The lowdown: baobab

By Georgia Bronte contact

- Last updated on GMT

The lowdown: baobab
2018 is all about baobab, the Zimbabwean 'superfood'.

An obscure Taiwanese pastry?
Nope. It’s a fruit from Zimbabwe (it’s pronounced ‘bey oh bab’). It’s now being used to flavour supermarket yoghurts, amongst other things.

Never heard of it.
You’re not the only one. Research from Yeo Valley found that scores of British people know next to nothing about everyday fruits, let alone obscure African ones. 40% of the 2,000 research participants mistook a mango for an apple, and 7% ticked ‘Halle Berry’ when shown a picture of a mulberry, although they could well have been taking the... 

Yes quite possibly. So what is a baobab, then?
Well, it’s a superfood,

*Groans* Oh, here we go…
Yes, it’s tipped to be one of 2018’s biggest food trends. The marketing spiel is that consumers are increasingly leaning towards functional but also natural ingredients, and that operators can capitalise on this by putting these ‘superfoods’ on their menus. Very few people had heard of acai a few years ago but London now has a whole restaurant dedicated to the Brazilian berry. Acai bowls have also popped up at Rawligion, Farm Girl, Bodyism, and even Pret a Manger.

So if we’ve got acai, why do we need baobab?
As everybody knows, trends in the health food world are fleeting. Acai is so 2017 and baobab offers huge health benefits.

Which are?
Apparently, it’s a good source of fibre, vitamin C, potassium, amino acids, and other minerals.

Isn’t that the case for most fruits?
Look. The bloggers are going crazy for it. Apparently it has one of the highest antioxidant capacities of any ingredient – more than blueberries and pomegranates combined. It is also said to have more calcium than milk. All these statistics come from various health food blogs, though, and as you know, marketing execs can be a little creative with the truth when it comes to things like this. Remember when Leon had to change the name of its salad?

Remind me?
Back in 2016, Leon had to change the name of its Original Superfood Salad after a row with the advertising watchdog. Billed as “food for the future” and filled with broccoli, peas, cucumber and quinoa, the superfood salad, had to be renamed when it turned out to just be, erm, food.

That’s embarrassing.
The problem is that no one knows what a superfood is. The NHS, in a 2011 report on the subject, says “There is no official definition of a superfood and the EU has banned the use of the word on product packaging unless the claim is backed up by convincing research.” So the same applies to restaurant. Although it doesn’t stop some hipster cafes throwing the word around. 

OK. So what other ‘superfoods’ should we look out for?
Moringa, ashwagandha, camu camu and macaqi are all tipped to be big news this year. Expect to see them at a yoga studio cafe near you.

I wish I’d never asked, I can’t pronounce any of those
Well, another ingredient, apparently the ‘new avocado’, is peas. And coconut oil is strictly off the menu - that’s so 2016. This year is all about ghee, butter and, err, cricket flour.

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