What’s New? Health or Hoax?

Baltimore Convention Center, Natural Products Expo East, September 2018.  I made the voyage.  I also made the mistake of not bringing my sleeping bag and snoozing in the lobby…. the only way to see every inch of the expo.  It’s mind-blowing, magnificent, utterly overwhelming, and somewhat disturbing!

I’m not one for trends.  I’m usually annoyed by them. Here’s why: Bandwagon.

Our lovely western culture has the unique ability to take anything found in nature seemingly good and make it Godly, until another God comes along next year.

Science dissects plants. The intention is to understand the parts of the plant and how they impact our health, physiology, and diseases or disease-prevention.

Why am I rambling????? New products seem to follow trends in research.  If science says something is good for us – say…. coconut oil – the food companies and start-ups begin to pump every new product with the latest “superstar”.

My belief (I promise the Expo recap is coming), is that the whole plant IS the superstar! Turmeric vs. curcumin, Cannabis vs. CBD, Coconut vs. coconut oil. I realize the power in concentrated constituents (fancy word for chemicals that make up a plant) or removing the part that gets you high, but how about promoting sacredly whole vs. manhandled. I get it… Turmeric isn’t sexy – it’s an orange knobby root, and a solo coconut won’t make anyone rich.

Trends: Why am I slow on the draw?

I’ve never liked fashion trends – I resisted the skinny jeans for 2 years – mainly because that meant buying new boots for them to fit into and I thought they made everyone look like an upside down triangle.  I finally gave in. Somedays I love them – many days not.  So when it comes to “health food trends” “diets” and “supplements” – I need time to mull it over before deciding if it’s worth the investment.

I used the word “disturbing” to describe the expo. Why? As my time in this profession has taught me, most Americans are completely flabbergasted by what to eat. Is it healthy? Isn’t it healthy? How much? When? What is it?  To quote my late mentor, “we’re the only species on the planet that needs a book to tell us how to eat” (Not sure if he was the author of those words but my first time hearing them).  Back to “disturbing”………

The natural foods industry is wonderful! Huh? It serves us health in a cup.  Microwave meals in 1 min.  Trek from soccer to piano lessons, and thankfully that snack-bar doesn’t ruin the contents of your purse, the glovebox or console. It bottles probiotics so we can drink our good bacteria (just don’t shake it!).  So what’s not to love?

The Expo:

Over 1500 brands – with multiple products….. Thousands of “healthy” items!  Most people assume if it’s meant to be healthy it is! NOPE!  Let me say that again. NOPE!!! In fact, very few of the products on the market are using real, whole food ingredients – edible or topical.  So “disturbing” hits me like an electric shock at the idea of confusing folks more than we are already.  It feels a little YUCKY.

Packaging is deceiving!  All Natural doesn’t mean ALL natural! Healthy is a mater of opinion. Many products have some healthy ingredients and many that are not! Low Fat usually means high sugar &/or high sodium.  Keto (the new BUZZ-word) definitely does NOT equal great.  Half of the Keto foods exhibited were filled with horrible and processed ingredients.  And…. the constant implication is that we need this stuff AND…. more of this healthy stuff is better!  Is it? Or is this the next wave of industrialized “food stuffs”? Strategically placed in a good-for-you, healthy, natural foods aisle preying on the gullible consumer.

For example, (and I hate to single out products) This Bar Saves ______ (like my target escape?) is a healthy snack bar.  For the most part, it has nutritious ingredients.   To be exact, somewhat high sodium, good fiber, no transfat, just under 2 teaspoons of sugar, sub-optimal protein and questionable fat sources – disclaimer, this is my opinion.  It’s non-GMO and gluten free. It’s “claim to fame” is that every time you buy a bar they give a “life-saving nutrition” to a child in need.  Hmmm. What does that mean?  For every purchase, a packet of “life-saving nutrition” gets sent to a child in need (Haiti and the Horn of Africa being the focus at the moment). Several celebrities are endorsing this product. Why wouldn’t they? Seems like a great idea. Who doesn’t want to save children and help malnutrition?


Life-saving packet: Ingredient #1 Sugar, Ingredient #2 Hydrogenated Oil……

This is when I stopped reading.  I ask the company rep…. “Why is the first ingredient sugar and the second hydrogenated oil (transfat)? Answer: “A doctor in France developed the formula based on what would be most easily digested and helpful with malnutrition”. My first thought….OR someone has a warehouse filled with sugar and transfat no longer in high demand because of this damn emphasis on educating people about what causes disease….. so lets give it to starving children. Really? Why is there NO transfat in our health-bar? Don’t we need life-saving transfats too?

“Disturbing” make sense now?

Let’s REALLY help people – not make it look like we’re doing something awesome! And… come on celebs – you need better managers or reading glasses! 

EXPO RECAP. (finally)

Coconut oil is in everything! CBD oil is in everything! Medicinal mushrooms…. powders, drinks, bars. Thankfully, great mushroom products that don’t taste like dirt.  Kombucha galore! Flavored sparkling water in abundance – be on the look out for options that are flavored with REAL pressed fruit juice not artificial – there are plenty of great options.  One million snack bars.  Ketogenic everything!(trendy =not everyone in the world needs to eat Keto nor are all these products health promoting)

There you have it…… the Food Trends at the moment – jump on board or exercise caution and eat them in moderation – up to you.

Here are just a few of my FAVS from the EXPO:

(most can be found in Wegmans or Whole Foods)

Caulipower – frozen pizza made with cauliflower crust – you can also just buy the crust. Gluten-free – although I wish it was organic or at least non-GMO – I’ll give it Tasty.

Eat a Bowl – really tasty meals in a bowl – add water and heat. Not a new concept but this one is Non-GMO and gluten free. Super tasty! AND they were the only company I encountered using all compostable sample plates and spoons for the show (I’m sure there were others I didn’t see, within the 8 hours I spent sampling foods – this big dog was it!)

Bitchin’ Sauce – Gluten-Free, Vegan, GMO free, Hummus-like spreads that are absolutely awesome!

YOUR SUPERFOODS – A container of dry superfoods for making smoothies or snack balls – NO more spending a fortune on superfood ingredients that last a year.  This company makes it easy to eat superfoods.  Organic, Non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan, superfoods are tested by third-party labs, and they  also give life-saving food packets for every mix sold (no…. I didn’t see the packets – skeptical) I do commend companies for trying.

KiZE raw energy bar – gluten-free, high protein, company does mission trips to Haiti.  This bar tastes great and recognizable ingredients you can pronounce!

Inspired Start – Baby food pouches aimed at introducing allergens in tiny doses to help reduce food allergies.  Organic, non-GMO, no sugar added.

Nasopure – Not food.  This is a unique neti-pot that doesn’t require contorting your head – 100% recyclable and BPA free plastic container.  Just stand upright and squeeze.  Cold and Flu season look out!

That’s my rant, my assessment, my recommendations, and my 2 cents.

(FYI – didn’t consult my amazing editor on this one – so forgive my painstakingly, horrendous word compilation filled with grammatical no-no’s (must be the lack of transfats in my diet) and I’ll forgive your cringes and judgments, lol … was going for content)