After research surfaced years ago about the potentially harmful effects of parabens and aluminum, natural deodorants began gaining popularity. But until recently, it was difficult to find a chemical-free option that didn’t stain clothing or cause skin irritation (often from the inclusion of baking soda), and that actually kept wearers stink-free. This past year, however, new brands touting improved formulations flooded the market, bringing natural deodorants out of specialty shops and into big box stores where they were snatched up by the masses.
While they don't stop sweat like chemical-laden varieties, there are some pretty good options out there, and we only anticipate better sticks to hit shelves in the years to come.
The importance of consistent, quality became buzzworthy this year. An April New York Times article even went so far as to call sleep the new status symbol. Now, more than ever, we’re aware of just how sleep-deprived we are, and how necessary good sleep is for normal functioning.
Along with our renewed focus on sleep comes a variety of new products designed to help us do it better—like cooling pillows and sheets constructed from moisture-wicking fabrics. These sleep accessories are designed to steady body temperature while we snooze and banish night sweats, two things that can help us sleep more soundly. Needless to say, they’ve exploded in popularity (Who wouldn’t want to feel more rested?), and we suspect they’ll remain totally en vogue through 2018.
There was once a time when bodybuilders and personal trainers were the only ones privy to the power of protein powder. But in recent years, an increasing number of everyday people have been incorporating protein powders into their diets—and not just in their smoothies. Arguably the most popular powders of the lot? The organic kind made without artificial colours or sweeteners.
The only reason they fall toward the bottom of our list is because some registered dietitians like Christine Palumbo say it’s best to get your daily dose of protein from whole foods. “Buy a few eggs, separate the yolks from the whites, and whip those up,” Palumbo suggests. “That’s pure protein.” But if you don’t have time to cook, adding a spoonful of protein powder to a drink or a bowl of porridge will provide a healthy instant protein boost—so long as you buy one of these healthy powders or make your own.
Collagen took both the beauty and health industries by storm in 2017. It popped up in everything from supplements and flavoured water to granola bars and protein powders. Although there’s minimal research to confirm its oft-touted effects on skin and hair appearance (the primary reason it’s not at the top of our list) collagen can boost satiety (It’s a protein, after all!) and improve bone and joint health. In fact, taking a daily collagen supplement has been shown to relieve the soreness and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis-related knee pain.
Sunrise alarm clocks
If you’ve ever slept in a room with east-facing windows, you know a sunrise has the power to wake you from even the deepest slumber, without being overly jarring. A sunrise alarm clock (which simulates a real sunrise by emitting red hues that turn bright yellow by your set wake-up time) can give you that same sensation anytime, any place—and people are going wild over it. By mirroring the way you'd naturally wake up over a 30-minute period, it’s unlikely to awaken you during the middle of a REM cycle—which means you’ll feel more rested throughout the day. That said, this gadget is definitely one that we can see sticking around for the long haul.
Our microbiome—a fancy term for digestive system bacteria—is the latest source of weight loss intrigue. Sure, eating fibrous veggies and fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut will give you a healthy probiotic boost, but the latest research delves deeper into the correlation between certain gut bacteria and weight gain.
People looking to determine whether their guts have a healthy bacterial balance (which scientists hypothesise is key for weight loss and maintenance) have turned to microbiome testing, which involves sending a small stool sample to a lab where doctors compare its make-up to that of a “healthy stool.” Differences between your sample's bacterial components and the healthy ones' can give doctors insight into the factors affecting your weight—although the tests are a bit too preliminary to offer specific food recommendations. In years to come, as researchers discover clearer connection between metabolism and the microbiome, the testing trend will likely pick up steam.
While not exactly a new trend, plant-based diets held their own this year amid a slew of newer weight loss fads—and Palumbo thinks they’re here to stay. She makes an important distinction between “plant-based” and “vegan,” noting that the former emphasises plant products but doesn’t forbid meat and dairy, while the latter focuses on eliminating all animal products.
The health benefits of consuming more plants are well documented. Eating plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes—and dialing back on animal products—has been shown to lower cholesterol, aid weight loss, and promote healthy skin, hair, and nails. Although we expect more people to adopt a plant-based lifestyle in 2018, it’s important to note that nixing animal products isn’t a smart choice for everyone. “It’s not a good idea for children or pregnant women,” Palumbo says, “because you might not be getting enough kilojoules or essential vitamins like B12—which is only found in animal proteins.”
Pain-relief pillows, or pillows specially designed to relieve pain in the neck and back, were all the rage this year as increasingly more people sought new ways to improve the quality of their sleep. In the case of neck pillows, the best kinds are made with memory foam ergonomically designed to mold to your neck’s shape, while pillows for back pain are often placed between the legs to keep the hips and spine in proper alignment.
Because chronic neck and back pain is one of the primary causes of sleep deprivation and poor-quality sleep, these pillows are filling an important niche, racking up positive reviews on Amazon from people who swear by them as the only solution for a full night’s rest. As more people give them a whirl in 2018, we believe their popularity will continue to climb.
Decades ago, dietary fat was public enemy number one. Nutrition pros and doctors alike believed eliminating it from our diets could aid weight loss. But now we know better. A few years ago, new research into metabolism revealed that consuming too many carbohydrates may be what’s actually preventing so many people from dropping their excess weight. In turn, high-fat diets took over the health scene. This year, the ketogenic diet, one particularly extreme low-carb/high-fat plan, made headlines when celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Mick Jagger gave it a try. It dramatically reduces carb intake to just 5% of a dieter’s daily kilojoules. (This means someone consuming 6,200kJs would only be allocated 19 grams, which is what you’d find in one potato.) Fats occupy a whopping 80%, and proteins, the other 15%. The idea is that your body will use up those 19 grams of carbs so quickly that it will then start to break down stored fat for energy, which can spark weight loss.
More and more people are going keto because it’s a diet that actually doesn’t leave them feeling hungry. Many of the foods it includes—like dairy and meat, avocado, eggs and peanut butter—are particularly filling as a result of their high fat content. What’s more, being in a state of ketosis (when your body is burning fat instead of carbs) can diminish hunger. But because the diet’s tight restrictions force out many of the fruits and veggies we know to be healthy, it may not be something you’d want to follow long-term, according to Palumbo.
The Instant Pot
How does a simple cooking device land the number three spot on a list of all the top health trends of the year? Well, the Instant Pot’s ability to single-handedly tackle countless cooking tasks has earned it a cult following. It’s a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer and yogurt maker, and provides crock pot-like goodness in a fraction of the time normally required.
The magic of the gadget is that it makes meal prep a breeze. “Primarily cooking at home encourages health,” Palumbo says. "So the fact that the Instant Pot makes it easier for people to do that is just a really good thing.”
Intermittent fasting, or majorly reducing kiljoule intake during an extended period to achieve weight loss, was a hot diet in both 2016 and 2017. Followers of one particular fasting strategy called time-restricted feeding forgo food for a 12-hour period (say, 7 PM to 7 AM) and are permitted to eat whatever their heart desires the remaining hours of the day.
The other popular rendition of the diet, 5:2 fasting, involves a bit more adjusting, as followers choose two non-consecutive days per week to eat 2,000 kilojoules or fewer, and maintain their normal diet on the other five days. In either case, the big-time appeal of intermittent fasting lies in its requirement to change how and not what you’re eating—so you can lose weight without feeling restricted around the clock.
Topping the list of 2017’s biggest health crazes is Whole30. People couldn't get enough of the Paleo-esque diet this year—and for good reason. Whole30 is an elimination diet of impressive proportions, cutting out processed foods, dairy, grains, beans, legumes, refined sugar and alcohol for a whopping 30 (long) days. The idea is that by sticking to the other stuff—like meats and fish, greens, nuts, and seeds—you’ll reduce gut irritation and inflammation, and most noticeably, lose weight. Or at least jumpstart your weight loss, says Palumbo, who notes the relatively short duration of the diet and difficulty of keeping it up. “I think Whole30 will continue to be popular in 2018,” she says, “but it’s also important to remember that eliminating foods eliminates essential nutrients, too—and supplements aren’t always sufficient for getting those back.”