A good detective keeps up to date with what’s new in her field and to that end every year my husband and I spend a day at the Natural Products Expo. This is an enormous natural foods convention where new products are trotted out and old standards search for new vendors. The fun part is getting to taste everything.
Through the years we have noticed the health food industry, like everything else is subject to trends. One year there was a whole aisle of soy enhanced foods including soy meats, drinks and puddings. Another time it was the year of the obscure berries and exotic fruit like acai, goji berries and mangosteen. Goji berries tasted like red lint no matter what they mix with them including chocolate. But we try everything.
Once we ran into our friend, Enrique, who works for the FDA. Last we had heard he was hot on the trail of a dangerous man parts enhancer that was heavily advertised on the internet. “You should see what happens to the poor slubs when this goes wrong,” he confided, shuttering. The whole project was depressing him. We were glad to see him out doing some fun field work but though we love Enrique, we could not bring ourselves to invite him to walk around with us.
“Being with you is like wearing a “cooties” badge,” I apologized lamely. “Nobody will tell us anything interesting when they see you are from the FDA.” He understood and was not offended. To make amends, we told him where all the good organic ice cream samples were.
This year was all about gluten free foods. Coming to a store near you soon is gluten free….everything. The best was a line of naturally gluten free frozen soups by Kettle Cuisine. Their yet-to-be released Thai chicken with a coconut milk base was particularly yummy. The cookies and cakes on the other hand were consistently too sweet. After trying a half dozen, I could not stomach them any more. For gluten free treats stick to chocolate, ice cream, macaroons or Pamela’s cookies is my advice.
As for new cool discoveries, my husband’s favorite was a naturally fermented “soda”. Technically, it was a type of water kefir made with probiotics. They make it using a process similar to the one used to make kombucha. It is sweeter than kombucha however and only has 40 calories. His favorite flavor was tarragon. Check out: www.eatcavemanfood.com.
My fun new find was Sea Buckthorn. It only grows in the harshest environments like salty marshes and the Himalayas. To survive these inhospitable environments the plant has developed some unique bio-defense mechanisms. These chemical mechanisms are often anti-oxidants and nutrients to the plant consumer.
“Sea Buckthorn is the world’s only source of essential omega 7 fatty acids,” the enthusiastic sales rep informed me.
“I was not aware that omega 7 fats were essential,’” I replied.
“Oh, they are for the skin,” he assured me. “In fact, my girlfriend complains my skin is too soft because I work with them so much.”
“That seems like an unusual complaint,” I retorted eyeing him suspiciously. “Let me see your hands.”
His hands were spookily soft for a man; it was like touching Gumby. “Very impressive,” I commented. “What else is it good for?”
“Acne,” he said with confidence. “Clears it right up.”
Luckily, Enrique was not here to witness such a claim but I wanted to know more. “I wonder how it works,” I mused while trying to read the bottle. “You know omega 7 fats have to be made from something else, so are they long chain polyunsaturated fats?” I asked.
He looked at me blankly and then recovered. “I am not sure but they are essential.”
No, they are not, I explained. There are two essential fats and omega 7 is not one of them. Every other fat is made from these two though it is sometimes useful to get non-essential long chain fats like DHA and EPA directly. Now, he was stepping back from me.
“Think about it,” I challenged, “how could this fat for which there is only one direct food source in the world, be essential? Ninety nine point nine percent of the people in the world would not have access to it. The question is, what is the structure of it and why is this form particularly good for the skin?”
“You need to talk to Dr. Liu,” he decided and scribbled a name and number on a card. In the meantime, I ordered a few bottles. I thought about someone who might be willing to be a guinea pig to test it out.
But all this talk about chemistry was making me hungry. “Look,” called my husband, “I found some high antioxidant chocolate.” Now that sounded essential.