- The global digestive health product market is expected to be worth almost $58bn by 2025, registering a CAGR of 7.3% over the next five years, according to a report by Grand View Research.
- Fermented foods, including sauerkraut, kimchi and the milk drink kefir are thought to promote good gut health. The wide range of bacteria created during the fermentation process are believed to be beneficial for the gut microbiome.
- According to Mintel research, 68% of UK adults say that actively looking after your gut health is essential to overall health, rising to 72% of over-55s.
For aeons, the main requirements we had of food – particularly when served out of the home – were to look and taste good while filling empty stomachs.
Now, our relationship with food is more complex with a growing number of diners not only interested in the presentation and flavour of the dishes they order, but in the impact it will have on their bodies too.
One burgeoning area in the focus on functional food is ingredients or cooking techniques which are designed to promote a healthy gut.
Research has proven that what goes in a human's gastrointestinal tract has a huge impact on whole-body health with a healthy gut contributing to a strong immune system, protecting other organs and even affecting our mood.
Foods that promote a healthy gut fall into two categories – they are either high in fibre or contain live probiotics – according to Leon’s head of food Erica Molyneaux. The healthy fast food chain has a number of dishes it actively promotes as being good for gut health, including a fresh slaw and a yoghurt created in conjunction with 'gut health guru' Dr Megan Rossi.
Leon is not alone in this trend, with more chefs and restaurants either actively promoting dishes on menus as gut-friendly, or simply considering it as they create new ones.
“We want healthy eating to be the only eating,” says Zoey Henderson of London-based vegan restaurant and bar group Redemption, where gut-friendly dishes include the fibre-boosting Buff Burger, served with a probiotic-filled kimchi slaw.
For Pratap Chahal, chef and founder of fine dining catering company That Hungry Chef, it has become 'second nature' to cook food that's also healthy. “Plus as fermentation has made a huge comeback thanks to Noma, there is a greater scope of developing dishes that are delicious, beneficial for one's health and interesting,” he adds.
“We’re all so much more in tune with, and aware of, the importance of good food equating to good health these days that as a chef or a restaurant it’s important to have this in the back of mind while ensuring foremost that the dishes served up to guests are tasty enough to keep them coming back for more,” summarises Nick Deverell-Smith, chef-owner of Cotswold pub The Churchill Arms.
Erica Molyneaux, head of food at Leon, describes the chain's Brazilian black bean dish: “This is a vegan version of a traditional Brazilian feijoada. It’s decadent, hearty and filling while being very good for your gut thanks to the high fibre content of the black beans, which are slow cooked for richness with tomato, leeks and carrots, smoky paprika, Mexican oregano and chipotle and finished with a splash of red wine vinegar. To make the dish we begin by frying off a sofrito base of onions, carrots, celery and leek and then add spice and tomatoes. Once these have become intensely flavoured and the tomato has taken on a rich sweetness, we mix in the beans and cook under pressure to intensify the flavours. Before the dish is finished we add a splash of red wine vinegar to give it a lift. In restaurants this is served over brown rice and topped with a sprinkling of fresh mint and parsley. We mark dishes on our menu with a ‘good for your gut’ symbol. This denotes a dish that is either a source of fibre or contains live probiotics. Dishes high in fibre contain prebiotics, which ‘feed’ our gut bacteria. Our Brazilian Black Bean is a great example of this and contains 7g fibre per 100g.”
Nick Deverell-Smith, chef-owner of The Churchill Arms, Paxford, describes his dish Salt baked celeriac, kale and chestnut mushrooms: “Celeriac is packed with fibre, which is known to aid digestion. Evidence shows that sufficient fibre intake is essential for feeding your gut bacteria which makes this a great dish for good gut health. To make the dish, I take a whole celeriac, cover it in a salt dough made with salt, flour, thyme and egg white, and bake it in the oven for up to an hour. When removed from the oven, I break the crust open and leave the celeriac to stand. I dice another celeriac, then boil and simmer it until soft. This is then pureed with a tiny bit of water. To serve, the whole baked celeriac is cut into 1.5cm slices and coloured in a pan. It is plated up with puree dotted around the sides, some chestnut mushrooms which have been fried in rapeseed oil until golden and three piles of boiled kale.”
Pratap Chahal, chef and founder of That Hungry Chef, describes Black pea
tempeh cooked in a lacto-koji broth and glazed with yellow pea miso: “Black peas are inoculated with Rhiopus spores and fermented to form a bean cake, which is then pan-fried and braised in a broth made with lacto-fermented barley that has been inoculated with aspergillus oryzae spores. This is then finished with a sweet and sour glaze made with yellow pea miso, honey, spices, lime. As with most fermented foods, it is the increased presence of probiotics in these ingredients that help towards positive gut health and flora by aiding resistance against harmful bacteria. The fermentation process also makes the beans easier to digest and more nutritious due to the bacteria. All of the fermented ingredients do actually add many different flavours to the dish too. The tempeh itself has a much 'meatier' texture whilst the miso and koji broth add incredible amounts of umami and complex flavours to the dish so are a great meat substitute.”