Best of Expo West 2022

Every March, the natural foods and products industry gets together for one of the biggest trade shows in America, Natural Products Expo West. In its pre-pandemic heyday, as many as 2,500 companies exhibited their wares, which range from every vitamin and supplement product you can imagine, to “plant-based chicken.” (Let’s not go down the rabbit hole of talking about how plant-based chicken qualifies as a natural food, or we’ll be here all day.) 

During the pandemic, folks just weren’t breaking down the door to get to indoor arenas with 80,000 to 100,000 other attendees from all parts of the globe. But this year, Expo West was back. And, as I do every year, let me share with you a few of the highlights from the show. 

SunActive IsoQ: A new kind of Quercetin 

Quercetin is a flavonoid, which makes it a member of a group of plant chemicals with an impressive resume of benefits. Two of the best food sources for quercetin are apples and onions, one of the many reasons those foods are so good for you. More than 2,000 papers have shown that quercetin has positive effects on immune health and sports performance, and have demonstrated its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, and allergy relief benefits 

Early in 2020, when every health professional seemed to be putting out videos about supplements for immune system health, my videos all contained references to quercetin. When I first started at Equinox back in 1991, my standard recommendation for patients with allergies was to supplement with quercetin and nettles! I’ve been taking about 1,000 mg a day myself, for the better part of two decades. 

The problem with quercetin has always been that it tastes awful and isn’t well absorbed. But a new ingredient from Taiyo, the maker of Sunfiber, has solved both of those issues. Taiyo showed me a new quercetin product called SunActive IsoQ, which is scheduled to be available soon at GNC and Vitamin Shoppe. It’s highly bioavailable, it’s water soluble, and it requires lower doses to deliver the sought-after quercetin benefits. SunActive IsoQ is the first ingredient in Taiyo’s new series of enhanced bioavailable flavonoids. (Full disclosure: I’ve been a fan and supporter of Taiyo ever since I first started using their Sunfiber and Suntheanine supplements. They make really good stuff and you can trust them.)  

Ultra Fat by NSNG Foods 

 If you want to strike terror in the heart of a dieter, casually mention that a food is a “fat bomb.” That’s all it takes to conjure up images of fat figuratively exploding on the usual storage sites: hips, butt, thighs and stomach. Then the term “fat bomb” started making its way into the keto diet space, and suddenly the connotations changed. “Fat bombs” were no longer foods you should avoid like the plague because of, you know, the fat and all (i.e. cheeseburgers, Fettucine alfredo, Kung Pao Chicken); now “fat bombs” were a sometimes-tasty snack that was one of your best friends in the quest for a lean body and a flexible metabolism. 

Fat bombs even got the mainstream media seal of approval when one of the most conservative health publications in the country, Prevention Magazine, did an article on them and praised their health-worthiness. 

There were a number of companies displaying their “fat bomb” wares at the Expo, but one that really stood out for me was Ultra Fat by NSNG Foods. Apparently I wasn’t the only one impressed with this product; their website apologizes for being three weeks behind in shipping orders due to overwhelming demand. It’s easy to see why. NSNG Foods (stands for No Starch No Grain) is the brainchild of Fitness Confidential host and training guru Vinnie Tortorich, who I refer to as the Italian version of me! (Check out his podcast.)  

One of the things that makes Ultra Fat such a premium product is the ingredients. Vinnie chose only organic almonds, organic coconut oil, and a really expensive, high-quality vanilla for the basics; but, unlike just about every commercial “fat bomb” on the market, he did not go for what he calls a “fake sweetener” (erythritol, stevia, etc). Rather, he went the savory route, beefing up Ultra Fat with his Ultra Salt electrolyte complex. All I can say is that the result is astonishingly delicious: Think the best sea salt almonds you’ve ever tasted, in a creamy nut-butter base!  

The label says it all: Fat = Energy. I ordered this product myself (at retail, mind you) the minute I got home. You can get it at the NSNGfoods.com website. You’re welcome. 

Bioenergy Ribose 

I first heard of D-Ribose (also known as ribose) a million years ago when bodybuilders in the gym were touting its ability to keep them going during weight-training sessions. Bodybuilders are not always the best source of scientific info, so I ignored the recommendation. 

The next time I heard of D-Ribose was when my colleague (and co-author of The Great Cholesterol Myth), Steven Sinatra, M.D., started writing about it. Sinatra called D-Ribose one of his famous “Awesome Foursome” of nutrients for heart health (the others being magnesium, L-Carnitine and CoQ10). 

That recommendation I did not ignore. 

D-Ribose helps replace cellular stores of energy. The exact biochemistry is painfully boring, but the bottom line is that our cells get depleted of energy and D-Ribose is one of the things that helps fill the tanks. Since cellular stressors are one of the reasons for this energy depletion, and since almost everyone is subject to cellular stressors, it makes sense that ribose would be a powerful supplement. 

But Bioenergy Ribose has another item in its resume that made it stand out to me at the show: It is a powerful booster of AMPK. 

If you don’t yet know what AMPK is, don’t worry—you will. This important enzyme in the body is responsible for all kinds of metabolic benefits including weight loss! AMPK is basically something you want turned on as often as possible because its metabolic effects range from weight loss to energy production. One of the benefits of fasting—which I point out in my course, Meta-Fasting—is that fasting boosts AMPK. So do very low-calorie diets. 

And…so does Bioenergy Ribose. The metabolic pathways are complicated and dull (purine salvage pathway anyone?) but the bottom line is that Bioenergy Ribose is important for both fat loss and energy metabolism. Early trials have shown that low doses of Bioenergy Ribose activate AMPK, independent of exercise! 

Agravitae’s Graviola Infused Coffee Bar 

I did get introduced to at least one legitimate superfood at the show: a fruit called Graviola. Google “big graviola” and you’ll see some impressive 10-pound specimen of this interesting fruit. (I first encountered Graviola in Jamaica, where it’s known by its popular name, Soursop. Soursop juice literally tastes like what you would think nectar-of-the-gods would taste like.) 

Unfortunately, graviola/soursop only grows in very specific tropical countries (like Jamaica) and hasn’t been successfully transplanted to the USA. And that’s a shame, because not only does graviola taste jaw-droppingly terrific, but it has a ton of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. It’s beneficial for immune and digestive support and even has some anti-aging benefits. 

Agravitae is a company that sources graviola directly from farmland in Belize. Their “tag line” is their brand: “We bring forth the very best nutrients from the Earth for a magical unison of health and wellness.” They infuse all those nutrients from graviola into a line of absolutely incredible bars that taste like nothing you’ve ever had before. They’re actually made from coffee infused with graviola and they come in flavors: espresso latte, Paleo and cacao. 

The thing about these bars is they “feel” like chocolate bars but are more like a really rich, creamy coffee. And for me, the best thing about them is that they do not stimulate cravings. I’ve taken to carrying around a latte bar in my bag at all times, because when hungry (or craving something sweet) is the absolute perfect snack: low-glycemic, laced with all kinds of healthful compounds, and really, really tasty. 

Agravitae doesn’t just make bars, though. They’ve also designed a high-end line of skin care products all infused with graviola. You can check out all of their stuff at Agravitae.com. Be forewarned, these are premium products so they’re not cheap, but based on the products I’ve tried (the latte and espresso bars, the Night Repair cream and the Hydrating Serum), they are totally worth it. 

Also worth mentioning… 

I’m not usually a fan of gummies for a lot of reasons, but there are exceptions—and I found one of those exceptions at the show this year. Jelly-like Smart Chews from ConCordix are showing up in a lot of high-end lines (like ChildLife Essentials, a line I’m a big fan of!).  

They’re not exactly gummies, really. For one thing, they dissolve easily in your mouth, so are easier to swallow. There’s absolutely no sugar (which by itself distinguishes them from most of the gummies out there). And the ConCordix Smart Chews can carry a bigger payload for higher doses. Plus, they come in blister packs, making them more hygienic and really easy to pop into a lunch box or a desk drawer! You can learn about them at ConCordix.com. 

That’s about it for this year’s show! See you next column!