02 July 2019
Your Next Favourite Superfood: The Baobab
First there were blueberries, then there was the avocado explosion, after that came chia seeds – now, allow us to introduce your next big obsession: baobab.
First there were blueberries, then there was the avocado explosion, after that came chia seeds – it’s probably fair to say that health-conscious food lovers are partial to a new superfood trend or two. Now, allow us to introduce your next big obsession: baobab. A hard-shelled fruit consumed as a powder, it provides more vitamin C per tablespoon than an orange and contains high levels of many other key nutrients.
It seems perplexing then, that despite the baobab tree having been a medicinal staple in numerous African countries for centuries – being credited with treating everything from diarrhoea to smallpox, and holding strong superstitious significance – the baobab fruit remains relatively unknown to large swathes of the UK population. In fact, according to a survey of over 2000 individuals conducted by The Grocer, less than a quarter of respondents had ever heard of it.
Now, things appear to be changing, with online supermarket Ocado having registered a 27% increase in demand for the fruit in 2018. Suddenly, smoothies are packed, porridge are dusted, juices are based on it and yoghurts flavoured with it. So, is the baobab really the superfood it’s cracked up to be?
What does it taste like?
Sweet but tart, with a zingy hit, something akin to a sharper than usual mango.
What are the nutritional benefits of baobab?
A 10g serving of baobab powder – that’s about one tablespoon – provides over half of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. But that’s not all; it also contains twice as much calcium as milk, as well as high levels of iron, magnesium and potassium. What’s more, it also contains high levels of polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that work to reduce inflammation.
Impressively, early research from Dr Shelly Coe, a Senior Lecturer in Nutrition at Oxford Brooks University, has concluded that the fruit may also have an impact on regulating blood glucose levels, and “could potentially help us to reduce the likelihood of developing diabetes”. Sounds pretty great, all in all.
Are there any drawbacks?
Despite all the goodness, you may want to use it sparingly – per 100g, baobab contains more soluble fibre than psyllium, the active ingredient used in laxatives.
Why haven’t you heard about it before?
It’s fair to say that the baobab isn’t exactly the prettiest fruit on the planet. In fact, it’s a little bit ugly, despite – ironically – being a product of the iconic baobab tree. Add in the fact that it commonly comes in powdered form in the UK, and you’ve got a particularly unphotogenic food for an image-conscious age. While you might think that for health-conscious foodies the external appearance of a superfood will rarely be of huge consequence - after all, chia seeds aren’t exactly all that exciting – it has been touted one of the reasons for its relative absence from shop shelves.
Traditionally the preserve of health shops and hippy cafes, that's not to say it hasn't made a wider market appearance here and there. The Eden Project, for example, has been selling baobab ice cream for years – and take it from the former ice cream lady (that’s me, by the way), it’s delicious.Try it!