Healthier Ingredient Alternatives
By Mark Anthony, Ph.D.
More than ever before health-conscious
consumers are scrutinizing food
labels, searching for clues that will
lead them to healthier choices. According to
a study conducted by the Nutrition Business
Journal, the healthy food category now holds
21. 2 percent of the total food market. That’s
over 120 billion dollars in sales. To say that
healthy food has grabbed the public’s attention is an understatement.
Researchers from the Hartman Group
have found that consumers want to connect
their food with the ingredients in it, the
nutrients added and the health benefits
claimed. The ingredients that most often
catch the eye of health-conscious consumers
are sugars, fats, fiber, salt and calories, each
of which affects the other. Products with the
greatest chance of attracting loyal customers
in the future will be ones that have moved
away from traditional processed food staples
of refined sugar, bad fats and high sodium
and instead have value added benefits for
health like fiber, vitamins and minerals and
Refined Sugar Substitutes
Even though the low-carb craze has faded,
there are many who are watching their intake
of the sweet stuff due to the rise in diabetes
and obesity. In fact, according to the Natural
Marketing Institute’s 2007 Health and
Wellness Trends Database, 47 percent of consumers prefer foods with no sugar added.
A lesson to be learned from the abundance of sports drinks on the market is that
we can grow accustomed to drinks with far
less sugar. The typical sports drink averages
about 50 calories per 8 ounces, compared to
popular soft drinks weighing in at anywhere
from 105 to 130 calories. In fact, we hydrate
better with minimally sweetened drinks,
which was the original intent of sports drinks.
Teas are also using less sugar. Honest Teas,
sweetened with honey and a little cane sugar
are only about 30 calories per 8 ounces.
Some are so confident in the natural taste of
the tea, they simply drop the sweeteners completely.
Besides cutting down on the amount of
sugar, many processors are opting for more
nutrient-dense sweeteners instead. Fruit is
growing more popular because it not only
sounds healthier on a label, but also because
it contains many more micronutrients such as
antioxidants, minerals and fiber.
Knudsen’s Recharge uses organic white
grape juice as a sweetener and source of
potassium electrolytes, along with lemon
juice, and a pinch of salt for sodium. Their
spritzers are also sweetened with white grape
juice. The light varieties simply add less juice.
There is also another added benefit—a 2006
study published in the Journal of Agricultural
and Food Chemistry found the antioxidant
potential of grape flesh equal to that of the
skin, making white grapes as healthy and car-dioprotective as the highly touted red grapes.
Bionaturae uses small quantities of organic
apple juice in its fruit spreads. It’s less sweet
than grape juice and does not mask the taste
of the fruit. Fruit juice is also used to sweeten
many cereals and snacks.
In the conventional world, Healthy Choice
just released a line of fruit-inspired frozen
meals using whole fruit such as mango to create flavorful, sweet, more nutrient-rich