Natural Products Expo 2011, Part 2: Ancient Grains, Vegan Fare and More

Last week, I reported on the overall vibe at the Natural Products Expo West, which included plenty of buzz about GMOs. This week, I want to share some of the cool stuff I spotted on the expo floor that (hopefully) will come to a store near you soon. These are just the highlights!
Ancient Grains for Modern Diets

Whole-grain goodness is a linchpin of healthy eating. But as I strolled the expo floor, it was clear that ancient grains where it’s at. The South American grain quinoa has come of age, and protein- and nutrient-packed ancient forms of wheat are the next big thing.

Quinoa was in everything, from cereal to quick-cooking whole-grain blends (from Village Harvest and truRoots, to name just two). I even found qunioa-enhanced chocolate (Alter Eco’s Dark Chocolate Quinoa Midnight Madness bar).

Jovial offers pastas and cookies made with einkorn, an ancient form of wheat that’s high in protein and B vitamins. We’re big fans of Jovial’s einkorn pasta, which is full-flavored and hearty. Their new Italian-made einkorn cookies are surprisingly delicate and will change the way you think about whole wheat baked goods.

I also had a chance to sit down with Bob Quinn, founder of Kamut Khorosan, an ancient form of wheat originally from Egypt. Quinn grows the wheat in Montana, and most of it is exported to Italy, where it’s used to make pasta. But Kamut, which Quinn touts as “King Tut’s wheat,” is catching on in the States in everything from flour to pasta to whole wheat berries.

Vegan for All

I’m not vegan myself, but I can get behind the idea of a plant-centered diet, so I was eager to check out some of the vegan fare at the expo. This year, I found vegan food that appeals to all palates.

My big gripe with vegan “cheese” has been with the flavor (often not even close to the real thing) and texture (many vegan cheeses have a disconcerting tendency to coat the mouth). A vegan friend has been encouraging me to try out Daiya vegan cheese. Last week, I did, and found it a big improvement over vegan cheese I’ve had in the past. Daiya’s cheddar- and mozzarella-style shreds are made from tapioca and have a nice mouthfeel and good melting quality. No, they won’t replace a Neal’s Yard Cheddar or buffalo mozzarella, but you could use them to bust out a decent mac ‘n’ cheese.

I also swung by the Earth Balance booth to check out their forthcoming (this summer) line of vegan MindfulMayo line. Now, I love a homemade mayo, but I’d also happily use their Olive Oil Mayonnaise in a tuna salad or on a sandwich.

Goin’ Coconuts

Walking the expo aisles, one would be forgiven for thinking the world has gone coconuts. There were booths with coconut water, coconut oil, coconut spreads, coconut butter, coconut ice cream, coconut milk, coconut syrup and coconut sugar.

Why? Although coconut’s fat is saturated, it’s a beneficial kind that has an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial effect. And because it’s a plant-based fat, its saturated fat is supposed to be better absorbed by the body than animal fat.

Coconut can be a pricey ingredient, so I was curious to sample Earth Balance’s Organic Coconut Spread (also due out this summer), which will have a lower price point but also can be used for baking and other dishes.

But the coconut item that most intrigued me was Coconut World’s Coconut Sugar. Imagine brown sugar with the lighter texture of granulated sugar, but with a lower glycemic index (so it’s absorbed more slowly into the blood) and much higher in potassium.

Better Packaging

Reducing our packaging footprint was a big theme, and manufacturers were looking for ways to go beyond recyclable. Just one example: Boulder Canyon Natural Foods kettle chips in a compostable bag (yes, the chips are good, too).

There also were lots of reusable water bottles, containers and napkins. Eco Lunchbox showed off sleek and chic stainless-steel containers paired with gorgeous handmade, fair-trade fabric lunch bags and napkins. Still trying to break the plastic baggie habit? Try LunchSkins‘ reusable BPA- and phthalate-free baggies with Velcro closures, which you can toss into the dishwasher.

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One Reply to “Natural Products Expo 2011, Part 2: Ancient Grains, Vegan Fare and More”

  1. Pingback: 5 Smart Ways with Coconut | Nourish Network

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