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Did the biggest wellness trends of 2015 make us healthier?

Actually, yes.

It’s been a year of common sense winning over fad diets or trendy exercises. We look at the big changes in fitness and nutrition this year, and what they mean for the future.

Ingredients get a rethink

Food companies, from fast-casual chains like Chipotle and Panera Bread to major brands like General Mills and Kraft, finally started ditching artificial ingredients and andadditivesfor natural ones, like annatto seed and paprika extract to give mac & cheese itsyellow color. This was the next step in last year’s trend of ditching low-fat products, which, while lower in calories, were usually not healthful. Real ingredients are winning out over marketing gimmicks, and that’s a trend companies have recognized will continue to drive the way we eat.

Protein is out, fiber is in

One of the few things our diets are not deficient in is protein, though you wouldn’t know it from all the bars, powders, shakes and other supplements telling us to load up on it. But these “healthful snacks” often also come packed with sugar, preservatives and other things you don’t want, while missing one vital nutrient that we are definitely lacking: fiber. To get its anti-inflammatory, circulation-boosting, cancer-fighting benefits, you’ll have to load up on plant-based foods (which you should be eating more of anyway). Instead of a green juice, reach for a whole apple (the fiber is in the skin) and add more nuts, whole grains, legumes and dark leafy greens into your routine.

HIIT in everything

Packed schedules mean we’re always looking to maximize every minute, and this was the year thathigh-intensity intervalstook over every style of workout. Getting more out of less time in the gym, without changing up what you’re already doing too much is great, but will HIIT stick around? It’s hard to say — the risk of injury is higher when you’re pushing your limits, and there’s a new emphasis on strength and stretching exercises that counteract sitting-related problems. All of which means HIIT might be better left to pro athletes.

Sleep gets some respect

If there was one mantra being repeated by everyone from trainers to nutritionists and even mental health professionals, it was, “Get more sleep!” Without it, your ability to make long-term memories suffers, your heart doesn’t get a much-needed break, and all those cheap calories you’re eating to stay awake are wreaking havoc with your blood sugar, which could lead to diabetes. (Not to mention sleeping too little is killing your sex drive.) Aim for between seven and eight hours, but don’t go below six.

(Ancient) grains are in

Ancient grains have beenappearing in higher-end kitchensfor the past few years, but the anti-gluten hysteria that has swept grocery stores meant anything with the word “grain” in it was suspect. The pushback over the past year, however, made way for delicious, lesser-known varieties of ancient grains likeemmer,khorasan wheatandamaranth, whose nutty flavor and robust texture will make you swear off oatmeal. And grain bowls — which tend to be accompanied by fruit, yogurt and matcha rather than sweeteners — also make for beautiful Instas, which never hurts when starting a trend.

 

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