Every year I attend the Natural Products Expo East (there is a West coast version as well) in Baltimore and share the highlights with my readers. For those who don’t know, the Natural Products Expo is the largest gathering of manufacturers and distributors (more than 25,000) of health and nutrition products in the world. This is an opportunity for new companies to introduce their products to the industry and for relatively new companies to expand beyond their local marketplace. I really look forward to this every year because it is the best place to get a hands-on look at the latest and greatest in the industry. I normally spend two full days walking the isles and talking to vendors, but because of schedule conflicts for the second consecutive year I only had one day, which is okay because I have gotten better at weeding out the junk and finding the gems.
As usual, there were many retreads and many products that have no business being at a “natural products” convention. There are plenty of glorified candy bars passing themselves off as healthy energy bars, like the Quest Bar and the latest Clif Bar. What I look for are the products that are not only made with ingredients and materials that enhance rather than hinder good health, but are innovative and fill a need in the busy, health-conscious lifestyle of my typical client or reader. Each year there are prominent themes or trends. Here are a few of this year’s trends that are noteworthy.
GMOs are finally on most manufacturers’ radar. These are foods grown or made with with genetically modified organisms and most people in my field and in the natural products industry believe GMOs are potentially harmful to humans and promote allergies and metabolic disorders. This is why many manufacturers are now labeling their products “non-GMO.” The most common GMO crops are corn, soy, and wheat. In fact, most gluten-free products contain GMOs unless otherwise labeled and this is one of the pitfalls of the “gluten-free” trend right now.
The paleo diet trend continued this year, which explains why there were even more jerky (dried, salted meats) products than last year. I’ve spoke about the benefits of jerky for a between-meal snack and that hasn’t changed. Just watch out for the MSG and excess sugar that many of these products can contain. One of the more impressive products in this realm that is worthy of honorable mention, but not featured below was the Wilde Snacks bar.
Another trend was fermented foods. These are foods that are produced or preserved by the action of microorganisms which helps convert the sugar in food to alcohol. Many pickled or soured foods are fermented with the use of brine, vinegar, lemon juice or other acid. The reason to include fermented foods in the diet is mainly to enhance digestion, thereby optimizing nutrient absorption while reducing inflammation and stress in the body. The beneficial organisms in fermented foods are also good for the immune system. More on that below in the recommended products.
So without further ado, here are the products that made an impression on me and that I found to be unique and fairly healthy at the same time:
- Fire Cider – A unique and brilliant twist on the traditional apple cider vinegar. I use this as a daily tonic as protection against cold and flu and to simply improve my digestion. This is a small, family-run operation that really cares about quality ingredients and impeccable process. Fire Cider is made with apple cider vinegar, lemons, oranges, onions, ginger, garlic, horseradish, habanero pepper, tumeric, and wildflower honey—all raw and certified organic ingredients. The perfect amount of sweet with a bite for a finish. It is so much more palatable than plain old apple cider vinegar with far more benefit. This was easily the find of the show for me! I am instantly a loyal customer. If you don’t want the honey, they have a version without. Currently, you can find Fire Cider in smaller, local health food markets and of course online here.
- HiQ Facial Serum – An all-natural, hydrating, anti-aging facial serum that contains a unique blend of natural antioxidants, skin-friendly vitamins, and plant extracts – featuring Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). A true test of any skin care treatment is how readily your skin absorbs the product. Well that is certainly the case here! Your skin just drinks this stuff up like it needs it, leaving no oily or sticky residue upon application. And it doesn’t seem to matter whether you tend to have oily or dry skin. Packed with antioxidants such as a-lipoic acid, tocopherol (Vitamin E), and USDA certified organic green tea extract, HiQ Facial Serum delivers ingredients that help to balance your pH level and protect your skin from the damaging effects of free radicals. Because of the quality of the ingredients, this stuff isn’t cheap, but it does go a long way and your skin will thank you. If you want to get some, you can find it here.
- Perfect Pickler Kit – I’ve spoken often about the benefits of fermented and cultured foods such as apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut, and miso. The Asian cultures mastered the practice centuries ago, consuming fermented vegetables with almost every meal. When you brine or pickle vegetables, it creates additional vitamins (such as B, C, and K) and introduces millions of friendly bacteria, many of which reside in the digestive tract. With the Perfect Pickler Kit, you can make your own fermented vegetables in just four days. You simply place the vegetables in a mason jar with some Celtic sea salt and filtered water, screw on the lid-airlock assembly and let it sit at room temperature for four days. That’s it! You’ve got the perfect compliment to any meal. It will enhance your digestion and inoculate your GI tract. You can find the kit online at Amazon here.
- Incrediwear – This is not a new product, but I had never seen it before and it certainly got my attention. Whether you’ve got joint pain, arthritis, tendonitis, sprain, or just tired achy muscles, increasing circulation is your ticket to less discomfort and a faster recovery. Incrediwear wraps and braces are made of fabric infused with circulation enhancing, natural elements germanium and carbon. These elements are activated by your body heat and are scientifically proven to dramatically increase blood flow to your skin and muscles. Incrediwear braces are currently being used by professional athletes to ease discomfort, enhance performance and speed recovery. I wore one of these braces on my elbow for my tendonitis I acquired from mountain biking and within 24 hours it felt markedly better. The best part about these wraps is they are made to stay in place during activity, which is a common frustration with many other wraps and braces I have tried. You can purchase Incrediwear online at Amazon here.
- Bulletproof Bar – The idea behind this product is to provide a low-carb, healthy-fat, great tasting snack that feeds your body and your brain. They consist of 11 grams of protein from pasture-raised collagen, medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) for sustained energy and fat burning, chicory root (fiber), organic coconut oil, cashew butter, sea salt, and stevia (natural sweetener). The collagen is not only good muscle fuel, it supports healthy skin and joints. The bars are non-GMO and contain no dairy or grains. The healthy fat concept is what separates these bars from most others. Most of us don’t get enough healthy fat and that can lead to hormonal (endocrine) imbalances and unhealthy fat storage. And if you experience brain fog or difficulty maintaining mental focus, MCTs are what you need. We actually carry this product at my office at Evolutions Annapolis. If you are not local, you can get them here.