The year is already more than two weeks old, and we’re still trying to nail down exactly what we meant when we half-heartedly decided that 2016 would be the year we “eat better,” or whatever.
To help hold ourselves accountable with some concrete advice, we turned to Seamus Mullen, a chef, author, and health-food advocate who told us in no uncertain terms that 2016’s hottest food trend is one word: bacteria!
Mullen, who runs the revered New York restaurant Tertulia, spent most of his 30s in the excruciating grip of rheumatoid arthritis. Today he credits a bacteria-rich diet in large part for his recovery. Some less industrialized cultures, he says—like those in Papua New Guinea or Malawi—have a much lower incidence of autoimmune diseases (such as RA) thanks to the diverse bacterial makeup in their guts and on their skins.
“Soon,” Mullen says, “there’ll be more people like me who’ve seen a dramatic turnaround by adopting a diet that’s low in refined sugar and carbs, and embracing a complex relationship with bacteria.”
To get a jump on 2016, start with Mullen’s favorite gut-friendly, high-fiber treats—which, even if you don’t buy the bacteria part, just happen to be conventionally nutritious, too.
IN FOR 2016
How to eat it: That couldn’t be simpler. Season with salt and pepper, lemon zest, and olive or coconut oil. Rub with garlic, bake at 375 to 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until caramelized. Squeeze lemon and maybe some dried chilis on it afterward. Total prep time: Maybe two and a half minutes.
How to eat it: Make a pesto out of it. Blanch broccoli, then deposit into a food processor with garlic, almonds, anchovies, lemon zest, and dried chilis. It’s a perfect addition to grilled fish or lamb chops, and takes about five minutes from start to finish.
How to eat them: Cover four artichoke hearts with lemon juice, olive oil, herbs, a couple cloves of garlic, and a splash of white wine. Cover with a damp towel and microwave for two minutes.
How to eat it: Combine one egg, one clove of garlic, 2 tablespoons vinegar, and one-fourth cup of olive oil. Add salt, pepper, and maybe a tablespoon of mustard. Try not to smear it on a giant hoagie.
Or “wee microorganisms that are good for you”; they may be able to prevent or treat some intestinal illnesses. Probiotics can be found in kefir, natural yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut. Even dry-aged or cured meats, Mullen says, will help diversify your intestinal regions. Which is a good thing, for reasons you maybe don’t need us to spell out explicitly.
OUT FOR 2016
Anything that ends in “-ose”
Fructose, dextrose, sucrose, Axl Rose, probably. Look, everyone loves sugar. We’re programmed to love it, as our hairy, grunting, club-toting ancestors learned that “sweet” meant “not bitter,” which also meant “this probably won’t kill you.” But Mullen says that since sugar started to get refined in the sixteenth century, it became less like a flavorful evolutionary safety net and more like a fireworks burst of energy that quickly flames out. So drop it as best you can. No more fruit juice. No more packets dumped into your coffee. Even pull back on the barbecue sauce and ketchup.
Nonfat bran muffins
Most of those words sound healthy bordering on boring, but muffins are sneaky little sugar grenades. “A nonfat bran muffin will spike in a half hour,” Mullen says, “and that muffin becomes a muffin top.”
Once touted as the “healthy” sugar alternative, agave causes insulin spikes just like any other sugar.
Most legumes aren’t easily digested, and nearly all soy crops in the United States are GMO. Those two points alone should be enough reason to avoid tofu as a protein source. For a healthy plant-based diet, look for alternative sources of proteins like nuts.
The garbage in your pantry
Most humans agree: You cannot eat what doesn’t exist. Purge your pantry of crap—out with the Cocoa Pebbles, colorful Oreos, and anything else you know very well is artificial. “My grandmother had a lot of broccoli,” Mullen says. “You either ate it or went hungry. If the option for something bad isn’t there, you can’t eat it.”