included a green-ish hue. Spirulina offers health benefits through vitamins and antioxidants, but also contains a huge amount of protein. A single tablespoon contains four grams. If you’re not too into the flavor or look of spirulina, it’s also available in a tablet supplement form.

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