There is nothing like the turn of a new year to refocus our minds on health and wellness and, in particular, what we can do to sharpen up our diets and add more nutritional value to our everyday eating. With 2022 stretching out ahead of us, tantalising and full of possibility, what are the big food trends to expect?
1. More plant-based options. The past few years have seen huge growth in alternative options for meat and dairy, both lab-grown and plant-based. Oat milk has taken off in New Zealand, with Oatly and Otis launching in 2019 and 2017 and Boring hitting supermarket shelves and barista counters just this year. Plant-based burger patties, sausages and mince can be found in major supermarkets, and cafe menus typically have options that can be vegan-ised on request; a similar cultural shift to how people learned a decade ago what it meant to go gluten-free. Given the size of the market of people who are either committed to a plant-based lifestyle or interested in dabbling in it, whether for health, climate or taste reasons, expect to see plenty more on this front in 2022.
2. A focus on gut health. General knowledge about the gut microbiome and its role in overall health has increased enormously in recent years, with studies finding links between gut health and the immune system and autoimmune diseases, mood – about 90 percent of serotonin, the ‘happy chemical’ is found in the gut – endocrine disorders, skin conditions and cancer. Beyond food, the key things we can do to support gut health include lowering stress levels, getting enough sleep and staying hydrated – but more and more of us are interested in upping our gut game through diet and supplementation.
This can involve taking a prebiotic or probiotic; eating more high-fibre foods (legumes, beans, peas, oats, bananas, berries, asparagus, and leeks have been shown to help the gut); upping intake of garlic and onions (whose potentially anti-cancer and immune system-enhancing properties connect with some primary functions of the gut); and eating fermented foods like kefit, sauerkraut, miso and kimchi, which are great sources of probiotics. Collagen-rich foods may also benefit overall health, including gut health.
3. Accessible and beneficial superfoods. Foods trends do wax and wane; Leaderbrand recently reported internal data showing that sales for baby kale have declined by almost 40 percent in the past four years, with spinach rising in favour instead. But think about that: it is simply a case of one acknowledged ‘superfood’, or nutritional powerhouse by volume, being replaced by another.
People are becoming ever more mindful of food’s role in overall health and more willing to try new things nutritionally, which can only be for the better in terms of the availability of a greater variety of whole foods and nutritional supplements. According to a survey released last year, the top superfoods of 2021 included fermented foods, blueberries, exotic fruit like acai, seeds like chia and hemp, avocados, salmon, and yes, leafy greens including spinach and kale.
With supplementation as with food, people are looking for products that offer multiple physiological benefits – more bang for their buck. A strong candidate in this respect is Bee Pollen, a natural superfood, otherwise known as Power Pollen by NatureBee. NatureBee’s ‘potentiated’ bee pollen delivers nature’s goodness to a greater bioavailability by breaking down the outer cell wall of the pollen cell, allowing the goodness from the inside to act faster, providing even greater results. Over the years, studies show that bee pollen supports overall health and wellbeing, including the digestive system, cognitive function, sleep quality, and natural immunity.
4. Outdoor and indoor dining. With the holidays looming and the world returning to the new normal, the focus is more about how we eat than what we eat. As the southern hemisphere enters into what is shaping up to be a long, hot summer – beaches, backyards, barbeques and eating al fresco at cafés and restaurants is also the ideal way to socialise while adhering to COVID restrictions. For the northern hemisphere you are more likely to see socially distanced indoor seating. It is likely that for some time to come, we will all consider group safety as well as menu options when dining alongside people outside our usual bubble.