Our resident Nutritionist and Health Editor Melissa Fine gives us the lowdown on the health foods currently in vogue, some of which have actually been around for centuries.
A traditional Asian health elixir, kombucha is a fermented, slightly fizzy and vinegary-tasting iced tea. Its production relies on a giant spongy mushroom top called a ‘scoby’; Also known as the ‘mother’, this is rich in a harmonious blend of beneficial bacteria and yeast, which feeds on a sugar-sweetened caffeinated tea at room temperature for at least two weeks, ‘eating up’ most of the sugar in the process.
The scoby is slightly scary looking, but the result is awesome: A probiotic beverage, which I’m pretty addicted to. A great substitute for that second (or third) coffee, I feel like it gives me a bit of a buzz mid morning or afternoon. I’m especially a fan of varieties with ginger for a warming digestive tonic.
Pronounced ‘bey-oh-bab’, this exotic South African fruit has been traditionally used for centuries. Picked in its dried form straight from the tree, the baobab is then crushed into a sandy, almost caramel-coloured wholefood powder.
Why we love it: Baobab has an antioxidant content that’s 2 x that of acai. It’s also packed with calcium, immune-boosting vitamin C and fibre for gut health. Slightly tangy and citrusy, baobab works well in smoothies or stirred through porridge or yoghurt.
Cultivated for hundreds of years in North East Africa, teff is a tiny gluten free grain, with about 100 teff grains forming the equivalent size of one wheat kernel. Its colour ranges from ivory to chestnut brown and it’s typically ground into flour for culinary use. Used to make ‘injera’, traditional Ethopian flatbread, teff has a mild, slightly nutty flavour, so is also ideal for thickening soups or stews and or as an alternative to cornmeal for a polenta-like dish.
I’m also a fan of it because it has more protein than wheat, as well as a substantial iron, calcium and fibre content. Find it at health food stores.
4) Bone Broth
Bone broth differs to regular meat stock in that it uses cheap, large bones (like beef marrow or lamb shanks) and is cooked on low heat for at least 12 hours. The long simmering process allows the minerals from the bone to leach into the broth so that you’ll reap the bone’s nutritional benefits.
Just some reasons to drink bone broth:
- It’s rich in nutrients like bone-building minerals calcium and magnesium, and is also a good source of glutamine, an amino acid which promotes gut healing;
- This makes bone broth a potentially helpful ‘functional food’ for people with sensitive guts, like those of us with irritable bowel syndrome.
- Bone broth also gives you glucosamine and chondroitin, nutrients for joint integrity…Don’t scrape off the thick, white jelly-looking layer on top of the broth; This is where a lot of the good stuff lies.
5) Activated Nuts
This health food trend falls under the umbrella of the slow food movement, which works to retain traditional, unhurried food preparation methods in a modern world that demands fast food.
In a nutshell (just saw that pun!), activated nuts are soaked in water and a little salt for 7-14 hours (depending on the nut being prepped) and then dried at a low temperature for 24 hours. This method is traditionally thought to break down the ‘anti-nutrients’ inherent to nuts (and other plant-based foods), including compounds like ‘phytic acid’, which binds to nutrients and prevents their absorption.
With a depth of flavour and crispness that resembles roasted nuts, activated nuts are also a happy medium if you’re not a fan of raw nuts but are trying to avoid the roasted varieties cooked in undesirable vegetable oils and excessive salt. I’m a fan of 2Die4’s Activated Organic Mixed Nuts because they give you a variety of flavours, textures and nutrients from a variety of nuts, like calcium and antioxidant-rich vitamin E from crunchy, creamy almonds, and omega-3 from melt-in-your-mouth walnuts – one of the best plant sources of the essential fatty acid, which can have anti-inflammatory properties.