Green ingredients offer convenient and nutritious product options

[USA] A wide variety of green ingredients are available to boost the nutritional profile of consumers’ diets, according to Margaret Gomes, marketing director, NP Nutra, Gardena, CA. “Wheatgrass, Spirulina and kale have been around for a long time,” she noted, however, these products are now catching on in the U.S. as a result of generally poor public health.

“Green supplements are full of nutrients, are low in sugar, are very alkalizing and can help to balance dietary acids. In this day and age people are looking for ways to optimize their health.”

While such supplements are not meant to replace food, she argued green products could enhance consumers’ diets. For those looking for nutrient density, Mr. Seibold recommended looking to cereal grasses such as wheat grass, barley grass, oat grass and rye grass, in addition to algae (spirulina, chlorella and blue-green algae) and alfalfa leaf. “There are other nutrient dense green foods such as the leaves from the Moringa tree and leaves of other nutrient-dense plants. Of course, the most common green foods are kale, spinach and other leafy greens.

Other vegetables like broccoli and green beans are also green foods.” Larry Blitz, president, Green Source Organics, Santa Barbara, CA, noted an uptick in popularity among several of its green food offerings. “We are experiencing increased demand in our organic green algae, juiced grasses and vegetable powders, specifically spirulina, chlorella, wheat, alfalfa, barley, and broccoli, kale and spinach.”

Green ingredients are not only popular for their rich vitamin and mineral profile; green leafy vegetables provide an essential source of dietary fiber, benefiting digestion, weight management and cardiovascular health, according to experts. “In general, the darker green a vegetable, the more nutrient density and the more efficacious it is. However, a whole food version of any green vegetable will look lighter green in the dried form than the dried juice of that green vegetable,” explained Mr. Seibold. “That’s because whole green foods contain vegetable fiber, which lightens the dried version compared to dried juice.” He referenced recent interest in prebiotics and underscored the importance of vegetable fiber, which he said is especially lacking in modern diets.

Mintel reports have suggested that algae is an ingredient to watch, noting that it is nicely positioned for inclusion in “free-from” products, in addition to functioning as a healthy alternative for trans-fats, dairy and eggs. However, fewer than half of Western consumers are accepting of marine-based proteins, according to Mintel data.

The consumer research firm advised that the benefits and safety of algae ingredients need to be made clear to consumers new to this beneficial green. Despite some consumer hesitation, manufacturers see great potential, and launches of food and drinks with algae oil and/or algae based ingredients grew internationally between 2010 and May 2015. Such product introductions were up 23% in China, 21% in India, 21% in the U.S., 6% in Canada, 4% in Vietnam and 3% in Taiwan, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database.

One popular marine ingredient is spirulina, which NP Nutra’s Ms. Gomes said “contains a staggering array of essential nutrients for our bodies.” She added, “Not only does it contain over 60% complete protein (almost three times as much as that found in beef), it has high concentrations of many other important vitamins and minerals, such as B complex vitamins, vitamin E, carotenoids, iron, manganese, zinc, essential fatty acids such as gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is only otherwise found in mother’s milk, and more beta-carotene than you can find in carrots.

Spirulina is also one of the few plant sources of vitamin B12, which is essential for healthy nerves and tissues.” Ms. Gomes pointed to scientific evidence published in 2011 in Journal of Cellular & Molecular Immunology that suggested spirulina supports the immune system for people over 50 years of age. The report indicated taking spirulina as a supplement may improve immune function and ameliorate anemia in persons in this age range. Chlorella, or Chlorella vulgaris, is another algae ingredient that possesses great nutritional benefits. “Chlorella contains an amazing amount of essential nutrients: vitamins, macrominerals, trace minerals, essential fatty acids such as GLA, complete proteins, nucleic acids (RNA and DNA), chlorophyll and a vast spectrum of phytochemicals,” said Ms. Gomes.

Portugal-based microalgae supplier Allma specializes in Chlorella, which the company’s business development manager, Sofia De Mendonça, said “contains a vast array of micronutrients, from all the essential amino acids, as well as several trace minerals, vitamins A, B, C and E, and other important phytochemicals such as chlorophyll, lutein, zeaxanthin and carotenes.” Ms. De Mendonça also underscored the microalgae’s myriad benefits for health, stating chlorella “represents a complete source of high quality protein from vegetable origin; supplies a significant amount of antioxidant pigments; is low in fat, of which around 60% are PUFAs; and it is also used as a detoxifying ingredient.”

Allma conducted a study with its Chlorella vulgaris powder using a digestive tract simulator to test its bioavailability compared to other broken cell wall chlorella products. “Results were quite positive,” said Ms. De Mendonça, “proving that Allma’s chlorella powder is as bioavailable as the microalgae that are artificially broken.” However, the artificially broken products have an increased risk of oxidation and loss of functional properties, she said.

Looking ahead, Mr. Blitz believes there will be an even stronger push toward transparency and increased consumer scrutiny over how green crops are produced.

“We expect an increase in all things organic, especially the greens segment. As population awareness continues, we’ll strive at supplying ingredients that will improve the health of people, their pets and the planet.”

The popularity of these products has increased product development, but also led to less expensive, lower quality ingredients coming into the market, according to Mr. Seibold. “After 40 years of our nurturing the green food segment, it is frustrating to see so many poor quality green food products on the market, making hyperbolic claims that we old timers would never make,” he said.

“It is a concern for us who have devoted our lives to the green foods market that many consumers will go away from the green food category disillusioned and thinking that our message of ‘eat more green’ with green food powders is just a bunch of nonsense.”

When it comes to low-grade products, he said, the assumption of these disillusioned customers is probably correct, and may discourage further use. However, “there are also consumers who recognize that not all green food products are the same and who will try different products and recognize that a green food ought to be green, not brown, yellow or gray or disguised using spirulina or chocolate to hide the true color.” He predicted quality products will survive in the long run.

“Green food tablets and capsules will also continue to grow in popularity as convenient ways to ensure one’s daily greens. Overall, the entire green food category will grow as the awareness of the importance of eating more greens continues to grow.” With this growth, there are already resources available that could help us learn more about healthy eating and what we can do to promote a healthier lifestyle. You can find some of these resources currently available at Revive MD and other sites that specialize in daily health.

 

View original article at: Algae and its role in future animal diets

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