As 2014 draws to a close, there’s no better time to reflect on various ‘health fads’ from the year that was.

2014 was a weird, wacky and wonderful year of health trends ranging from “pop-diets” and the gluten-free craze, through to the advent of ‘food activating’.

Tough Mudder or similar super-duper obstacle and fitness challenges

Described by its creators as “a 16–20 kilometre obstacle course designed to test all-around strength, stamina, teamwork and mental grit, Tough Mudder is “probably the toughest event on the planet.”

Developed by British Special Forces to put those brave enough to try it to the test, this super-duper obstacle and fitness challenge demands the participant has a certain level of fitness to succeed.

Local exercise physiologist, Exercise and Sports Science Australia, Carly Ryan, this year urged the ABC audience considering taking on the ‘Tough Mudder’ challenge out to “make sure you’ve regularly been active for at least a few months and get checked out by your GP.

Fitness courses like Tough Mudder are certainly tough, rough and tailored to those already exercising, but you do need to be realistic about your chance of completing a military-designed course before braving this challenge.

Food activation

Activating foods, most notably nuts, became a bit of a trend this year. But what’s all the fuss about?

Allegedly, if you soak your almonds, hazelnuts, macadamias, peanuts or similar nuts in water and salt for between 12-to-24 hours, and then dry them at low temperatures for another 6-to-24 hours, they will ‘activate’.

According to the “activating nuts” converts, soaking increases the nutrient value of nuts and breaks down the problematic compounds that help enhance their digestibility. This point is argued however with little substantial supporting evidence.

Recent research involving the activation of nuts published by ‘Nuts for Life’ dietician, Lisa Yates, in Medical Observer revealed a few unexpected results.

According to Ms Yates, phytates (which activators claim to be the cause of the majority of nut-related problems) are not only less of a problem than they’re often claimed to be, but they actually offer health benefits.

The verdict is still out.

Going gluten-free

Gluten is a protein composite found in foods made from wheat and some other grains, including barley, oats and rye. About one-in-100 Australians are living with Coeliac disease in which the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten, leading to small bowel damage. This can be avoided by eating a gluten-free diet.

However, according to Coeliac Australia, an estimated 28 per cent of Australians reportedly followed a gluten-free diet this year.

“So we could assume there are people who think eradicating all gluten is healthy, whether they have a sensitivity or not,” said Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist, Dr Sue Sheperd when speaking with body+soul.

Going gluten-free is a global trend. For those yet to be medically diagnosed with Coeliac disease, it’s important to be aware that bloating could be caused by other more serious conditions, including cancer. If you do experience stomach pains, be sure to visit your doctor before self-diagnosing.


Almost everyone seemed to be road-testing a new diet in 2014, from the Paleo, the Alkaline diet, volumetrics, I quit sugar and IsaGenix, to the lemon detox diet and the Mediterranean diet, to name just a few.

While some of these diets were well-received, others attracted mixed reviews, including severe criticism from some quarters.

Releasing its list of top-trending searches for 2014, Google revealed the most popular diet of 2014 was the Paleo diet, also known as the “Caveman diet” for its removal of alcohol, gluten, sugar, dairy, legumes and processed foods, and focus on high quality animal proteins, healthy fats and non-starchy vegetables.

There has much talk about the benefits of Paleo dieting, including accelerated weight loss and reduced blood pressure, with a recent research piece published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggesting that it’s twice as effective as some other diets in promoting weight loss and a reduction in excess stomach fat.

Google’s top 10 diets trends for 2014 included:

  1. Paleo Diet
  2. Atkins Diet
  3. Gluten Free Diet
  4. Mediterranean Diet
  5. Dash Diet
  6. The Military Diet
  7. HCG Diet
  8. South Beach Diet
  9. Super Shred Diet
  10. The Doctor’s Diet

Finally, some other noteworthy health trends from 2014 include:

Wearable technology: tracking devices that allow us to monitor our activity or inactivity.

Green drinks: the colour of envy! These uber-healthy drinks represent a meal in a glass, allowing you to consume your daily intake of veggies, nutrients and vitamins, in one slimy green serve! Go easy on the green fruit though, as this could tip the sugar scale!

All in all, 2014 was a year of increased health trends – a great sign that we’re really starting to prioritise the importance of health + wellness, not just as individuals, but as a nation.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and safe Christmas, from all of us at Team VIVA!

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