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Another year, another Natural Products Expo West — the mega trade show where companies pushing natural, organic, and healthy products from bison bites to plant-based parmesan vie for the attention of tens of thousands of attendees, while handing out samples and swag for four days straight. Some are well-known, successful companies with stuff you see on shelves every day, others are little guys with a single product that may not be around next year. In between lies plenty of interesting, unusual, and out-there products that we think you're going to want to try. Curious? Here are six of our personal favorites.
1. Veggie Milk
Store shelves are already crowded with stalwart non-dairy milks made from almond, rice, and soy along with a growing segment ranging from coconut to cashew. This one, however, was new even to us: veggie-based milk derived from yellow peas, potatoes, and tapioca, a Godsend for people with allergies as the product is dairy free, nut free, and soy free in addition to being non-GMO. Because peas are so protein-packed, a serving of the milk contains 6 grams of protein and (like cow’s milk) is a good source of calcium and Vitamins D and B12. Maker Vegemo also says that its line (including unsweetened, original, and vanilla) has a creamier mouthfeel than most non-dairy and a consistency close to 2 percent milk), making it perfectly acceptable for things like baking or adding to coffee.
2. Thin Mint Chickpeas
The humble chickpea is having a moment. Beyond its role as salad bar staple and the lifeblood of hummus, the garbanzo bean has made its way into everything from protein bars to peanut butter. It’s also become a bona fide snack food with bags of the crispy, roasted beans in zippy flavors like ranch and wasabi on supermarket shelves. Now, chickpeas have crossed over to the sweet side when a company called Biena launched a line of chocolate-covered chickpeas, coating them in milk and dark chocolates along with salted caramel. But we’re most excited about the newest creation the brand unveiled at the show: Thin Mints chickpea snacks.
Yep, they licensed the flavor from the good old Girl Scouts, coating the crispy beans in a mix dark chocolate and Thin Mint cookies. It might not be exactly the same experience as digging into a Girl Scout cookie, but at 130 calories and four grams of protein a serving, we’ll take it as a solid second.
3. Algae Oil
While algae may bring to mind stagnant water and science class, there are lots of good reasons to start using oil derived from the stuff in your own kitchen. According to the folks at Thrive, which has created an algae cooking oil (and recently rolled out a cooking spray, too), their oil has 75 percent less saturated fat than that ubiquitous kitchen staple olive oil as well as the highest levels of good, monounsaturated fat of all cooking oils, giving it an exceptionally high smoke point. Since the algae (sourced from the sap of a chestnut tree) is grown in fermenters where it’s eventually converted into oil, it also has a low carbon footprint, yielding a lot more product per acre than other oils. As for the taste, it’s light and mild like canola... except with the cool algae factor.
4. Cricket Chips
Most other nations nosh on insects so it's no surprise bug-eating is becoming more mainstream in America, too. The insect leading the charge is clearly the cricket — thanks to its high concentration of protein and the sustainability factor. (It takes 2,000 gallons of water to produce a pound of meat as compared to a single gallon for a pound of cricket protein). Last year, we told you about some cricket protein bars we liked. This year, we spotted cricket-based chips created by a women-led startup called Chirps. The chips' base is a mix of stone-ground corn and a chia seed-spiked cricket protein blend, and the result is a healthy Dorito-style snack chip in flavors including sea salt, cheddar, and barbecue. Chirps clearly has no qualms about touting what’s in ‘em, splashing “EAT BUGS” across the bag.
Available at specialty grocers and health food stores as well as online.
5. Oral Health Tea
You already know what you should be doing to maintain good dental health: brushing, flossing, seeing your dentist regularly, and... drinking tea? While drinks like coffee, iced tea, and soda are acidic and can erode tooth enamel, a line of teas called qii (pronounced chee) have the same tooth-friendly pH level as water.
The drinks (available in classic oolong or lemongrass-ginger green) also contain a proprietary formula created around xylitol — a birch tree-derived sweetener that’s supposed to prevent cavities — that helps stop some of harmful bacteria from sticking to your teeth and thus, can reduce plaque. The idea here is that if you’re on the road or at work and can’t brush, you can down one of these (nice tasting!) teas in the meantime.
Available on Amazon.
6. Fruit and Veggie Wraps
Do you want your turkey sandwich on sourdough, wheat, or... mango? Dubbed a “sustainable alternative to bread and tortillas” these low-carb, low-calorie gluten-free wraps are made mainly of fruits and vegetables. Called Gem Wraps by NewGem Foods, they come in tomato, mango-chipotle, kale-apple, and carrot — each equating to a serving of fruits and vegetables and topping out at a mere 35 calories a pop. You peel them from a sheet, so you can kind of think of them like a grownup, savory fruit roll-up without the stickiness. And while you won’t mistake them for an old-fashioned flour-laden tortilla, if you’ve gone paleo, these babies are about to become a meal-prep staple.
Available on Amazon.
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