5 Things People Eat Now That Weren’t Considered Food A Few Decades Ago

The typical American diet has changed a lot in the last few decades. A report by Pew Research shows that Americans are eating more carbs, fats, and sugars than ever before while drinking less milk. We’re eating more chicken and less beef. Corn consumption has gone up as well. Despite these dismal details, there have been quite a few food trends that swing in the opposite direction. A lot of these trends sparked from an interest in eating things that were previously thought inedible – or, at the very least, no one had thought to eat them yet. Here’s a list of some things people eat nowadays that weren’t even considered food a few decades ago!

Activated Charcoal

From burgers to pancakes, and even ice cream, activated charcoal has become all the rage these days, especially in the world of Instagram, where it’s all about the photo op. What is activated charcoal? For starters, it’s not the same thing as the charcoal you use in your grill. Activated charcoal is actually a fine black powder made by charring a coconut shell into ash. It is “activated” by processing the ashes at a very high temperature, altering the internal structure of the ash. The end result is safe for consumption.

Activated charcoal isn’t anything new – hospitals and medical communities have been using it for ages as an antidote for overdoses. In the mid 2010s, the food industry got its hands on the activated charcoal powder and started adding it in everything. There are many health claims associated with the black powder, but the only confirmed benefit is its ability to detox the system… which is probably a moot point if you’re having your activated charcoal in the form of a double bacon cheeseburger.


It’s hard to imagine a time when this leafy green wasn’t finding its way into everything from salads to smoothies. However, it has only been within the last decade or so that this food has become popular. Previous to the kale boom, the largest purchaser of kale in the US was Pizza Hut – who used it as a garnish to decorate their salad bar. Kale sure has come a long ways since those early days.

In the early 2010s, the American Kale Association (yes, that’s a real thing) actually hired a PR firm to make kale trendy. Needless to say, the campaign was a success.

Chia Seeds

You probably recognize chia seeds from the ever popular Chia Pets that were all the rage in the 80s & 90s, and to answer your question, yes, they are the same seeds. Before their creative debut on the American market as green hair for terra cotta pets, chia seeds were an important part of the ancient Aztec diet. The Aztec warriors believed the seeds gave them supernatural powers.

These seeds bloomed from Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia Pet fame to an Instagram worthy food photo in the early 2010s. That’s largely due to the fact that the health food industry unleashed all kinds of chia seed-infused snacks to the American public after the seeds were elevated to the elite status of “superfood” due to their rich omega-3, fiber, and protein content.

Cactus Water

When you think of a prickly pear cactus, you probably conjure up more images of dry, sandy deserts than you do of refreshing water, right? Not anymore! The prickly pear cactus has been eaten in Mexico for hundreds of years and has even been touted as the best cure for a hangover. However, it wasn’t until the last few years that cactus water has really taken off in the US. Part of what makes this unlikely drink popular are the health benefits. Cactus water contains natural electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, and taurine – a rare antioxidant that helps heal muscle damage. Of course, it helps that the drink is actually quite refreshing, even a little fruity tasting. And with half the calories and sugar of coconut water, what’s not to love?

Root To Stem

The root to stem movement is bringing awareness to the non-traditional parts of fruits and veggies that we all love, with the goal of turning them from scraps to food. Examples of things we have traditionally thrown away include the stems, stalks, and rinds of all kinds of produce. Things people are starting to eat now that they never used to eat include the leaves and stalks of broccoli and cauliflower, the greens on top of carrots, and watermelon rinds. Go ahead and try a few of these out, you’ll find they are delicious and actually packed with a ton of vitamins and minerals!

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