Food and Nutrition Expo

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • This yearly event is part of a conference hosted by The American Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition, and it showcases new research on food and nutrition, new food products, and current and emerging food trends.  Certainly on the Expo Floor there was enough food to feed an army, and then some.  I sampled nutrition bars, juice, milks and tea beverages, frozen entrees, meat-free burgers, pizzas, muffins, cereal, yogurts, ice cream, cheeses – dairy and non-dairy, egg products, supplements, gluten-free items and lots and lots of chocolate.  I confess I exercised a second time both days!!


    There was significant discussion by the Mars and Hershey’s companies about chocolate flavanols.  These are active compounds found in certain foods, including cocoa and dark chocolate, that research indicates may have relevance in lowering blood pressure, because of their impact on arterial walls.  They relax the walls of the arteries, and that allows blood to flow more easily.  Mars suggests that the process they use to capture the flavanols in their product, CocoaVia (a powder packet you can add to water, smoothies, coffee, milk, and iced tea) which offers 250 mgs of flavanols extracted from cocoa, makes it the only product with that level of “guaranteed” active flavanols on the market.  They credit their unique processing approach called CocoaPro, which they claim, preserves the flavanols.  Some past studies seemed to indicate that around 200 - 250 mgs. of flavanols is the amount clinically necessary to target and relax the arterial walls.   More recent studies are less clear on the amount of flavanols and its direct health impact.  These more recent studies do still seem to correlate the dietary consumption of dark chocolate (high percentage cacao) with a direct outcome of slightly lowering blood pressure.  Hershey’s offers “high percentage cacao” dark chocolate products and cocoa, and some select items have about 100 mgs. flavanols per serving.  A Hershey’s researcher also discussed the soon-to-be approved universal testing method that will standardize how flavanol levels are examined in chocolate and cocoa products.

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    Did you know?  Mars is the third largest food company in the world and includes pet care, chocolates, and Wrigley’s gum, as well as other foods and drinks.  They recently made a pledge to aim for all chocolate products they manufacture to contain "at or below 250 calories/serving."


    PepsiCo had a strong food presence at the event.  They are one of the many food companies committing to reformulate some of their products so that they contain less sugar or salt.  They are also launching a new health initiative.  Their newest campaign is called P.L.A.Y, which stands for protein-liquid-activity-you.  PepsiCo believes that women need more support – from foods rich in protein and from the community of women around them.  The campaign focuses on protein needs of women, and the launch of a new beverage (simply alluded to) that will offer an easy solution to protein needs.  P.L.A.Y. also focuses on making time for physical activity – hopefully fun experiences – and making “you” a priority.  Certainly women often care for their family members, friends and co-workers, at the expense of their own needs.


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    Next Up: The Dairy Council of America, General Mills and “getting whole.”

Published On: October 16, 2012