Category

SuperFoods

Bugging Out – Will You Eat Insects?

What if we told you that manufacturers are processing crickets, meal worms, and locusts into flours to boost a product’s protein levels? Unsurprisingly, most people in the western world are reluctant to add a scoop of cricket protein powder to their morning shake or pop a couple chocolate covered ants as an after dinner treat. But insects are actually nutritious, sustainable, protein dense, and high in easy to absorb vitamins and minerals.Interested yet?

How about this: a massive 2013 report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations encouraged consumption of edible insects as a global food source because of their many health benefits. It’s time to jump on the creepy crawly bandwagon and embrace entomophagy, the practice of eating insects.

Crunch on Crickets

Companies like CRIK Nutrition, Entomo Farms, Exo Protein, and Chapul are revolutionizing the cricket industry with products like cricket protein powder, protein bars, and flour. You can even munch on cricket cookies from Bitty Foods and chocolate or candy coated worms from Hotlix. Plus, more and more Oaxacan restaurants are popularizing the Mexican snack chapulines — fried grasshoppers that are usually coated in lime and spices. Now will you eat bugs?

Well, for one: we already are. Bugs are practically impossible to keep out of your foods, and you’re already consuming far more than you’d imagine. For instance: one cup of rice contains up to three whole insects; the ground coffee used to make one cup of coffee contains up to 60 bug parts; and the tomato sauce used in one regular pizza contains up to 30 fly eggs or two whole maggots. Many coatings used in the manufacture of candy are made from bug parts, too. But instead of being grossed out by this, we should embrace it.

Nutritionally Dense Cricket Protein Powder

For over two billion people in the world, insects make up their main source of protein. They are one of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet, with over twice as much protein as beef, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach, and more omegas and B12 vitamins than wild salmon. Plus, they boast high levels of zinc, magnesium, and B6, and are loaded with amino acids.It’s practically the perfect food for humans and planet! Are those two billion people paleo? Likely they just know an affordable protein source when they see one.

Easy to Grow & Sustainable

Growing crickets requires less resources than traditional livestock. Cattle farms are notoriously horrendous for the environment, but cricket farms require 2,000 times less land and water, grow 13 times faster, produce 100 times less greenhouse gasses, and consume 12 times less feed.Sweet!

More Ethical

We won’t get into the nitty-gritty details of cattle farming and let’s not get started on the waste and by-products cattle and other animals produce, but let’s just say it ain’t pretty. Crickets, however, naturally cluster on their own, so you don’t have to force them into tight quarters. And none of the insects are going to waste. Traditionally, we only consume about 40 percent of the cows we raise for livestock, but the entire cricket is dried and ground up, so you’re not squandering any of the product.

So What’s the Hold Up?

Most people are, quite frankly, irked by the thought of eating insects and associate it with disease and filth. But insects can be a part of a healthy and happy diet. Lobster and shrimp, for example, were once shunned as dirty, but are now considered delicacies. And high-end restaurants are already starting to serve insects on their menus. It’s only a matter of time until westerners realize that bugs are the latest superfood and here to stay.

 

Get Educated on Coconut Oil’s MCTs

what is coconut oil good for | is coconut a nut | what are MCTs

School’s out for summer (or so sang Alice Cooper circa 1972) but, as any good teacher will tell you, learning never stops. With the weather warming (except in the San Francisco Bay Area where fog season is just getting started), the time has come to explore the coconut. Namely: is coconut a nut? And, what is coconut oil good for?

Is Coconut a Nut?

In a word, no. Coconut is the fruit of the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). And, despite having “-nut” as its suffix, the coconut is not a nut but a stone fruit, related, stone fruit-wise, to coffee, dates, plums, apricots, and, surprisingly, pistachios and almonds.

What is Coconut Oil Good For?

Over the last five or so years, the packaged food industry has gone bananas for coconut. Its water is credited with heroic levels of hydration. Its flesh available fresh, dried, shredded, sweetened, floured, and powdered, and its sap turned into sugar to supply the no and low carb demands of the paleo crowd. As the demand for coconut soars, companies are searching for new positioning of the nutritional benefits of this tropical stone fruit. Many have seized on coconut’s Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs). Say what?

The term “medium chain triglyceride” explains the arrangement of the carbon atoms in the oil after it has been processed from the coconut’s flesh. But only recently did coconut take on the status of a superfood. Though coconut oil is mostly made up of saturated fat, this saturated fat is loaded with MCTs and humans metabolize MCTs differently than other, long-chain fatty acids, such as those found in butter or other animal fats. MCTs go straight to the liver for quick energy or are turned into ketones, or stored fat that is turned into energy when your diet does not contain enough carbohydrates to metabolize into sugar for energy. Ketones are said to offer the body more energy than glucose and to speed up metabolism, a boon for anyone trying to lose those last five pounds.

And, because of the high levels of lauric acid in those MCTs, coconut oil actually is said to act as a balm for your heart. It does not raise LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol and can reduce artery damage. You see, MCTs can benefit just about everyone.

At least this is what proponents of coconut oil tout. And companies have jumped on the coconut oil bandwagon. Bulletproof’s Fatwater line is infused with coconut oil for “mental refreshment.” RAU Chocolate’s  Coconut flavor is a superfood drink, combining virgin coconut oil and unrefined organic coconut palm sugar with cacao to “re-energize.” Cocomulsion Brain is a nutritional supplement that blends coconut oil with whey protein, fish oil and vitamin E, to boost energy, manage weight and support better digestion. And Better Body Foods’ Liquid Coconut MCT Oil stays liquid at cold temperatures and “promotes sustained energy.”

Who Needs Coffee?

With all the energizing properties of coconut oil, who needs coffee? Or, better said, it is time to stir a tablespoon of coconut oil into my coffee. So long almond milk, hello coconut oil!

Granola Bars Move into New Places

healthy, store bought granola bars

Food manufacturers know that consumers are on the hunt for healthy, store bought granola bars and the healthiest (most healthy) energy bars on the market. In response, the bar category has morphed to include rectangular-shaped iterations of just about every food category. Will these snacks and meal replacements satisfy every customer’s nutrition and satisfaction requirements? No. But they do offer a new approach to bars that banish hard to chew, early adapter bars to reliquary status. Here are a few bars that recently caught our eye.

Mediterra

With flavors like Sundried Tomato & Basil and Bell Peppers & Green Olives, Mediterra brings a taste of the Mediterranean – and its healthy lifestyle and diet – to a bar. Packed with fiber (5 to 6 grams per bar) and protein (5 to 6 grams per bar) from nuts, seeds, vegetables and pea protein, Mediterra’s bars have savory – not sweet – flavor profiles, a shift away from the familiar fruit and chocolate-loaded bars. Though they do contain a small amount of sweetener, these bars are not sugar bombs, clocking in at a mere 2 grams or less of added or naturally occurring sugars. (Mediterra also makes yogurt and oat bars which are higher in sugar.) These are nutrition bars that turn a salad bar into a billet of easy-to-transport greens.

Yooli

That aisle of shelf-stable bars near the cereal and snacks is only the beginning of the bar story. The bar category is maturing – there were 226 on the market in 2015 and there are nearly 2,000 varieties available now – but sales are soaring, making room for bars to move into new aisles of the supermarket. Enter Yooli. Named for founder and CEO Yuliya Flynn, Yooli’s Farmer’s Cheese Bars are fresh dairy snacks infused with strawberry, vanilla or coconut.  Easily cross-merchandised with cheese, snacks or bars, Yooli can be placed in the fresh vegetables aisle, alongside fresh-cut fruit and vegetables, in the cultured dairy section with yogurt, or in a freezer with ice cream snacks.

B Raw Bar

Going after raw food enthusiasts, B Raw Bar does not heat its bars above 40–49 °C (104–120 °F) but does insist on refrigerating their bars to maintain nutrition, taste and freshness. Their Super Green bar is made with organic spirulina and chlorella which casts the soft-textured rectangle with a greenish hue. Coconut nectar and coconut shreds add subtle sweetness but this bar is all about the micro-nutrients, such as iron, potassium and copper, not to mention 9 protein grams and 5 grams of fiber, in each bar. It’s a nutritional powerhouse. Made in Hawaii, B Raw Bar also comes with a natural dose of feel-good aloha.

Store bought granola bars are entering the market at a furious clip. Keep your eyes on this space as we will be back with more about how the bar category is adapting to target every consumer who eats.

Superfood: the Most Glorious Term Ever Used in Product Packaging

superfoods for breakfast

The word “superfood” appears on countless brands’ product packaging these days as a marketing term used to help sell food. Popular ideas for what a superfood is include: a) foods that are nutritionally dense; b) rich in phytochemicals or micro-nutrients; c) foods that confer certain health benefits; d) all of the above.  I’m going with d) all of the above to highlight a few foods and trends that are using so-called superfoods to bring better nutrition to the table.

All Hail Kale (and Beets)

Chockfull of potassium and fiber, beets and their greens are surely a superfood. Rhythm Superfoods launched a company around the premise that snackers, i.e. all of us, “deserve delicious, nutrient-dense options that are all-good for your body.” Rhythm Superfoods Beet Chips are simply seasoned with sea salt (another source of trace minerals) or boosted with cinnamon sugar or try them naked for the purest beet experience. Sliced thicker than a traditional chip, Beet Chips have a hearty character and definitive beet flavor.

Kale (calcium, iron, vitamin K, fiber) is atthe  nutrient-dense heart of the company’s snack foods. Tossed with a tahini and sesame seeds dressing, Zesty Nacho Kale Chips Foods offer antioxidants, minerals, fiber, and protein in every bite.

Ba-ba-ba Baobab (and Blueberry and Dark Chocolate)

One of the newer entrants to the US superfoods market is baobab, a tree fruit native to equatorial Africa and India. Baobab boasts one of the highest antioxidant levels on earth plus fiber, vitamin C and potassium. Going stem to stem with baobab’s superfood status is the blueberry. It, too, claims the highest amount of antioxidants of any fruit plus fiber and vitamin C. The good folks at Blue Planet Chocolate wrapped up these sweet little gems in dark chocolate, that of the high antioxidant power, in their Baobab Superfruit Bites and Superfood Chocolate Squares. The 3-ounce packages are snack size, sure, but it’s that antioxidant power that makes you go “hmmmmmm.”

Lotsa Matcha

Matcha, a finely ground powder of a green tea leaf grown expressly for this sort of processing, has its roots in the tea ceremonies of ancient Japan and China.  Matcha has a subtle caffeine kick but the antioxidants of a superfood. It’s the only tea with EGCG, an antioxidant credited with everything from fighting inflammation to boosting your skin’s sun protection. (For reals.) Sencha Naturals believes in green tea for daily wellness and built Matcha Latte, a drink mix that combines the irrepressible vivaciousness of matcha with algae flour, which is rich in omega-9 essential oil.

POTATO CHIPS AS SUPERFOOD?

These days, almost every food product, except maybe KFC and PopRocks, is jumping on the superfood bandwagon, laying claim to a term that has no agreed upon definition. But does the word “superfood” belong on your product package? If potato chips are sprayed with probiotics and protein powder, does that make potatoes a superfood? I’d say no way. To be called a superfood, the basic ingredient – before all the additions – must actually have considerable nutritional benefits but those added ingredients sure do make snacking more interesting and more satisfying.

TELL US: What’s your favorite superfood and why?