Nutrition Experts Say This Ingredient Was The Wellness Hero Of 2020

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The end of a year is always a good time for reflection, and that includes a look back at some of its biggest standouts. The business of health and wellness has only grown larger over the past 12 months, and it seems poised to continue this exponential growth in 2021. That said, before examining what's on the horizon for this lifestyle practice, it's interesting to take a deeper dive into the year's biggest trends — including the 2020 wellness ingredients that appeared on shelves, in pantries, and on plates seemingly everywhere you looked.

Whether you cooked with them, swallowed them in capsule form, or added a little to your morning smoothie, a few ingredients were so buzzworthy this year, that if you consider yourself connected to the wellness word, you've probably tried them by now. But if not, they don't seem to be going anywhere for a while, according to nutrition experts. So what's all the fuss about? Ahead, learn a little bit more about eight ingredients that basically defined the 2020 wellness scene — and see if any might be worth inviting — or keeping — in your routine for the year ahead.

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Biggest Wellness Ingredients of 2020: Medicinal Mushrooms

Last year medicinal mushrooms were a barely burgeoning trend in beauty and supplements, but in 2020 they became more accessible than ever. A few examples include reishi, lion's mane, chaga, and turkey tail, which have varying benefits and are available in wide variety of forms (tinctures, culinary powders, etc). "Lion's mane is a culinary medicinal mushroom — both nutritious when eaten, and can be taken functionally as a supplement," explains Tonya Papanikolov, founder of medicinal mushroom company Rainbo. "Lion's mane is not only delicious, it's a brain-protective mushroom that can aid in cognitive functions like focus, mood, memory, and creativity. Turkey tail is the most widely studied medicinal mushroom of all! This is a powerful immune-protecting mushroom with antioxidants and polysaccharides that help ward off and protect us from disease and disharmony. Additionally turkey tail may improve gut bacteria balance!"

Biggest Wellness Ingredients of 2020: Turmeric

If you've made it through 2020 without a golden latte, it might be worth making this soothing tonic your new winter drink — and that's all thanks to superfood turmeric. "Turmeric has had another major glow-up this year, and with good reason," says Caitlin Self, MS, CNS, LDN of Frugal Nutrition, "Turmeric is anti-inflammatory, boosts your immune system, and supports liver detoxification. It's great to add to veggies and eggs, soups and curries, and in the ever-popular golden latte."

Biggest Wellness Ingredients of 2020: Adaptogens

In addition to the aforementioned mushrooms, other types of adaptogens similarly gained momentum this year, and Self credits their popularity to an increase in stress. "Adaptogens of all kinds are popping up constantly as individuals find ways to help their bodies cope with the stress of the last several months," she explains. "It's not only about ashwagandha anymore as energy-boosting adaptogens like eleuthero and rhodiola find their way into mainstream lingo. You can find powders, tinctures, and capsules containing these ingredients to help calm and center your overworked mind."

Biggest Wellness Ingredients of 2020: Sweet Potatoes

"The sweet potato has been a staple root vegetable existing in the background of many diets, but throughout 2020 it became a go-to wellness ingredient," shares Lisa Richards, nutritionist and author of The Candida Diet. "It is a nutrient dense food that provides fiber for gut health, antioxidants for cellular health and inflammation, as well as micronutrients for immune support."

Biggest Wellness Ingredients of 2020: Plant Protein Powder

Some concern people have in switching to a vegan lifestyle is being able to maintain a balanced diet, but an increase in the variety and availability of plant-based protein powders had made this an easier problem to solve in 2020. Think pea, chia, pumpkin seed, brown rice, and more. And Richards adds that these plant proteins are even being blended with animal proteins (in burger form, for example) so that carnivores can still reap their benefits.

Biggest Wellness Ingredients of 2020: Fermented Foods

"Fermented foods have become popular over 2020 as a means of boosting the immune system and improving digestion," explains Richards. "Some of the more common sources of fermented foods to become staples this year include kefir, miso, kombucha, and kimchi to name a few."

Biggest Wellness Ingredients of 2020: Garbanzo Beans

"Over the last several years we have seen the rise of cauliflower being used as an ingredient in everything from pizza crust to pretzels," says registered dietitian and spokesperson for PUR, Melissa Rifkin. "Similarly, beans, especially garbanzo, seem to be gaining popularity as a healthful ingredient and stand-alone food item. Keep your eye out for bean-based items, like roasted and seasoned chickpeas and bean-based flours, or even bean cheese."

Biggest Wellness Ingredients of 2020: Coffee Alternatives

"While many of us enjoy the routine of morning coffee, plenty of people are switching to coffee alternatives with less caffeine and more health benefits," says Rifkin. Besides mushroom-based blends, the wellness expert and influencer explains that cocoa beans and chicory root are great options for replacing your usual cup of joe.

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