Are these the new superfoods?
The word ‘superfood’ sounds great. It evokes ideas of health and happiness, all in a small, edible package. And while it isn’t a scientifically defined term, we generally take it to mean an ingredient packed with good-for-you nutrients .
Eating so-called superfoods should come as part of a balanced diet – chucking a few blueberries or leaves of kale onto your plate isn’t the answer to all sins. But if you are looking to cram a few more nutrients in, these items are vying for their own superfood crown…
According to the Waitrose Food and Drink Report for 2021, seaweed is having a moment – and you can see why.
Leading dietitian and director of City Dietitans (citydietitians.co.uk) Sophie Medlin says: “Seaweed is a great source of iodine, which we consume in lower quantities now as many people have switched to plant based milks. Iodine is essential for thyroid function, and low dietary intake is associated with infertility.”
“It is also a good source of fibre, antioxidants and other minerals,” Medlin adds.
So how can you get more seaweed into your diet? Medlin recommends eating more sushi, “which uses dried sheets called nori”. Nori has a crunchy, umami flavour, and “can also be added to soups and stir-fries, and some people will add dried seaweed to their dishes as a seasoning in place of salt”.
Home fermenting has seen a real boost during the pandemic. The process can be therapeutic, the results tasty – and it could be beneficial for your stomach, too.
“The process of fermentation introduces friendly bacteria into the food, which may improve the balance of bacteria that live throughout our gastrointestinal tract,” Medlin explains. “While most of the bacteria in fermented foods might get killed off by our stomach acid, they may support the microbiome that is in our mouths and throats, and those who do make it to our colon alive, may support a healthier ecosystem down there too.”
Sourdough has already had its time in the sun, and we’re likely to see more experimentation with dishes involving kimchi or tempeh, and drinks such as kefir and kombucha.
Fibre isn’t a single superfood – but a whole group of them. “Fibre has taken a back seat over the last few years as low carb and keto diets took hold and people started cutting out all wholegrains and many fruit and vegetables,” says Medlin. She suggests the tides are turning. “As a gut health dietitian, I am delighted to see more interest in fibre and companies focusing on creating high fibre products.
“Fibre is excellent for reducing our appetite by keeping us full, stabilising our blood sugars and supporting our gut health by providing food for the friendly bacteria in our colon. What’s not to like?!”
You don’t suddenly start having to invest in expensive ingredients only available from niche health food stores. Medlin recommends “adding seeds and nuts to dishes, and ensuring you have plenty of fruit and veg in your diet”.