Happy National Nutrition Month

March is national nutrition month and it is also when the Annual Natural Products Expo takes place in Anaheim. Thousands of “natural” food, beverage, skincare, cleaning products, vitamins and related companies get to together and launch new products and new lines to thousands of retailers, manufacturers and health care professionals.

When I started attending Expo West in 2005, it was new and exciting to see all the “organic” brands I had just learned of and try their new and latest “healthy” product. Year after year, the crowd multiplied and it was evident what would be “in” that year. From soy products to rice products to lentil chips to coconut ice cream and from flax oil to turmeric, you can check out the trend in this industry at these shows.

As exciting as it was, I soon realized that most of what was at this (and other similar) convention was still very processed food. In the food category, you’ll still see that dessert and snack foods dominate the aisles as that is what is able to be put in a package. No one is selling salad in a box. Today, I saw vegetables hidden in cheddar crackers, fake meat and organic potato chips, but I was still happy to have attended as I did find some cool new items.

HHP – Coconut Water, Juices, Baby Food
It now common knowledge that coconut water is a great source of electrolytes and thus aids in hydration. However, when the coconut craze began a few years back, I noticed that none of the coconut water in boxes, cans and bottles actually tasted like coconut water out of a young coconut. I learned later that it was because they were pasteurized and because the high heat kills many of the benefits of any living food, the constitution of the product changes. Fast forward a few years and I found Harmless Harvest at the Expo, right as they were launching their unpasteurized coconut water. I had just learned of HPP, or High Pressure Processing, which uses pressure instead of heat to kill and harmful microorganisms in packaged foods.  Until now, they were the only coconut water line I knew to use HHP. Today I met Copra and Pure Brazilian, both coconut water lines that use HHP.

Copra packages raw coconut water from Thailand like Harmless Harvest but Pure Brazilian, as its names suggests, uses Brazilian coconuts which are harvested mainly for the water and not for the flesh. This yields a milder, crisper and less sweet beverage than the Thai counterpart. They are both good, depending on what you like. Copra introduced their coconut water but also a coconut cider vinegar! Yes, like apple cider vinegar, with all the probiotic goodness. Very mild and refreshing, it comes in bottles to drink straight. They are only available in the East Coast as of now, but hopefully it hits our coast soon.

And for you coffee drinkers, Harmless Harvest launched a coffee coconut water which is just 1/2 a shot of espresso and coconut water! It is naturally sweet and helps with the diuretic effects of coffee since coconut water is electrolyte rich.

Evolution Fresh was one of the first to use HPP for their citrus drinks. Then they were able to extend the process to their green drinks. Many green juice companies followed suit to be able to keep the nutrient profile in their product as high as possible. (Daily Greens has some interesting concoctions!) Juice is everywhere and juice fasts have become a daily ritual but be wary of the amount of sugar you may be consuming. Choose the greenest juice possible if you are aiming to get a quick dose of minerals as even fresh fruit juice has many vices. I believe fresh pressed juice may have benefits but you really have to watch the sugar.

Which leads to baby food. You’ve all seen them. The pouches. Pouches have replaced the little glass jars that Gerber started. Though both of these type of products are highly heated, at least the jars still promoted eating with a spoon. Many pediatricians and pediatric dentists are finding that cavities in our children are rising. This obviously is due to the increase in consumption of sugar and processed carbohydrates but I learned today that these pouches are much of the problem. It’s become accepted that because these are “organic”, they are healthy but after being heated to 500 degrees (!!), there isn’t any life left and the only thing that can survive is the sugar! My now 18-month old takes about 15 seconds to finish a 4oz pouch whereas it would take about 5 minutes if I were to have him eat the same amount of pureed food with a spoon. It goes back to when I suggest to speed eaters to eat which their non-dominant hand or to use chopsticks if that’s harder in order to slow down. Kids are eating more because sometimes these pouches, which are generally mostly fruit, really go down too fast.

Little Spoon is the first baby food company to move away from high heat processing to HPP. Focusing on balanced flavors (they use equal parts of the listed foods) and adding a spoon under the lid of the little bowl, they hope to get placed in retail stores soon.