CES 2018 Recap: 5 Health & Wellness Companies To Watch

As many of you know, I have a full time gig at Yummly as the Head of Nutrition and Wellness. A couple of weeks ago, I spent 5 days in Vegas at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES). The show is MASSIVE, and brings over 170 000 people to Vegas, including many of the world’s biggest tech players. Vegas is not my favorite destination, but it was a treat to scope out some of the latest and greatest offerings in wellness technology...

 Fossil Smart Watches

Fossil Smart Watches

Biggest Trend: Wearables Everywhere

After walking the health and wellness section twice, it was clear that wearables are having their moment right now. Hugo Boss, Fossil and Skagen are just a few companies teaming up with smartwatch makers to bring design-forward watch offerings. As a fashion-lover and tracking enthusiast, it was great to see some less clunky designs enter the market. The downside is that many of the trendier options only come with half the functionality of an Apple Watch. For example, they track steps, and sleep, but not heart rate, and sit/stand time.

I also saw a few applications of wearable tech in clothing and shoes like Spire. This holds some interesting possibilities for things like sweat rate tracking and electrolyte repletion but smart watches still seem more practical to me. Mattress-based sleep tracking was also big with a number of companies showcasing this tech.

 Spire Health Tags clip to your clothes to track activity, heart rate, sleep and more. 

Spire Health Tags clip to your clothes to track activity, heart rate, sleep and more. 

My Favorite Health & Wellness Finds:

There was no shortage of intriguing products at CES, but only a few health and wellness offerings found the sweet spot between useful and differentiated. Here are my favorite picks:


#1. Orig3n.

Orig3n offers health and wellness-focused DNA testing. Their nutrition, fitness, and skin DNA tests, and own their own lab which is unusual in this space. I’ve written about my experience with nutritional genetics before here. It’s great to see this space getting real traction in the market.


#2. Quartz.

Quartz makes self-cleaning water bottles that use UV-C to kill >99.9% of bacteria, viruses and protozoa. My water bottle goes everywhere with me, and the biggest grievance I have with the traditional models is that they are hard to clean. Quartz tackles a piece of this problem head-on, AND keeps your drinks hot/cold for up to 24 hours. Great idea. 

 Quartz self-cleaning water bottle. 

Quartz self-cleaning water bottle. 

#3. Nima.

Founded by Sloan Alum, Shireen Yates, Nima makes gluten and peanut sensors for detecting gluten/peanut protein in food samples. Nima’s gluten sensor has been around for a while, but their peanut sensor is fairly new on the market. Food allergies and Celiac disease are tricky to manage, particularly when eating out, and I love that Nima makes it a little easier.


#4. Mira.

Mira Fertility Tracker uses luteinizing hormone in urine to evaluate ovulation status in women. Conceiving can be a difficult and emotional experience for many couples, and I like that this gives you real time feedback about peak fertility. This tech may apply to other things like thyroid hormone tracking which has implications for weight management, nutrition, and more. I can't wait to see what's next for Mira! 

 Mira Fertility Tracker. 

Mira Fertility Tracker. 

#5. Consumer Physics.

Consumer Physics has a hand-held spectrometer that can be used for everything from detecting the nutrient composition of food, to analyzing body fat percentage. I haven't dug into the science/ accuracy, but I love the ideas of a hand-held device that gives you data about the nutrient content of what’s on your plate. Stayed tuned for more on this one. Perhaps this technology could be used to non-invasively track blood glucose one day?!

FNCE 2017 Recap: Favorite New Food Products

Three weeks ago 13K dietitians (including me) descended on Chicago for the annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE). It was a crazy couple of days, packed to the brim with educational sessions, social events, and meetings. I came home completely wiped, but buzzing with inspiration and excitement about the future of food. 

 View from the Chicago Architectural Foundation River Cruise. I've done this twice now and it's a great way to learn about Chicago. 

View from the Chicago Architectural Foundation River Cruise. I've done this twice now and it's a great way to learn about Chicago. 

One of the best parts of FNCE is exploring the expo floor. Here you can load up a tote bag up with samples, and taste some of the newest healthy products on the market. This year I sampled everything from coconut jerky , to probiotic juices (more on probiotics here), veggie milk, and farmer’s cheese. Below are my favorite nutritious discoveries from the show:

#1: That's It Veggie Bars + Bites

File Nov 07, 8 16 28 PM.jpeg

That’s It’s original line of fruit bars have been one of my go-to travel snacks since I discovered them at Starbucks several years ago. This year the company showcased two new products at FNCE: veggie bars and ‘Bites’.

I love the idea of a savory granola bar, and the That’s It Veggie Bars are one of the better that I’ve seen on the market. These black-bean based bars contain just 5 ingredients, and pack 4g of protein, and 4g of fiber into each 80-90 kcal serving. 

On the other end of the spectrum, That’s It’s new chocolate-covered 'bites' were one of my favorite healthy sweet treat options from the expo. These little bundles of dried fruit and dark chocolate goodness contain 5 real-food ingredients, 6g of fiber and 150 kcal per serving. I’ll be stashing a pouch of these in my bag next time I fly. Who doesn’t love a healthy chocolate treat?

 Silky smooth La Colombe draft latte, straight from the tap. 

Silky smooth La Colombe draft latte, straight from the tap. 

Born and raised in Sydney, I take my coffee seriously and La Colombe Draft does not disappoint. La Colombe infuses their low-fat milk and cold-pressed espresso mixture with nitrogen gas, which gives it a silky-smooth texture without adding fat. It’s seriously delicious; an excellent course of calcium and vitamin D; and free of added sugar. Read more about why coffee is good for you here

File Nov 07, 8 20 28 PM.jpeg

Biena is another one of my non-perishable snacking favorites. Whether I am assembling a cheese board or packing for a trip, these crunchy chickpeas are usually featured. At FNCE I tried Biena’s new milk chocolate-covered chickpeas, and I could have devoured the entire sample bowl then and there. I love that they’re sweet, crunchy and made with real food! Thirty five chickpeas provides 140 kcal, 4g of fiber, 4g of protein, and a relatively modest 2.5g of saturated fat-- chocoholics rejoice!


Perhaps one of the bigger changes that I noticed at the expo this year was the proliferation of FODMAP-friendly foods. FODMAPS stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols, and a low FODMAP diet is often used to alleviate symptoms in people with IBS. Low FODMAPs is one of the more difficult dietary approaches to follow and can vary in length from weeks to lifelong depending on the results of the initial trial. I was encouraged to see new food products accommodating low FODMAPs, particularly grab-and-go bars which are often a landmine of FODMAP-rich ingredients. Happy Bars are made with real-food ingredients, contain ~200kcal, 3g of fiber and 8-10g of protein per serving, and an easy snacking option for someone trialing low-FODMAPs.

 Creamy and delicious Bolthouse Farms pea protein milk. 

Creamy and delicious Bolthouse Farms pea protein milk. 

I tried half a dozen or so non-dairy milk products on the expo floor, including peanut, veggie, and almond milk, but this one was my favorite. With 10g of protein, and 5g of fat per serving, Bolthouse Farms Pea Protein Milk is creamier and more filling than your average non-dairy milk product. It’s fortified with the usual array of vitamin and minerals including calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin E, and phosphorous, and is a solid choice for those of you who struggle with dairy.

Are Lectins Bad For You?

Lectins have been whirring around health circles for a while now, particularly among paleo enthusiasts. They have been dubbed as inflammatory, toxic and a contributing factor to autoimmune disease, obesity and more. But is there any science behind these claims? I took a look.

File Nov 03, 5 09 35 PM.jpeg


What Are Lectins?

Lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins believed to help plants ward off harmful bacteria. Essentially, they help plants stay disease-free just like some of our immune defenses protect us. Our bodies cannot digest lectins and consuming large amounts of raw lectins can lead to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Cellular and animal studies indicate that lectins may trigger an immune response [1,2].


Where Are Lectins Found?

Lectins are found in food such as beans, wheat, soy, tomatoes, nuts, potatoes and bananas. However, the lectin content of these foods is largely destroyed with cooking, and reduced with sprouting and fermentation.


Research On Lectins

Few studies indicate that the lectins are strongly implicated in ill health in humans. Eating raw kidney beans has been linked with gastro symptoms, but when was the last time anyone did that? Personally, I prefer my beans cooked.

Yes, some cell and animal studies indicate that lectins may be inflammatory, activate the immune system and damage the gut mucosa but the evidence in humans in sparse [1,2]. Many things in our environment stimulate the immune system and it isn’t always bad. On the contrary, some lectins are being investigated as novel therapies for cancer, and viral illnesses [3,4].


Should You Avoid Lectins?

Unless you have a particularly bothersome reaction to grains, legumes, and other lectin-containing foods, there’s no need to go lectin-free. In fact, if you remove lectins from your diet you may miss out on important nutrients like fiber, B vitamins, and potassium. Furthermore, studies suggest that consuming a wide range of whole grains, legumes and vegetables may help ward off diabetes, prevent some forms of cancer, and maintain a healthy weight [5,6].


[1] Do dietary lectins cause disease? : The evidence is suggestive—and raises interesting possibilities for treatment David L J Freed BMJ. 1999 Apr 17; 318(7190): 1023–1024.PMCID: PMC1115436

[2] The Dietary Intake of Wheat and other Cereal Grains and Their Role in Inflammation. Karin de Punder, Leo Pruimboom. Nutrients. 2013 Mar; 5(3): 771–787. Published online 2013 Mar 12. doi: 10.3390/nu5030771. PMCID: PMC3705319

[3] Plant Lectins as Medical Tools against Digestive System Cancers. Laura Elena Estrada-Martínez, Ulisses Moreno-Celis, Ricardo Cervantes-Jiménez, Roberto Augusto Ferriz-Martínez, Alejandro Blanco-Labra, Teresa García-Gasca. Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Jul; 18(7): 1403. Published online 2017 Jul 3. doi: 10.3390/ijms18071403.

[4] Anti-tumor and anti-viral activities of Galanthus nivalis agglutinin (GNA)-related lectins. Wu L, Bao JK. Glycoconj J. 2013 Apr;30(3):269-79. doi: 10.1007/s10719-012-9440-z. Epub 2012 Aug 15. Review. PMID:2289311.

[5] Putting the Whole Grain Puzzle Together: Health Benefits Associated with Whole Grains—Summary of American Society for Nutrition 2010 Satellite Symposium. Satya S. Jonnalagadda, Lisa Harnack, Rui Hai Liu, Nicola McKeown, Chris Seal, Simin Liu, George C. Fahey. J Nutr. 2011 May; 141(5): 1011S–1022S. Published online 2011 Mar 30. doi: 10.3945/jn.110.132944. PMCID: PMC3078018.

[6] Changes in Intake of Fruits and Vegetables and Weight Change in United States Men and Women Followed for Up to 24 Years: Analysis from Three Prospective Cohort Studies. Monica L. Bertoia, Kenneth J. Mukamal, Leah E. Cahill, Tao Hou, David S. Ludwig, Dariush Mozaffarian, Walter C. Willett, Frank B. Hu, Eric B. Rimm. PLoS Med. 2015 Sep; 12(9): e1001878. Published online 2015 Sep 22. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001878. Correction in: PLoS Med. 2016 Jan; 13(1): e1001956.