Natural Grocers dials up consumer health trends for 2020

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Natural Grocers dials up consumer health trends for 2020

By Gina Acosta - 12/13/2019

Lakewood, Colo.-based Natural Grocers has seen some success recently, increasing net sales in its fourth quarter by nearly 4.5% and by 3% for the year. The 152-store company also loves its private brands, launching 47 private brand products this year and looking to add 70 next year.

For perhaps a glimpse at what might be included in those private brand products, take a look at 10 trends the company has identified as being the most important in nutrition and health for 2020.

Here are the fast-growing grocer’s top consumer trends looking toward the new year:

1.  Begin to Address the Single-Use Plastic Problem

Single-use plastics require vast quantities of fossil fuels and water, which contribute to climate change and pollution. Plastic bags, bottles, utensils, straws and food packaging are used briefly, but live on in the environment for generations. The good news? The demand for plastic-free alternatives is higher than ever, and because of this growing consumer focus, the industry is responding. The more we reduce the demand for single-use plastics and instead purchase reusable bottles, bags, straws and utensils, the better it is for our health and the environment.

TRY THIS TREND: Invest in Stasher Bags for plastic-free lunches or swap out bottled liquid soap for Moon Valley Organic bar soaps.

2.  Foundational Supplements to Help Us Thrive

Some say that eating a proper diet is all you need to get the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients required for optimal health. Despite our best efforts, however, we often miss the nutritional mark by eating suboptimal foods that lack key nutrients. A simple daily regimen of Five-to-Thrive Foundational Supplements can help catapult us into optimal health.

Start with a multivitamin, which will fill in the nutritional gaps where many of us fall short and provide us with a healthy foundation to build on. Next up are the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, found in fish oil or algal oil supplements. They're essential for optimal brain function, cardiovascular health, and maintaining healthy blood pressure and blood sugar.

Lutein is the third nutrient, critical for brain, eye and skin health. Fourth is magnesium, which is crucial for relaxing muscles, supporting calm nerves and a calm response in the face of stress, building healthy bones, and supporting cardiovascular health, healthy blood sugar balance and healthy blood pressure. And last, but certainly not least, we have the supernutrients. This is where you get to personalize based on your health goals. Supernutrients include turmeric, milk thistle, mushroom supplements, CoQ10, berberine, grape seed extract, beets and greens.

TRY THIS TREND: If you haven't already, set yourself up for success with such foundational nutrients as a multivitamin, EPA & DHA, lutein, and magnesium. Talk to a Nutritional Health Coach (NHC) at Natural Grocers to figure out which super nutrient can help you best reach your health goals.

3.  Salt & Butter Are Healthy. Yes. Healthy.

Modern nutrition science is forcing us to question many long-accepted nutritional paradigms. Two of the paramount examples are salt and butter – ingredients that make healthy vegetables more delicious -- seriously, name one vegetable that isn't improved with salt and butter -- but that we've all been taught to feel guilty about indulging in. However, new data shows that we might suffer from getting too little sodium and fat, rather than too much. 

Sodium is, in fact, a necessary electrolyte. In addition, fats, especially saturated fats, have been demonized for far too long. Research shows that saturated fats aren't detrimental to health and in fact play a crucial role in our body's daily functioning. The real culprit driving poor health is sugar and chemically modified fats like mono- and diglycerides and hydrogenated vegetable oils.

TRY THIS TREND: Add some Redmond Real salt and lemon juice to your water bottle, and if you haven't jumped on the Kerrygold Butter bandwagon yet, take the leap.

4.  Responsible Plant-Based Choices

Climate change is the single most important challenge facing us today. The plant-based diet is a popular habit many are adopting, with hopes of reducing their carbon footprint and protecting Mother Earth. As well intentioned as the plant-based approach may be, if we really think about the foods we eat, many of the mainstream, plant-based products aren't as earth-friendly as we might think.

Plant-based meat substitutions that rely on conventionally grown primary ingredients are the opposite of good for the environment. If GMOs, fertilizers, pesticides and other industrial farming practices were used to make your soy burger, it's more detrimental to the environment. If plant-based is the route for you, try to shift to truly sustainable plant-based food choices. Support organic farming methods that foster soil health and can reverse climate change by essentially sucking the carbon out of the atmosphere and depositing it into the ground, where it belongs.

TRY THIS TREND: Look no further than the organic produce at Natural Grocers (it's the only produce the chain carries) and hunt for that USDA organic seal.

5.  Brain Hacking: Nutrients to Shield Our Brains from Stress

Let's face it, we're all stressed out, and whether it's acute or chronic, stress is bad news for our brains – you've likely experienced the mental exhaustion, poor mood, and lack of focus and memory that result from stress; even worse, prolonged stress can lead to depression and anxiety. Become proactive at protecting your noggin from the negative effects of stress with nutrients shown to support the brain's ability to cope with it.

Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a phospholipid that studies show can help improve cognition and support the hippocampus, a region of the brain that bears the brunt of stress. Acetyl-L-carnitine has the unique ability to pass through the blood-brain barrier, where it supports mental energy, improves cognitive function and focus, and fights depression. Mushrooms like lion's mane, cordyceps and reishi support mental acuity, energize the brain, and support concentration and clarity during times of stress.

TRY THIS TREND: Read up on the scientific research behind phosphatidylserine, acetyl-L-carnitine and the mood-supporting mushroom supplements and find out how they can support you.

6.  Health Coaching: Offering the One-on-One Support You Need

The average patient-doctor interaction lasts a mere seven minutes. This doesn't offer nearly enough time to provide one-on-one, personalized wellness solutions for your health concerns. Thus, more and more people are turning to health coaches for nutrition know-how based on science and validated research.

Natural Grocers puts the emphasis on nutrition with Nutritional Health Coaches (NHCs), who receive more than 160 hours of science-based continuing education and nutrition training annually. The aim of the NHCs is to help individuals live their best and healthiest lives by focusing on their individual health needs and goals in a personalized and supportive way. NHCs are all credentialed, and all of their services, including 90-minute individualized coaching sessions, are free.

TRY THIS TREND: Reach out to a NHC and rewrite your health-and-wellness story.

7.  Regenerative Agriculture to Fight Climate Change

There's nothing more important than our food choices when it comes to our own health and to the health of the planet. Climate change is a daunting challenge facing all of us, and we can all make a difference by choosing food grown using regenerative agriculture. Organic produce, grass-fed and pasture-based animal products, and biodynamic olive oil and wines are foods that not only support our overall health and well-being, but also have the potential, when done right, to help reverse climate change.   

Regenerative agriculture is defined as farming and grazing practices that, among other things, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded nutrients, resulting in soil that can sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and improve the water cycle. The folks at Natural Grocers believe that our food choices can effect real change, and that one of the most measurable ways to support the health of the planet is to support farmers and ranchers practicing regenerative land management.

TRY THIS TREND: Try Thousand Hills grass-fed ground beef or beef jerky, and read up on how regenerative agriculture is making it easy to inspire change with our food choices.

8.   Biohack Your Health with Methylation Adaptogens

"Methylation" has become a buzzword among the health-and-wellness community, and while it may not yet be on your radar, it's one of the most important biohacks for health out there, and methylation adaptogens make it easier to manage. Methylation is required for just about every single process that goes on in the body, from gene expression, to the production of RNA and DNA, to the production of neurotransmitters, to mitochondrial health.

Balance is the key, however. When the body doesn't over- or under-methylate, all of these systems work and we feel great. We sleep well; have loads of energy; can focus, remember and learn; our joints don't ache; and our cardiovascular system is in tip-top shape. On the other hand, methylation imbalances can lead to a wide range of conditions, including depression, anxiety, heart disease, increased risk of cancer, hormone imbalance, poor detox capacity, infertility, birth defects, fatigue, and low energy.

Methylation adaptogens help to restore methylation balance include nutrients like lutein, curcumin and grape seed extract. These are nutrients that gently support the body's own ability to stabilize and balance methylation, without the risk of over- or under-methylating.

TRY THIS TREND: Explore the new research on methylation and hypermethylation and check out some of the methylation adaptogens that are also foundational supplements, such as lutein.

9.  Mental Well-being Prioritized

Mental health is just as important as physical health, and we need to shift focus to supporting mental well-being with a healthy diet and the right supplements.

Explore ways to support mental health with products such as Bach flower remedies and essential oils, as well as supplements like magnesium and acetyl-L-carnitine, all powerful tools to help bring balance and calm. Take a holistic approach and look to modalities like meditation, emotional freedom technique (EFT), body energy work and talk therapy, in combination with nutrition and supplements, to support mental well-being.

TRY THIS TREND: Check out Bach Rescue Pastilles and the new Calm magnesium gummies, or pick up one of the new EO essential oil rollers to keep in your back pocket for when you need some re-centering.

10.  Support Your GI Tract from Top to Bottom

Learning to appreciate our gut bugs has opened our eyes to the idea that having healthy digestion is the "first domino" to supporting the rest of our health — including our immune system, brain health, and more. Supporting digestion isn't simply taking a probiotic and loving your large intestine, however. Learn how to support the health of your entire gastrointestinal tract and how to promote intestinal wellness with nutrients like DGL, zinc carnosine and L-glutamine that nourish and heal the lining of the intestinal tract. Digestive enzymes are also coming to center stage to support the small intestine and its daunting daily task of breaking down the foods we eat into the nutrients we need to support every single cell and bodily process.

Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage has more than 3,500 employees and operates 154 stores in 20 states.

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