5 Retro (and Gut-Friendly) Foods Making a Comeback
Many of the foods of yesteryear are growing in popularity, as people look for affordable and nostalgic options that bring comfort and offer possible health benefits to help them manage their budgets.
To mark the 25th year of Love Your Gut Week (18th-24th September), food writer and author Dr Joan Ransley shares the top 5 foods that are making a comeback and why they can be good for our overall wellbeing, including our gut health.
Dr Joan Ransley also shares why these foods have surged in popularity, their culinary history, her favourite ways to enjoy them in recipes and their nutrition and gut health benefits.
From pearl barley and pulses, which have been used in cooking for centuries, to lettuce – which was much loved in a Prawn Cocktail in the 1970s, and tinned sardines – a popular choice post-war and again in the 80s and 90s – give these five foods a try for tasty, affordable and gut-friendly options.
The global barley market is expected to grow significantly over the next ten years, with pearl barley making a significant contribution to this (i).
Traditionally used to make meat dishes go further, pearl barley has been used for centuries in cuisines and dishes across the world, including casseroles and soups.
Today, pearl barley is making a name for itself as an affordable, versatile and healthy plant-based option. With a satisfying chewy texture and slightly nutty flavour, it absorbs flavours well in cooking, making it a popular choice for dishes such as risotto, orzotto, stews and salads.
Pearl barley is a great grain to support gut health. It contains dietary fibre, which helps digested food pass through the guti, as well as resistant starch. Resistant starch is important in the diet because it resists digestion, so it passes directly through the small intestine to the colon and is then fermented by ‘good bugs’ and turned into butyrate. Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid which plays an important role in reducing inflammation (ii) and maintaining the health of the gut lining. (iii)
Demand for tinned food continues to grow as shoppers recognise it as an affordable and convenient option that has a longer shelf life. In fact, UK sales of canned foods are currently at their highest since 2018. Tinned fish, in particular, is making a comeback, with #tinnedfish garnering 56 million+ views on TikTok thanks to creative cooks on the platform demonstrating how this simple ingredient can be enjoyed.
Tinned sardines were a popular affordable and nutritious choice for families on a budget in post-war Britain and regained popularity in the 80s and 90s amongst cash-strapped students.
Today, sardines are as good value and nutritious as ever and are being used in everything – from simple sardines on toast or crackers, to pasta dishes, salads and more. Why not get started with our new recipe for Sardines and Cherry Tomatoes on Toast?
Sardines are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to benefit the health of the gut in three main ways. They have a positive effect on the type and abundance of gut microbes and play a key role in the gut immune system. They are also involved in the regulation of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), which are vital for keeping the wall of the gut healthy. (iv,v)
The craze for cauliflower is still going strong, with the veg successfully having managed to shed its now out-dated associations with soggy school dinners.
Mouth-watering and Instagram-able recipes from celebrity chefs for whole roasted cauliflowers have showcased the vegetable in a whole new light – sparking a new interest in it.
Today, cauliflowers are being enjoyed whole and roasted with delicious herbs and spices, as well as being made into wedges, curries, salads, side dishes, cauliflower rice and more. The options are endless.
Cauliflower contains dietary fibre, which has two important roles in keeping the gut healthy. It helps digested food pass through the gut by bulking the stool and is also fermented by the bacteria in the colon to aid gut health. (vi)
Lettuce has appeared in a host of trending recipes recently – from grilled lettuce, which was named as a top trend in the most recent Waitrose Food & Drink report, to prawn cocktail – making a comeback at dinner parties.
It seems the humble green vegetable has come a long way from being used exclusively in very simple salads which consisted of cucumber, tomato and a dollop of salad cream.
Lettuce will always work well in salads of all kinds, but today is also being enjoyed roasted with other vegetables like broccoli spears and sprouts. The leaves are being used as ‘cups’ to contain other ingredients as well as, of course, still in the classic Prawn Cocktail.
Lettuce leaves are packed full of vitamins and minerals. The polyphenols in the leaves help increase the diversity of bacteria in the gut and offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.(vii)
Cheap and nutritious, pulses are big news in the world of food and for good reason – with sales of chickpeas, for example, rising by 15% in the past year.
Pulses have been used in cooking across the globe for centuries. For instance, chickpeas are a key ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine, where they are enjoyed in the form of creamy hummus and crisp falafels. Black beans are used extensively in Mexican cooking as a side dish for tacos, burritos or enchiladas. And lentils, which have high polyphenol content and are a great source of other phytonutrients – are crafted into tasty dahls in Indian dishes.
In the 1960s, pulses prompted attention from shoppers when they made appearances in the surge of whole food shops opening.
Today, every supermarket has a wide selection of affordable and convenient tinned pulses, which can be enjoyed in meals like stews, wraps and tagines, as well as in snacks and sides like falafels and chips.
In addition to providing dietary fibre (viii) and resistant starch (ix) – both of which benefit gut health – pulses also offer high quality protein and are low in fat. They also provide a significant source of vitamins and minerals, such as iron, zinc, folate, and magnesium. (x)
Love Your Gut Recipes
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References:[i] Barber TM, Kabisch S, Pfeiffer AFH, Weickert MO. The Health Benefits of Dietary Fibre. Nutrients. 2020; 12(10):3209. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12103209 [ii]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7192831/#:~:text=Butyrate%20has%20been%20extensively%20studied,as%20Tregs%20and%20M2%20macrophages.
[iii] Adriana D.T. Fabbri, Raymond W. Schacht, Guy A. Crosby. Evaluation of resistant starch content of cooked black beans, pinto beans, and chickpeas, NFS Journal,Volume 3. 2016. Pages 8-12. ISSN 2352-3646. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nfs.2016.02.002.
[iv] Yawei Fu, Yadong Wang, Hu Gao, DongHua Li, RuiRui Jiang, Lingrui Ge, Chao Tong, Kang Xu, “Associations among Dietary Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids, the Gut Microbiota, and Intestinal Immunity”, Mediators of Inflammation, vol. 2021, Article ID 8879227, 11 pages, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/8879227
[v] Fu, Yawei et al. “Associations among Dietary Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids, the Gut Microbiota, and Intestinal Immunity.” Mediators of inflammation vol. 2021 8879227. 2 Jan. 2021. https://doi:10.1155/2021/8879227
[vi] Barber TM, Kabisch S, Pfeiffer AFH, Weickert MO. The Health Benefits of Dietary Fibre. Nutrients. 2020; 12(10):3209. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12103209
[vii] Lavefve, Laura & Howard, Luke & Carbonero, Franck. Berry polyphenols metabolism and impact on human gut microbiota and health. Food & Function. 11. 10.1039/C9FO01634A. (2019).https://doi.org/10.1039/C9FO01634A
[viii] Mudryj AN, Yu N, Aukema HM. Nutritional and health benefits of pulses. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014 Nov;39(11):1197-204. Epub 2014 Jun 13. PMID: 25061763. http://doi:10.1139/apnm-2013-0557
[ix] Adriana D.T. Fabbri, Raymond W. Schacht, Guy A. Crosby. Evaluation of resistant starch content of cooked black beans, pinto beans, and chickpeas, NFS Journal,Volume 3. 2016. Pages 8-12. ISSN 2352-3646. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nfs.2016.02.002.
[x] Mudryj AN, Yu N, Aukema HM. Nutritional and health benefits of pulses. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014 Nov;39(11):1197-204. Epub 2014 Jun 13. PMID: 25061763. http://doi:10.1139/apnm-2013-0557