trendy foods collage trendy foods collage From clean meats to functional mushrooms, there are a lot of buzzwords in food these days. Let us help you make sense of them. (Photo: Shutterstock, Impossible Foods)

What the heck is a cacao nib? And other wild food trends, demystified

The changing landscape of food can be pretty amazing. Allow us to clear up a few things.

In every walk of life, there are fads. An ever-changing landscape of That New Thing Everyone Wants to Do/See/Eat/Wear. In the world of food, there is a rotating smorgasbord of cuisines, cultures and combinations. Allow us to break down a few of these trends. For instance, what the heck is a ...

Cacao nib?

Cacao nibs on surface and in bowl Cacao nibs are bits of cocoa beans that are separated from their husks and often roasted. (Photo: marekuliasz/Shutterstock)

We've heard for years that a nibble of dark chocolate yields some pretty solid health benefits. But there's another part of the cocoa plant you might find even more beneficial – the bean itself! In this case, it's separated bits of the bean, packaged as cacao nibs. They can be purchased raw or roasted, and nowadays there are all sorts of uses for them – from easy snack to cupcake topper. They're not as sweet as chocolate, but they are loaded with antioxidants, especially if you eat them raw. They're also a major source of magnesium, which is crucial for muscle and nerve function.

Recipe idea: Try Sarah Berkowitz's cacao nib brownies, topped with matcha frosting ... which brings us to our next candidate ...


Matcha?

matcha green tea Matcha is a powdered green tea originating in Japan. (Photo: nunosilvaphotography/Shutterstock)

Matcha is a powdered tea that has Japanese origins, and it's actually been around for centuries, despite its relatively recent emergence into foodie culture. And it's become a darling of the wellness movement for good reason: like the nibs above, it's a great source of antioxidants. One, in particular, is something called a catechin, which is thought to fight against a certain type of bacteria that causes tooth decay.

Recipe idea: Sarah's lovely, playful green earth mint matcha cookies.


Edible flower?

zucchini micro greens salad The color in this salad says a lot about how good it is for you. (Photo: Jerry James Stone)

They look like they should be in your garden, not on your plate. But edible flowers are actually more ubiquitous than you think. There's lavender cupcakes and rose-flavored everything. Hibiscus teas are a lovely accent to a chilly morning. It's no wonder Whole Foods named edible flowers one of the hot trends of 2018.

Recipe idea: Jerry James Stone's zucchini and micro greens salad, as well as Sarah's luscious lavender vanilla cupcakes.


Functional mushroom?

Bhutan mushroom on black background, a kind of Oyster mushroom, tasty herbal vegetable for health concern people, improve body function, protect from disease, cancer, heart disease, Bhutan mushrooms are associated with protection from diseases like heart disease and cancer. (Photo: ideapix69/Shutterstock)

If you can eat it, that makes it ... functional, right? That was our first thought, too. But there's actually a specific meaning to the term "functional mushroom." Originating in Chinese medicine, the term refers to the types of mushrooms that are used for their medicinal properties and incorporated into the wellness industry in products like smoothies, coffees and soups. You might see a few beverages containing functional mushrooms that promise superfood-like benefits with every sip. And they're even showing up in haircare products.

So next time you're at the juice bar, ask for the 'shroom treatment. It might be just the fungus you'll fancy.

Recipe idea: Try Sarah's cuisine-crossing shiitake kale risotto.


Clean meat?

A real burger (left) and Beyond Meat's tasty, plant-based alternative (right). A real burger (left) and Beyond Meat's plant-based alternative (right). (Photo: Beyond Meat)

More than a trend, this clean meat phenomenon is actually an industry. In short, it's a revolutionary concept aiming to replace conventional meats with plant-based and lab-grown versions indistinguishable from the real thing.

One company at the forefront of this growing craze, called Impossible Foods, uses a plant-based heme protein to replicate the meaty taste and juicy texture in its burgers. It's the brainchild of Stanford biochemistry professor Patrick O. Brown, renowned vegan Israeli chef Tal Ronnen and cheese maker Monte Casino from Le Cordon Bleu in Boston.

The Impossible Burger already being offered in restaurants from coast to coast, to incredulous customers who just can't believe it's not real meat. Another company, Beyond Meat, sells its faux beef and chicken patties, made from soy protein, pea protein isolates, yeast and other ingredients, in most grocery stores.

Recipe idea: Try using a few Beyond Meat patties in these veggie burger tacos from Jerry James Stone.

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