It is safe to say that 2020 has been an extraordinary year. Our lives have been turned upside down and the way we eat and our daily habits have changed accordingly. If this year has taught us anything it’s that our health and wellbeing is more important than anything.
In 2021 people will be making their health and wellbeing a priority. They will be looking for ways to better support their immune function and mental health through foods. In the new year we will see people embracing more plant-based foods and functional foods with health benefits that nourish the mind and body. People will continue to eat and cook meals at home and there will be a shift towards buying foods with purpose that support local community and the environment. These changes in the way we eat, cook and think about food in the new year is a really positive shift in the right direction.
Here are the top 9 food trends to look out for in 2021.
Functional foods with immune boosting benefits
Functional foods contain specific compounds or phytochemicals that help reduce the risk of disease and promote optimal health and wellbeing. Since the pandemic there has been more focus put on supporting immune health to help prevent illness. People are becoming more interested in foods that contain immune boosting compounds and nutrients such as zinc, vitamin C and D, selenium, and herbs like elderberry, echinacea, astragalus, turmeric and ginger. Medicinal mushrooms are also continuing to increase in popularity for their ability to enhance immune function and increase the body’s resistance to stress and disease.
Consumers are also now more aware of the link between gut and immune health so probiotic-rich foods like kombucha, yoghurt, kefir, miso and sauerkraut, that support digestive health, will continue to be popular in 2021 as they help support immune function.
Functional foods that support mental wellbeing
People’s mental health has suffered as a result of the pandemic and people are now prioritising their wellbeing above all else. People are looking for foods and beverages containing ingredients that help ease anxiety and improve mood and sleep, which are all directly linked to improved mental health. Functional foods and beverages with stress-reducing adaptogens will become more mainstream in 2021. Adaptogens are substances that help the body adapt to stress in a healthier way. They help you feel calm and support immune and adrenal health. Popular adaptogens include medicinal mushrooms (cordyceps, reishi, lion’s mane and chaga), ashwagadha, astragalus, rhodiola, and Siberian ginseng.
Most people have heard of pre and probiotics and that they’re vitally important for our digestive and immune health, but did you know that there is a new member of the biotics family, postbiotics? Postbiotics are the end products or ‘waste’ that is produced when probiotics consume or ferment prebiotics in the gut. Probiotics have been found to be equally important as pre and probiotics for maintaining our health.
Postbiotics are being studied for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They can help boost the immune system and improve the health of the gut lining. Probiotics produce postbiotics which gives an immune boosting effect.
Postbiotics are found in the same foods as probiotics including yoghurt, sauerkraut, miso, kefir, sourdough bread, tempeh and kombucha. Postbiotics are not alive so they can easily be added to food products. Look out for postbiotics being added to functional foods in the new year.
With the big move towards foods that enhance immune and mental health, sauerkraut has made it to the top of the foods trends list for 2021. Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage that is rich in probiotics. Including fermented vegetables like sauerkraut in the diet is an excellent way to help restore normal gut microbiome and in turn improve immune function and mood. The health of our gut is closely related to our emotional wellbeing. A large percentage of our brain chemicals, including serotonin and dopamine are produced in the gut. Add a good spoonful of fermented vegetables to your next salad, curry, lentil dahl, or earth bowl.
Locally grown eco-friendly foods
COVID shutdowns have given us all a renewed appreciation of our local community and how important it is to support our local grocery stores, farmers markets and restaurants that keep our shelves stocked and food on our tables. People will continue to buy more locally grown food and locally made products in 2021 that help support our local economy. Buying local is also better for the environment.
In the new year people are expected to lean towards more sustainable, eco-friendly food choices. Food production is a huge contributor to climate change and the foods we choose to eat can help fight climate change. A Climatarian diet is about choosing foods with the lowest climate impact, eating less animal products and more plant-based meals that are locally grown or produced.
2021 Diet overhaul
There has been a shift towards eating a more balanced, wholefood diet, rich in nutrient-dense foods. People are moving away from fad diets and are going for a more balanced approach to eating and health – eating in moderation as opposed to restriction. In 2021 there will be a trend towards eating to feel strong, happy and energized, over trying to diet to achieve unattainable standards of perfection.
Flexatarianism is becoming more popular with people who are looking to decrease their meat and animal product intake, by replacing animal based meals or ingredients with healthier plant-based options.
More plant-based foods
Plant-based foods will continue to be a trend in 2021. The variety of plant-based products available has significantly increased in response to the increasing number of vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians (people who swap a few meat-based meals a week with plant-based ones).
Consumers are now also paying more attention to the sustainability and health credentials of plant-based foods. Just because a product is plant-based doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily healthy. Companies that make highly processed plant-based foods with high levels of added saturated fats, sugars and salts will be challenged by consumers from a health standpoint.
Expect to see legumes especially chickpeas popping up in more products like flours, cereals, tofu, and aquafaba (water from canned chickpeas) milk and egg replacers in 2021. Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, yellow split peas, groundnuts (African legume) and millet will become more popular in the new year. Legumes are a wholesome, sustainable and inexpensive meat alternative and an excellent source of plant-based proteins, micro-nutrients and dietary fibre. Fruit and vegetable jerky is also said to be a trending healthy plant-based snack for 2021.
Microgreens are seedlings of vegetables and herbs. These little greens may be tiny but they pack a big nutrient-filled punch. Microgreens are a sustainable super food that's cheap and easy to grow from home. Popular microgreens include cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, mustard, amaranth, beet, pea, parsley, Swiss chard, and kale.
Micorgreens are considered a functional food as they’re rich in important nutrients like vitamin C, zinc, iron, folate and vitamin A, and antioxidants that support optimal health and help prevent disease. Micorgreens can be up 40 more potent in phytochemicals than their mature counterparts, according to a study published in Journal of Agricultrual and Food Chemistry.
Microgreens are extremely versatile. They can be added to sweet or savoury dishes like salads, sandwiches, burgers, pancakes, smoothies, porridge or as a delicious topping on curries and dahls.
Cooking from home
There has been huge shifts in peoples eating and cooking habits this year. As we’ve all spent more time at home people have found a renewed passion for cooking. The fact that many of us are working from home now means that we have the time to sit down and eat a healthy substantial breakfast, instead of grabbing a muesli bar on the way out the door. People are focusing more on breakfast and meal preparation which will continue into 2021. There has been a big spike in meal kits and virtual cooking classes will become popular in the new year.
People will also be looking for more creative ways to cook with leftovers in the new year as we're becoming more aware of food wastage and its environmental and financial implications.
Written by Lisa Guy, naturopath and founder of Bodhi Organic Tea.