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Natural Products Expo West 2016 Part Five

May 14, 2016 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

My fifth and final Expo West entry is geared towards healthier pleasures. These days, there are many faux-health foods on the market. Terms like “All Natural”, “Gluten Free”, “No Sugar Added” and “Non-GMO” are appearing on labels at an alarming rate. In some instances, this is the result of a positive shift in product composition which has largely been driven by consumer demand. So that is good cause to pat ourselves on the back. But, having said that, many of these so-called functional foods aren’t actually as health promoting as they may seem.

The more I dig into the field of nutritional science, the more I realize that hard and fast rules are few and far between. I’m confident that eating a diet centered on whole foods is a good start for most people. Another non-controversial factor is the quality of these whole foods. For instance, grass fed meat outshines “feed lot” meat, and organic strawberries are preferable to their conventionally grown counterparts. However, what I’ve noticed in my own life and in the lives of my clients, is that varying degrees of “wiggle room” can make all the difference if you hope to maintain a healthy lifestyle over the long term. And, that’s why it’s exceedingly helpful to have healthier versions of comfort foods at your disposal.

Simple Mills Gluten-Free Crackers (link): If you’re avoiding gluten, you may well miss a lot of the foods you grew up with. Simple Mills has a new line of grain-free crackers that boast a healthier ingredient list than most. Nutrient-rich, almonds, flax and sunflower seed meals replace nutrient-poor wheat flour. Many of the ingredients used here are organic and all are certified as non-GMO. Now, these are not exactly low in carbohydrates as they contain cassava root – a starchy, staple food widely consumed in Africa and many Equatorial countries. I don’t necessarily consider cassava a “super food”, although it does contain a fair share of several essential nutrients, including potassium and vitamin C, while yielding a lower glycemic index than some other grains and root vegetables. Perhaps, most importantly, these crackers are as crunchy and flavorful as anything I’ve found in the junk food aisles. This is an alternative that will please even the most discerning foodie.

Manitoba Harvest Hemp Heart Bites (link): If you’re looking for a mildly sweet snack that packs a real nutritional punch, consider this instead of a protein bar. Hemp seeds are a good source of dietary fiber, essential fatty acids (including GLA), and protein. Also, this tasty treat is a formidable reservoir of magnesium. You get over 50% of the daily value of magnesium in a single, 45 gram serving of Hemp Heart Bites. What’s more, carefully processed hemp seeds are showing potential as dietary antioxidants which may benefit cardiovascular and cognitive health. A brief word of caution: Mrs. Healthy Fellow, who is allergic to some nuts, had a powerful allergic reaction after trying Cinnamon Hemp Hearts for the first time. Personally, I tolerated both the chocolate and cinnamon flavors well. This goes to show how individualized our response to food can be. Because of this, I urge everyone to try exotic and/or new foods in small quantities at first.

Vixen Kitchen Paleo Vegan Gelato (link): This dairy-free, organic “gelato” really delivers. Instead of using pasteurized cream and milk as a base, Vixen Kitchen blends together purified water and organic raw cashews. To that, they add a hint of organic maple syrup and wholesome flavors such as organic raw cacao, fair trade vanilla bean and even pumpkin puree in their seasonal Pumpkin Pie offering. While unique, this is not a gimmicky product. There are many people out there who don’t tolerate dairy well. Additionally, some vegetarians (aka vegans) abstain from animal milk altogether. And then there’s the issue of nutrition. Raw cashews contain desirable monounsaturated fat, magnesium, potassium and vitamin E. Why use maple syrup? It’s one of the better sweetening options as it possesses unique phytochemicals that may actually lower the risk of diabetes and liver damage when used in moderation.

Dang Onion Chips (link): Of late, onions have been getting some well deserved attention in the scientific literature. I, myself, devoted a recent column to them. Now, a company called Dang is revolutionizing the way we can eat onions. Essentially, they’ve developed a technology to make an onion chips from whole onions without adding breading, corn or soy of any kind. The end result is a crispy, savory chip that has a clean oniony flavor. There’s nothing artificial to be found here. As a bonus, a recent batch of studies report that eating more onions may protect against cognitive decline, endometrial cancer and osteoporosis.

Hail Merry Mini Miracle Tarts (link): Sometimes all you need is a bite of sweetness to tame a craving. Hail Merry’s Mini Miracle Tarts offer up just that. Each serving of one mini-tart has about 100 calories – mostly from organic coconut and nuts. Currently, there are seven all-natural flavors: Bluberry Açaí, Chocolate Almond Butter, Chocolate Chile Pecan, Chocolate Creme, Meyer Lemon, Strawberry Rhubarb and Sweet Potato. They’re dairy-free, gluten-free, non-GMO and contain mostly free trade and organic ingredients. Best of all, their heavy reliance on organic coconut and minimally-refined ingredients boosts the fiber and fat content without being obvious. And, that helps blunt the typical rise in blood sugar that follows most desserts. These will most definitely become a staple in our household.

All of the products featured today come with the usual caveats. Presently, it may be difficult to find them at your local health food stores or markets, but you can request them or look for online sources. Unsurprisingly, these better-for-you-snacks tend to be more expensive then similar, more refined options. In all likelihood, this will always be the case. The more natural a product is, the shorter the shelf life and the more limited the audience – smaller volume production generally increases manufacturing cost. But, rather than focusing on the downsides, why not bear in mind that this is a tiny (and delicious) investment in your quest for wellness? Enjoy!

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Diet Quality Improves for Parents and Children When Almonds (link)

Study 2 – SELF Nutrition Data: Raw Cassava (link)

Study 3 – Iron and Protein Biofortification of Cassava: Lessons Learned (link)

Study 4 – Evaluation of the Cariogenic Potential of Cassava Flours from the (link)

Study 5 – Glycaemic Responses After Ingestion of Some Local Foods by Non- (link)

Study 6 – Absence of Diabetes in a Rural West African Population with a High (link)

Study 7 – Dietary Fibre and Fermentability Characteristics of Root Crops and (link)

Study 8 – Polyphenolic Compounds and Antioxidant Activity of Cold-Pressed (link)

Study 9 – Characterization of Lignanamides from Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) (link)

Study 10 – Structural and Antihypertensive Properties of Enzymatic Hemp Seed (link)

Study 11 – A Novel Hemp Seed Meal Protein Hydrolysate Reduces Oxidative Stress (link)

Study 12 – Preventive and Treatment Effects of a Hemp Seed (Cannabis Sativa L.) (link)

Study 13 – Nutritional Composition of Raw Fresh Cashew (Anacardium (link)

Study 14 – Administration of a Maple Syrup Extract to Mitigate Their Hepatic (link)

Study 15 – Changes in Plasma Glucose in Otsuka Long-Evans Tokushima Fatty (link)

Study 16 – Effect of Fat Type in Baked Bread on Amylose-Lipid Complex (link)

Study 17 – Virgin Coconut Oil Maintains Redox Status and Improves Glycemic (link)

Study 18 – Satiety Effects of Psyllium in Healthy Volunteers (link)

Coconut Oil May Reduce Oral, Pathogenic Microorganisms

Source: Scientifica (Cairo). 2016;2016:7061587. (link)

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Posted in Food and Drink, Nutrition, Product Reviews

5 Comments & Updates to “Natural Products Expo West 2016 Part Five”

  1. JP Says:

    Updated 05/14/16:

    Note: More support for the glycemic benefits of dietary and supplemental fiber …


    Nutrients. 2016 May 6;8(5). pii: E268.

    Consumption of the Soluble Dietary Fibre Complex PolyGlycopleX(®) Reduces Glycaemia and Increases Satiety of a Standard Meal Postprandially.

    The effect of consumption of PolyGlycopleX(®) (PGX(®)) was compared to wheat dextrin (WD) in combination with a standard meal, on postprandial satiety and glycaemia in a double-blind, randomised crossover trial, of 14 healthy subjects trained as a satiety panel. At each of six two-hour satiety sessions, subjects consumed one of three different test meals on two separate occasions. The test meals were: a standard meal plus 5 g PGX; a standard meal plus 4.5 g of PGX as softgels; and a standard meal plus 5 g of WD. Subjects recorded fullness using a labelled magnitude scale at 0, 15, 30, 45, 60, 90, and 120 min and the total area under the curve (AUC), mean fullness vs. time was calculated. The meals with PGX (in granular and softgel form) gave higher satiety (AUC) (477 ± 121 and 454 ± 242 cm·min), than the meal with WD (215 ± 261 cm·min) (p < 0.001). Subjects had blood glucose levels measured after the meals with PGX (granules) and WD. Glucose response (AUC) was significantly lower (p < 0.001) after the PGX meal than for the WD meal. The high viscosity reported for PGX is a likely mechanism behind the significant satiety and blood glucose modulating effects observed in this study. Be well! JP

  2. JP Says:

    Updated 05/14/16:


    Nutr Res Pract. 2016 Apr;10(2):175-81.

    Onion peel extract reduces the percentage of body fat in overweight and obese subjects: a 12-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.

    BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: The anti-obesity effect of quercetin-rich onion peel extract (OPE) was suggested in rats, but information from human studies is limited. This study aimed to investigate the effects of OPE on the body composition of overweight and obese subjects.

    MATERIALS/METHODS: In this 12-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, parallel clinical trials were performed in overweight and obese Korean subjects. Randomly assigned subjects were instructed to take daily either the placebo (male, 6 and female, 30) or OPE capsules containing 100 mg of quercetin (male, 5 and female, 31). Body composition was measured by using bioimpedance and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Resting energy expenditure (REE) and respiratory quotient (RQ) were evaluated by using indirect calorie measurement methods. Fasting blood levels of glucose, insulin, lipids, and leptin were determined.

    RESULTS: Quercetin-rich OPE supplementation significantly reduced the weight and percentage of body fat as measured by DXA (P = 0.02). These effects were not shown in the control group. Levels of blood glucose (P = 0.04) and leptin (P = 0.001 for placebo, P = 0.002 for OPE) decreased in both groups. Significant increases in REE and RQ were observed in both groups (P = 0.003 for placebo, P = 0.006 for OPE) and in the OPE group alone (P = 0.02), respectively.

    CONCLUSIONS: Quercetin-rich OPE supplementation changed the body composition of the overweight and obese subjects. This result suggests a beneficial role of the anti-obesity effect of OPE human subjects.

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Updated 05/14/16:


    J Nutr. 2015 Oct;145(10):2287-92.

    Dietary Almonds Increase Serum HDL Cholesterol in Coronary Artery Disease Patients in a Randomized Controlled Trial.

    BACKGROUND: More than one-half of coronary artery disease (CAD) patients have low HDL cholesterol despite having well-managed LDL cholesterol. Almond supplementation has not been shown to elevate circulating HDL cholesterol concentrations in clinical trials, perhaps because the baseline HDL cholesterol of trial subjects was not low.

    OBJECTIVE: This clinical trial was designed to test the effect of almond supplementation on low HDL cholesterol in CAD patients.

    METHODS: A total of 150 CAD patients (50 per group), with serum LDL cholesterol ≤100 mg/dL and HDL cholesterol ≤40 mg/dL in men and ≤50 mg/dL in women, were recruited from the Aga Khan University Hospital. After recording vital signs and completing a dietary and physical activity questionnaire, patients were randomly assigned to 1 of the following 3 groups: the no-intervention group (NI), the Pakistani almonds group (PA), and the American almonds group (AA). The respective almond varieties (10 g/d) were given to patients with instructions to soak them overnight, remove the skin, and eat them before breakfast. Blood samples for lipid profiling, body weight, and blood pressure were collected, and assessment of dietary patterns was done at baseline, week 6, and week 12.

    RESULTS: Almonds significantly increased HDL cholesterol. At weeks 6 and 12, HDL cholesterol was 12-14% and 14-16% higher, respectively, in the PA and AA than their respective baselines. In line with previous reports, serum concentrations of total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and VLDL cholesterol; total-to-HDL and LDL-to-HDL cholesterol ratios, and the atherogenic index were reduced in both the PA and AA at weeks 6 and 12 compared with baseline (P < 0.05). Effects on serum lipids did not differ between the 2 almond groups. Dietary patterns, body weight, and blood pressure did not change in any of the 3 groups during the trial. CONCLUSION: A low dose of almonds (10 g/d) consumed before breakfast can increase HDL cholesterol, in addition to improving other markers of abnormal lipid metabolism in CAD patients with low initial HDL cholesterol. Be well! JP

  4. G. Paul F. Says:

    Hi JP,

    Do you think the consumption of 10 grams of almonds may prove beneficial even for non CAD patients with modest levels of HDL?

    If so perhaps consuming two tablespoons raw almonds butter (about 30 grams) for breakfast may be a very healthy choice!

    Please let me know your judgment on this topic.

    Thank you!


  5. JP Says:

    Hi Paul,

    Below are several studies which examined the effects of daily almonds in those without CAD. It appears that almonds don’t influence HDL as much in healthy individuals. However, they still confer other benefits in relation to cardiovascular risk such as improving vascular function and lowering waist circumference.

    I think almond butter is a fine food/ingredient. But, as with many foods, unrefined forms (raw, whole almonds) are likely superior.

    Exercise, a lower carbohydrate diet, red wine and healthy sources of saturated fat (eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, wild salmon, etc.) effectively raise HDL cholesterol and support overall cardiovascular health.

    Be well!



    J Am Heart Assoc. 2015 Jan 5;4(1):e000993.

    Effects of daily almond consumption on cardiometabolic risk and abdominal adiposity in healthy adults with elevated LDL-cholesterol: a randomized controlled trial.

    BACKGROUND: Evidence consistently shows that almond consumption beneficially affects lipids and lipoproteins. Almonds, however, have not been evaluated in a controlled-feeding setting using a diet design with only a single, calorie-matched food substitution to assess their specific effects on cardiometabolic risk factors.

    METHODS AND RESULTS: In a randomized, 2-period (6 week/period), crossover, controlled-feeding study of 48 individuals with elevated LDL-C (149±3 mg/dL), a cholesterol-lowering diet with almonds (1.5 oz. of almonds/day) was compared to an identical diet with an isocaloric muffin substitution (no almonds/day). Differences in the nutrient profiles of the control (58% CHO, 15% PRO, 26% total fat) and almond (51% CHO, 16% PRO, 32% total fat) diets were due to nutrients inherent to each snack; diets did not differ in saturated fat or cholesterol. The almond diet, compared with the control diet, decreased non-HDL-C (-6.9±2.4 mg/dL; P=0.01) and LDL-C (-5.3±1.9 mg/dL; P=0.01); furthermore, the control diet decreased HDL-C (-1.7±0.6 mg/dL; P<0.01). Almond consumption also reduced abdominal fat (-0.07±0.03 kg; P=0.02) and leg fat (-0.12±0.05 kg; P=0.02), despite no differences in total body weight.

    CONCLUSIONS: Almonds reduced non-HDL-C, LDL-C, and central adiposity, important risk factors for cardiometabolic dysfunction, while maintaining HDL-C concentrations. Therefore, daily consumption of almonds (1.5 oz.), substituted for a high-carbohydrate snack, may be a simple dietary strategy to prevent the onset of cardiometabolic diseases in healthy individuals.


    Eur J Nutr. 2015 Apr;54(3):483-7.

    Effects of regular consumption of different forms of almonds and hazelnuts on acceptance and blood lipids.

    PURPOSE: Regular nut consumption is inversely associated with cardiovascular disease risk. No study has compared the effects of regular consumption of different types and forms of nuts on acceptance, which is a crucial determinant of long-term compliance to consume nuts regularly.

    METHODS: This study examined the effects of different types and forms of raw, unpeeled nuts on acceptance and the effects of nut consumption on blood lipids through a randomised crossover study with six dietary phases: 30 g/day of ground, sliced, or whole almonds or hazelnuts for 5 days each (n = 74). Acceptance (‘desire’ and ‘liking’) for nuts was measured daily using visual analogue scales. Blood lipids were measured at baseline and week 6.

    RESULTS: Acceptance was stable over all conditions, but there were differences between nut forms (ground < sliced < whole, P < 0.001 for both 'desire' and 'liking') with some nut type-nut form interactions. Compared with baseline, week 6 HDL-C was higher (0.06 mmol/L, 95% CI 0.02-0.10, P = 0.002) while LDL-C and total-C:HDL-C ratio were lower (0.15 mmol/L, 95% CI 0.06-0.25, P = 0.002 and 0.25, 95% CI 0.07-0.43, P = 0.006). CONCLUSIONS: In conclusion, acceptance was stable for all combinations but was highest for whole nuts. Six weeks of nut consumption improved blood lipids. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/10715762.2014.896458

    Free Radic Res. 2014 May;48(5):599-606.

    An almond-enriched diet increases plasma α-tocopherol and improves vascular function but does not affect oxidative stress markers or lipid levels.

    Vascular dysfunction is one of the major causes of cardiovascular (CV) mortality and increases with age. Epidemiological studies suggest that Mediterranean diets and high nut consumption reduce CV disease risk and mortality while increasing plasma α-tocopherol. Therefore, we have investigated whether almond supplementation can improve oxidative stress markers and CV risk factors over 4 weeks in young and middle-aged men. Healthy middle-aged men (56 ± 5.8 years), healthy young men (22.1 ± 2.9 years) and young men with two or more CV risk factors (27.3 ± 5 years) consumed 50 g almond/day for 4 weeks. A control group maintained habitual diets over the same period. Plasma α-tocopherol/cholesterol ratios were not different between groups at baseline and were significantly elevated by almond intervention with 50 g almond/day for 4 weeks (p < 0.05). Plasma protein oxidation and nitrite levels were not different between groups whereas, total-, HDL- and LDL-cholesterols and triglycerides were significantly higher in healthy middle-aged and young men with CV risk factors but were not affected by intake. In the almond-consuming groups, flow-mediated dilatation (FMD) improved and systolic blood pressure reduced significantly after 50 g almonds/day for 4 weeks, but diastolic blood pressure reduced only in healthy men. In conclusion, a short-term almond-enriched diet can increase plasma α-tocopherol and improve vascular function in asymptomatic healthy men aged between 20 and 70 years without any effect on plasma lipids or markers of oxidative stress.

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