Sunday, October 2, 2022

What's New in Consumer Natural Health Products?

 By Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

Every year the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) holds a large conference and tradeshow providing manufacturers and distributors the opportunity to highlight their products.  It is one of the main venues for health care practitioners and owners of grocery stores and health food stores to stay up-to-date on new product offerings and changes in the industry.  

Here is an update on the new products that you may find in your local health food store or grocery store.  Most of the new offerings are focused on improving health and decrease the environmental impact, a few changes are concerning.

Decrease in Packaging of Personal Care Products and Cleaning Products

Over the next little while you will find more personal care products with a focus on decreasing the amount the packaging that is used and a move to recyclable packaging.  With this in mind, many manufacturers are finding new and improved ways to offer their products. For example, I encourage you to try:

  • shampoo that comes a bar (similar to a bar of soap)
  • laundry sheets versus laundry soap
  • paper towels that are machine washable
  • makeup pads that are machine washable
  • beeswax sheets for wrapping up food versus plastic-based wraps

New Milk Offerings

There are a number of new milks (or mylks) that will soon be available on the market.  Look for milks such as flax seed milk, wider range of nut-based milks and pea-based milks to join the non-dairy offers such as almond, soya, oat, rice, coconut and others. This will be helpful for those that need to avoid dairy. When choosing non-dairy milk options please keep in mind:
  • It is important to have at least three milks that you alternate.  Food intolerances are influenced by genetics and how often you consume a product.  Many people are becoming intolerance to foods such as oats and almonds as they are consuming them too often.
  • When choosing non-dairy milks, choose those that have as few ingredients as possible as many people react to the fillers and emulsifiers that are used.

Dairy-free Cheese Offerings

If you are looking for dairy-free cheeses the main offering has been cashew-based soft cheeses and sauces - many which taste great.  There are a number of new plant-based offerings that will be coming to market.  Stay tuned.

New Wheat/Gluten-Free Offerings

The world of wheat-free and gluten-free products has come a long way over the last 10 years. There are a number of not only healthy, but great-tasting wheat/gluten-free options especially as it relates to pasta-based products and crackers.  There are also more wheat/gluten-free bread and wrap options available. When choosing wheat/gluten-free offerings please keep in mind:
  • Choose products with whole grains (millet, buckwheat, quinoa, rice, teff, etc) and avoid a lot of starches (corn-starch, potato-starch, etc.)
  • There are a lot of non-wheat/grain wraps made from coconut and/or vegetables. Great options for those avoiding wheat/gluten.
  • I encourage you to try legume-based pastas, such as green-lentil pasta, as they have a much higher protein level that wheat-based products. 

Less Sugar in Processed Foods, especially Protein Bars

It was great to see that many of the manufacturers are focused on decreasing not only the amount of sugar, but the types of sugar in their products. Expect to see less artificial sweeteners and more products made with honey, stevia, monk fruit sugar and other healthy sugar alternatives.  Although I am not a big fan of protein bars, they are getting healthier.  Here are some things to keep in mind:
  • If you want to learn more about sugar: 
  • The aim is to decrease sugar in the diet as much as possible. Some sugars, such as fruit-based sugars and honey, do have health benefits, but it is still important to limit the amount that you consume. A general rule of thumb is to have one serving of fruit for every four servings of vegetables. 
  • When choosing protein bars remember that the grams of protein and the fat should be higher than the amount of sugar and the amount of sugar is best to be less than 10 grams. 
  • Expect to see more protein or health-based bars for kids, especially for breakfast.  This can be beneficial as long as the focus is whole foods and the protein and fat is adequate. 

Plant-based Meats

For many reasons, both health and environment, there is a focus on plant-based meats. Expect to find legume and grain-based options to take the place of chicken, steak, ribs and other meats including cold-cuts.  I encourage you to take the opportunity to try out these options and decide for yourself.

"Health Shots"

Expect to see a number of small-serving drinks being offered at your local health-food store or grocery store. They now have health-shots that promote everything from immune-boosting, energy or focus-enhancing, workout recovery, detoxing, weight-loss, digestive aids, sleep and relaxing, etc.  There are a number of things to keep in mind if you choose to use "health" shots:
  • They are often marketed as a food, yet it is best to consider them as a supplement and as such to recognize that they may contain ingredients that may not be ideal for your health.  For example, it is not always safe for people to detox. 
  • Health shots generally promise a "quick fix" which is not always the best way to approach your health.  The naturopathic approach emphasizes the importance of identifying and treating the root cause of your symptoms or concerns.
  • I encourage you to let you naturopathic doctor or health professional know what "health shots" you are consuming to ensure that they are beneficial for you.  I am not against "health shots", I am just concerned that they are marketed as foods and hence consumers need to be careful with how they use them.

Carbonated Drinks

The biggest concern that the CHFA this year was the tremendous increase in carbonated drinks.  Quite concerning actually.  I encourage you to check out my "Notes from the Field - May 2022" for a better understanding as to why this may not be a good thing for health. I personally hope the focus on carbonated drinks is a very short-lived fad. If you choose to enjoy carbonated drinks, I encourage you to do the following:

  • Limit them to meal time and only when have a larger meal.
  • Don't consumer carbonated drinks in place of water.  The body needs still water in order to perform the numerous functions that it needs to do in the body.
  • If you have been consuming a high amount (more than twice a day) of carbonated drinks for awhile than I encourage you to have blood work done to see if there are any changes in key metabolic markers.
A lot of new offerings.  I do encourage you to stay informed.  If you have any questions as to the health benefits of any of these offerings for you or your family, ask you naturopathic doctor.