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Flavor Forecast for 2016

Americans have become increasingly experimental when it comes to food. Here are 4 food trends to look out for in 2016, according to USA Today.

Healthful herb mixes
Blending together bold flavors that have health benefits is on the rise. Ingredients like chia seeds — high-nutrient, low-calorie seeds eaten by the Aztecs for a quick source of energy — and turmeric, an antioxidant, are ideal for mixing in with other spices and adding to everything from meat spice rubs to oatmeal or smoothies.

Spicy, tangy dishes
Keeping with the trend toward eating foods that zing, spicy ingredients combined with citrus or vinegars balance out the heat but still deliver a kick. Expect to see the trend play out in particular with ingredients like sambal sauce, made from chilies, rice vinegar, sugar and garlic. It's commonly found in Indonesian and Malaysian cuisine.

Ancestral ingredients
As Americans seek more natural foods, we're looking at what our ancestors ate and incorporating the ingredients in modern preparations. That means herbs, including thyme, rosemary and lavender, are becoming trendy cocktail mix-ins — such as a warm lemonade made with gin and lavender — and amaranth, an ancient grain that can now be found in crackers or popped like popcorn, is making a comeback.

Alternative proteins
Quinoa may have been the protein-packed darling of ancient grains a few years ago, but now cranberry beans and black beluga lentils are the up-and-comers. The United Nations General Assembly declared 2016 the "International Year of Pulses." Pulse is another word for legumes such as dry beans, lentils and peas. A diet that includes these foods can help curb obesity and manage chronic illnesses like diabetes, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.