8 surprisingly popular foods most people wouldn't touch a few years ago

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8 surprisingly popular foods that most people wouldn't touch a few years ago
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8 surprisingly popular foods most people wouldn't touch a few years ago

Chia

“I used to think chia was only used to make those funny-looking chia pets," Dr. Stoler says. "I never heard of people actually eating it. Now it’s in everything. And with good reason: it’s easy to sprinkle chia onto foods to get a little more dietary fiber. Nearly all of us need more of that.”

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Quinoa

“No one could even pronounce this a few years ago," Dr. Stoler shares. "We certainly didn’t know what it was or how it could be used in our recipes. Now it’s the new 'it' grain, often replacing rice and pasta in our meals.”

Photo credit: Getty

Palm oil

Palm oil from Malaysia has also become popular in recent years. “Remember the whole ‘get palm kernel oil out of our movie popcorn’ thing? Now we’ve learned that there’s a huge difference between palm kernel oil and palm fruit oil," Dr. Stoler shares. "Leave the palm kernel oil behind. Palm fruit oil isn’t just a fat. It’s one of nature’s best sources of vitamin E tocotrienols, which are being studied for everything from their cardiovascular and brain benefits to their ability to support skin health. Certainly, no one is looking at butter or other vegetable oils and getting excited about their health benefits.”    

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Dark chocolate

While milk chocolate has been popular for some time, dark chocolate has recently gained popularity. “We were once a milk chocolate society. Now everyone is clamoring for dark chocolate. This is a little counterintuitive because people don’t have an inherent preference for bitter foods. As with arugula (another food that wasn’t on our plates until a few years ago), bitter foods are an acquired taste. We work hard to like them because of their health benefits.”

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Fair trade foods

“We have become a more global society, and our supermarkets are an excellent example of the impact that’s having on our everyday lives," Dr. Stoler says. "Americans are becoming more aware of where our food – such as coffee and chocolate – is sourced. We’re concerned about the harvesting conditions and environmental impact. Palm oil may be the next on this list. I’ve been to Malaysia, where the palm oil industry is a model for sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. The palm oil industry is making it possible for small family farmers to make a good living.”

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Kale

“This used to be the cheap greens used as garnishes at the deli counter," Dr. Stoler shares. "No one actually ate this. Now we know it’s a mighty food in terms of its nutritional value.”

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Agave

In terms of sweeteners, agave has also become more of a household name. “Up until a few years ago, the only thing most of us knew about agave is that it is used to make tequila. Now nearly every supermarket offers an array of agave sweeteners.”

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Sugar

“And speaking of sweeteners, sugar was on many people’s most-hated list. Now they’d rather have sugar than high-fructose corn syrup," Dr. Stoler shares. "In fact, we’re seeing an increased demand for colas that advertise 'real sugar' as one of their ingredients. I still don’t recommend added sugar, by the way. It has no nutritional value other than calories.”

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Registered dietitian nutritionist and author Dr. Felicia Stoler has spotted many food trends in her field of work. One thing she's noticed in particular is the fact that many foods rising in popularity were barely recognized just a few years ago. While people used to turn their noses up at kale, it's practically everywhere now -- and the leafy green isn't the only example of this.

Dr. Stoler has noticed that many foods were snubbed for years before we started learning about their nutritional value, including grocery store items like quinoa and chia seeds. She's pointing out the foods we're all pretty familiar with now, but may not have gone near just a few years ago.

Check out the slideshow above to learn about 8 surprisingly popular foods you may not have known about a few years ago.

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