Hippocrates is famously credited with saying, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Often referred to as “The Father of Medicine,” Hippocrates perhaps made this declaration somewhere around 400 BC, best historians can tell. Fast-forward to the 21st century, and we finally might be starting to heed his advice on a wider scale.

More than a decade ago, I stood in front of an audience of chefs and product developers and proclaimed that the glycemic index will be the next big thing to influence the food we create. The Glycemic Index Foundation states, “The glycemic index (GI) is a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels.” Important stuff, right?

While the concept of GI never quite got to the level of awareness that I thought it would, it still factors into discussions. GI got some well-deserved attention around the same time as The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was passed, and Michelle Obama initiated her fight against childhood obesity with her “Let’s Move!” initiative. But soon, the term “functional foods” became part of mainstream conversation and the glycemic index was only one of many important factors entering into discussions in our labs and kitchens during product ideation and development.

As chefs and food scientists, it’s in our blood to stay on the cutting edge. This forces us to always be anticipating the next micro or macro trend in order to remain relevant, and ultimately more successful than the competition.

So, what’s the next big thing? I learned a long time ago that the largest successes came when I stayed in my own area of expertise, which is whole and ancient grains.

Based on our broad reach across all segments of the food industry, here are a couple of the top nutritional callouts we are keeping a close eye on in the grain world as we move into 2020:

  • High in GABA. Gamma-amino butyric acid is an amino acid in the body that acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Sprouted rice boasts high levels of GABA, which many cite as including health benefits like potentially lowering anxiety, achieving deeper sleep, helping lower blood pressure, and improving cardiovascular functions.
  • High in magnesium. No big surprises here. We know magnesium is a mineral that’s crucial for our body to function. What is a bit surprising is how much and how quickly it is entering into conversations in the R&D world. Bone health, heart rhythm, and blood pressure are just a few of the benefits often associated with magnesium. But also in the mix is the positive affect on sleep and anxiety. Turns out wild rice has 35 percent of the RDA of magnesium per serving.

Hippocrates could not have anticipated what his words would come to mean in the 21st century, but we are finally realizing that eating the right foods can often help keep our need for medicine at bay.