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Natural Products Expo West kicks off in Anaheim

March 9, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Thousands came out to the Natural Product Expo West to see what's new in the world of natural ingredients, supplements, food and more.

The sights, sounds, smells and taste of the convention bring a sensory overload. Three-thousand exhibitors are trying to capture the attention of retailers to put their products in stores. So it's a great place to see what's in fashion with food.

Last year saw the introduction of chia seeds. This year they're in bars, drinks, waffles -- you name it.

Drink your oats! This year there's the new phenomenon of liquid-oat shakes, or even oat bars if you're bored with bowls of it.

A hit with health experts like Dr. Oz and others this year is coconut palm sugar.

"I'm loving coconut palm sugar," said Registered Dietitian Ashley Koff. "You actually get all of the minerals from the coconut." Koff loves it because it's got magnesium and potassium and it offers a low glycemic load in fructose, unlike agave.

Remember: Even though natural is one of the hottest trends in food, the Food and Drug Administration has yet to define a legal term for "natural." So what you will see is food manufacturers using "natural" rather loosely.

"There's a lot of junk health food, let's just put it that way," said nutrition expert Dr. Johnny Bowden.

"'Natural' -- what a wonderful marketing term," said Koff. "You've got to understand the difference between marketing terms and things like 'organic,' that are actually regulated."

Yet Koff gave kudos to many products, including raw coconut water, and even the new dehydrated form she calls "Mother Nature's Kool-Aid."

Bars remain a driving force, along with drinks and gels: new ways to get your omega-3s.

No longer just omega-3, science has found that omegas 6, 7 and 9 have merit -- actually, all the omegas have merit.

The expo also features animal treats, eco-friendly products, and of course supplements like curcumin, what you'll get in the spice turmeric.

"The research on it is so good: It's anti-pain. It's good for arthritis. It's very anti-inflammatory and seems to have some anti-cancer activities," said Bowden.

While Bowden wants us to get our nutrients from food, supplements can offer higher doses of what we need.

"You could sprinkle all day long and you will never get a medicinal dose," said Bowden.