On March 8–11, I attended the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California, to see what is trending in the health sector of the food, supplement, and cosmetics industries. The show, held at the Anaheim Convention Center, featured thousands of booths with an exciting array of new products.
What were some of the big trends for natural and organic foods? One of the big stars at the show was coconut. Companies have gone crazy for coconut, putting it in everything from coconut water drinks to peanut butter spreads to topical skin creams. I’m glad that coconut is finally being recognized as the health booster that it is. Its medium-chain fatty acids—including lauric acid, one of the 26 super nutrients that I call FoodTrients—increase our HDL, or “good” cholesterol. For unique FoodTrient recipes using coconut, see my Sweet Potato and Jackfruit Delight and Turkey in Turmeric Sauce.
Gluten-free foods have exploded onto the market and now include tamari (soy sauce without the wheat) and a wealth of pastas made with corn, quinoa, brown-rice flour, and more. Heart-healthy flaxseed, a favorite of mine for adding Omega-3 fatty acids—another FoodTrient—to the diet, showed up in crispy crackers, sprouted tortilla chips, in powdered form for adding to recipes, and as flax milk. I’ve created a delicious Meatloaf with Flaxseed recipe for introducing flaxseed to your family and friends at dinnertime.
Chia seeds, which I’ve been talking about for months and use regularly in my drinks at home, have become key ingredients in crackers, fruit bars, and, yes, bottled drinks. Chia seeds lower cholesterol and can even lower blood sugar. You can find my Chia Seed Treat and Chia Frescas recipes in my cookbook.
Kale, that super green leaf that has so many vitamins and minerals, has been dehydrated and turned into kale chips by more than one company. What a great snack idea! In addition to making it a key ingredient in salads, kale is perfect for cooking in soups and stir-fries. My Tofu and Vegetable Stir-Fry and Potato Kale Soup recipes bring out the best of this FoodTrient-rich, cancer-fighting food.
Super fruits from South America and China—such as goji berries (full of beta-carotene), acai (with antioxidants and the FoodTrients Omega 3s and anthyocyanins), and maqui (high in antioxidants, iron, and vitamin C)—showed up in juices or as dried powders that you can add to drinks, soups, stews, or sauces. My Acai Sorbet recipe is a beautiful frozen confection that’s perfect for the summer months ahead.
Ancient grains were also big at this year’s convention. Lots of packaged quinoa (Andean super grain that’s very high in protein), amaranth (small grain that can be puffed like rice or popcorn), kaniwa (tiny red grains full of vitamins and minerals), farro (ancient variety of wheat that’s high in fiber, protein and minerals), and freekah (green wheat that’s been toasted) were on display. Some companies offered boxed meals using these wonder grains, making them very easy to cook and eat. It looks like “convenience” foods are stepping up with healthier options and a lot more variety when it comes to taste. My nutrient-dense Quinoa Tabbouleh appetizer is an excellent accompaniment to pita or bread products made with these super grains.
Raw foods were also popular in booth after booth. Many people believe that food provides us more nutrients if not heated much over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. (Some foods are actually more bio-available when cooked, and other foods like eggs are safer when cooked, but I’m not against eating raw now and again.) Energy bars, snack crackers, and cookies all had raw versions on display that were full of seeds, nuts, and dehydrated fruits and vegetables.
The people from Bigelow Tea (www.bigelowtea.com ) were kind enough to invite me into their booth to sign copies of my cookbook, FoodTrients: Age-Defying Recipes for a Sustainable Life, which includes a few recipes that feature tea. In my Green Tea Noodles recipe I cook soba noodles in boiling green tea to infuse them with antioxidants and catechins. In my Gingerroot Black Tea recipe, I steep fresh ginger with its anti-inflammatory powers in black tea, whose flavanoids improve concentration. And my Pomegranate Iced Tea recipe adds antioxidant-rich pomegranate juice to brewed black tea for a healthful and delicious beverage. There were so many conference attendees at the Bigelow Tea booth, I signed all 52 books that I brought with me in only 25 minutes! Then we raffled off a gift basket with one remaining cookbook, a FoodTrients apron, and a selection of Bigelow Tea. Afterwards, I went upstairs to the Press Room for interviews by magazine editors.
For me, the Natural Products Expo West was like being a kid in a candy store. I wanted to see everything, taste as many healthy and delicious samples as possible, and learn all I could about the show’s incredible array of organic and natural food, cosmetics, supplements, and household products. In the coming months, I look forward to exploring these new products more thoroughly and sharing what I have learned with you.