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By Mark Anthony, Ph.D. | 04/17/2007
As if soy’s health halo weren’t enough, ZenSoy recently introduced Soy on the Go, which includes 32mg of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid.
Few foods are as versatile as soybeans, the richest sources of complete vegetable protein. Tofu and tempeh are vegetarian protein staples. Soymilks have gown in popularity as an alternative to milk. Soy also boosts the protein in nutrition shakes, bars, and a variety of baked snack items. Although its isoflavones have been linked to healthy blood lipid profiles and reduced risk of coronary heart disease, soy for some is still an acquired taste.
“In speaking with customers, we saw a need to break down consumer barriers to the soy category as a whole in terms of packaging, portability and taste,” says Bruce Goria, director of marketing for ZenSoy (www.zansoy.com), South Hackensack, N.J. ZenSoy puddings do much to break down those barriers; the company claims its chocolate soy pudding is a top seller in the dessert/pudding category.
ZenSoy recently introduced Soy on the Go, a line of healthy soy milks in convenient single servings. Made from organic soybeans, the beverage offers 32mg of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid from algae.
“There is a growing body of scientific evidence demonstrating that people of all ages, from infants to aging adults, benefit from an adequate supply of DHA in the diet,” says Goria. “Several recent scientific reviews have noted the importance of DHA in proper brain and eye function, as well as its potential role in decreasing the prevalence of several neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's disease. Despite its importance, natural food sources of DHA are limited, causing Americans to have among the lowest dietary intakes of omega-3 DHA in the world.”
Most omega-3-rich plants contain linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that cells convert to DHA. Fish obtain linolenic acid from algae, and convert much of it to EPA and DHA. Recent research suggests that obtaining DHA already formed is highly beneficial for the brain, peripheral nervous system, retina and heart. But involving fish presents a dilemma for some vegetarians: how to obtain an abundant vegetarian source of DHA.
“Life’sDHA from algae is a vegetarian source of DHA. It’s produced from start to finish in an FDA-inspected facility with controls in place to ensure the highest quality,” says Cassandra France-Kelly, spokesperson for Martek Biosciences (www.martek.com), Columbia, Md. “And because it’s not from fish, there is no risk of ocean-borne pollutants.”
The ingredient is both Kosher and Halal, and comes from a non-genetically modified source. “Life’sDHA is accepted by the FDA for use in infant formulas and is the only DHA currently used in U.S. infant formulas,” continues France-Kelly. She claims Life’sDHA will not change the taste of your product, “but it certainly will enhance its appeal.”
Yogurt, a natural source of calcium and probiotic bacteria, has made a successful transition from ethnic specialty to popular health and fitness snack. Stonyfield Farm (www.stonyfield.com), Londonderry, N.H., for 24 years has been producing all natural and organic yogurts, smoothies, cultured soy, frozen yogurt, ice cream and milk, and claims to be the nation’s first dairy processor to pay farmers not to treat cows with the synthetic bovine growth hormone rBST.
While the dairy industry has been promoting “three a day,” Stonyfield Farm upped the calcium in its yogurt so it only takes “2-a-Day” to get the bone-health nutrient.
Despite the dairy industry’s long-running “three-a-day” marketing program, Stonyfield’s new 2-a-Day yogurt is enhanced in calcium. “Just two of these yogurts meet your daily calcium needs to help maintain and build strong bones,” says Gary Hirshberg, president/CEO. “We’ve even added Vitamin D [20 percent of the recommended DV], which helps your body better absorb the calcium,” plus inulin, a natural source of fiber and a prebiotic that feeds friendly gut bacteria and also tends to slow the absorption of sugar.
Stonyfield Farm’s latest entry is an organic energy drink called Shift, a combination of protein, vitamins, acai and ginseng, but free of caffeine or guarana, which are in most energy drinks. “As the father of three teenagers and as a soccer coach, I know energy drinks promise a lot, but only give you a temporary, artificial energy spike followed by a quick low,” continues Hirshberg. “For teens and young adults who want to maintain a healthy and sustainable energy level, Shift is the organic alternative.”
Stonyfield also produces Brown Cow yogurt, known for its layer of natural cream on top. Brown Cow recently became the first yogurt to include whole grains as part of a new low fat variety that includes fruit, sunflower and flaxseed.
Ever since red wine became known as a natural source of resveratrol, a potent antioxidant, dark red and blue fruits have been popping up all over the healthy snack market. “Acai has gotten a lot of media attention because it’s rich in antioxidants, but it’s much more than that,” says Jeremy Black, global brand manager at Sambazon (www.sambazon.com), San Clemente, Calif., which claims to have brought the acai berry to U.S. attention in 2000. “Acai is truly ‘whole food’ nutrition — it delivers healthy omega fats, fiber and protein, which is why it’s considered on of the most powerful superfoods on the planet.
Sambazon has a plethora of products, the fortunes of which are linked to that of the acai berry. In addition to being a rich source of antioxidants, acai also delivers omega fats, fiber and protein.
“Studies have shown how the French and Mediterranean diets, rich in red wine and olive oil, help maintain heart, body, brain and skin. Organic Acai combines 30 times the antioxidants of red wine plus an essential fatty acid profile similar to olive oil. It’s a potent combination you want to put in your diet every day,” Black adds.
Sugary soft drinks are joined at the hip to empty-calorie snacks. In fact, according to the USDA, Americans consume about 36 gal. of sweetened soft drinks per person per year. If you include diet soft drinks, the average American dives headlong into a 55-gal. drum of soft drinks per year, a feat which displaces more nutritious beverages.
Inspired by great-tasting European sodas, the people at Izze Beverage Co. (www.izze.com), Boulder, Colo., created a natural carbonated beverage from fruit juices. “Today Izze is available in eight distinctive flavors and sold in grocery stores, coffee shops, schools, delis and restaurants across the U.S., Canada and numerous international markets,” says spokesperson Meg Heitlinger.
The effort to oust soft drinks from schools is leaving a space for healthy choices that appeal to kids. “Because it is a healthier alternative and because kids like the flavors, Izze is in schools across the country, and schools continue to be a growing part of our business,” says Heitlinger.
Healthy snacks are no fad; they are the future. That future is not just in eating healthy food that’s tasty, but also in feeling good about making healthy choices, and what that says about the consumer.
“The market for healthier snack items is growing exponentially,” says Graham Keen, vice president of corporate marketing for Archer Daniels Midland Co. (www.admworld.com), Decatur, Ill. “The global snack food market, valued at $66 billion in 2004, is projected to reach sales of more than $91 billion by 2010, according to research from Euromonitor International,” says Keen.
So no longer fear using the word “snack” to describe your food product. If research confirms that your product and your target demographic are comfortable with the term, use it freely. But back it up by taking out unfavorable ingredients, such as artificial sweeteners and saturated and trans fats, and point out the addition of healthy ones — while carefully staying within the bounds of FDA-recognized health claims.
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