Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice!

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September 30, 20230

Fall is in the air! It’s a favored season by many with the cooler weather and colorful fall leaves. It is also a time for favorite seasonings!

The first thing my mother wants to know when the weather starts changing is when she can get a Pumpkin Spice Latte!! Well, it’s not all “pumpkin and spice” anymore. And, some of these flavors don’t just pertain to fall or even to coffee for that matter. There are quite a few others to consider, such as apple, caramel, cranberry, fig, maple, hazelnut, and pecan. Top any one of these off with some salty pretzels, savory bacon and/or robust spices like cinnamon, rosemary or nutmeg, and well… your senses will be screaming fall! These flavors are showing up in milkshakes, craft cocktails, smoothies, desserts, pancakes, and so much more!

Why do we crave all of these flavors? Some say it’s your brain’s way of coping and bracing for the upcoming cooler season ahead. Scarcity creates demand since many of these flavors are only experienced during the fall season. According to perception researchers at Johns Hopkins University, it’s the powerful scent. The smell of autumn flavors often trigger familiar and cozy memories creating a national nostalgia and increased desire to reunite with the upcoming season. The smell of pumpkin reminds us of Thanksgiving. Scientists say that our sense of taste actually starts with our sense of smell. The parts of the brain that process odor are very close to the parts of the brain that process memory information. We are drawn to pumpkin-flavored items and other similarly nostalgic products because they remind us of moments in our lives that make us happy and bring us comfort, says Dr. Zishan Khan, a psychiatrist with Mindpath Health. Whatever it is, it’s amazing, it tantalizes my senses and it is GOOD!

Here are a few seasonal favorites and the establishments that provide them…

  • You can get a pumpkin spice latte or pumpkin coffee at 7-11.
  • Bob Evans Restaurants has a caramel apple breakfast menu to put a twist on their classics.
  • Caribou Coffee offers 15 different beverages from their extensive pumpkin spice menu!
  • If you love ice cream, Culvers offers a pumpkin pecan fresh frozen custard, Salted Caramel Pumpkin Concrete Mixer, and a Pumpkin Spice Shake. Oh my!
  • Dairy Queen has a Blizzard menu featuring Pumpkin Pie and Snickerdoodle, and several others.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts partnered with actor Ben Affleck and rapper Ice Spice for their new Ice Spice Munchkins drink. They merge frozen Dunkin’ coffee with Munchkins pumpkin-cake donut holes, and top it off with whipped cream and a dribble of caramel.
  • Wendy’s has a Pumpkin Spice Frosty and a Cream Cold Brew with the same flavors.
  • Starbucks introduced the world to pumpkin spice latte two decades ago! Some say that fall doesn’t start till they have the first sip of this famous and limited latte. Of course, Starbucks also offers so many more fall flavors like Iced Apple Crisp Oat Milk Shaken Espresso. That’s a mouth full!

Whatever your fall pleasure, I hope you enjoy it! “Go big or gourd home!”


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July 31, 20230

The newest taste buzz is Kokumi! We all know the “Big Five Tastes” – Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter and Umami. Well, Kokumi is said to the be the newest taste sensation and potentially the sixth taste on our pallet. While it doesn’t have a taste of its own, it does provide a rich texture. Kokumi is a Japanese word which roughly translates to “rich taste” and/or “rich mouthfeel.” It’s kind of like the experience you get from drinking skim milk versus whole milk. You get a much richer and fuller taste drinking whole milk. It leaves a coating on your tongue and makes foods taste richer. It also rounds out sweet, salty and umami tastes.

Scientists have found that the Kokumi sensation is not owed to one molecule, but rather depends on an interaction or activation between various receptors and peptides. Researchers with the Ajinomoto Group managed to determine the chain of amino acids responsible for the sensation of kokumi, noticing that calcium receptors are activated by kokumi foods. As a result of the activation, the signals to the brain regarding textural mouthfeel, complexity, and duration of flavors are magnified. The Ajinomoto Group was then able to isolate the compound and create a powder that can be added to food, increasing its richness, roundness, and savoriness. A heightened experience of kokumi can be created by adding the powder to foods. However, it is also naturally present in protein-rich foods and fermented food such as alcohol, soy sauce, and fish sauce.

Kokumi has a bright future since it magnifies flavors and increases mouthfeel. The flavors pop and it also balances out flavors like salt does or increases sweetness in reduced sugar products. Imagine something tasting better and having less salt and/or sugar. It would be much healthier. In addition, it can be used to increase flavor in nutritious foods given to malnourished people and make food more appetizing for elderly people who have a diminished taste sensation.

(For more information on tastes, read our previous blog: “How Many Flavors Do We Taste?”)


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June 30, 20230

We are experiencing the worst drought in a millennium which is causing a tomato shortage. Tomato prices are up as much as 80% from 2021, and very limited supply means the product may not even be on shelves for those willing to pay a higher price.

Tomato paste, which is the foundational component of ketchup, salsa and spaghetti sauce is disappearing from store shelves. US food inflation is already nearing 50-year highs, and this summer’s punishing drought is not helping matters. Farmers growing tomatoes are facing numerous challenges this year, particularly in California where more than 90% of the country’s tomatoes come from.

Coming into the tomato-planting season, inventory across the country was already in short supply because of years of drought, substandard crops and growers’ focusing on their other commodities, said Mike Montna, the president of the California Tomato Growers Association. Farmers who conserve rainwater to irrigate their fields used to be able to allocate three to four feet of water for every acre of farmland, but now only have three to four inches to use per acre. Therefore, farmers are increasingly turning to groundwater reservoirs which are more expensive. The historic drought has led to statewide restrictions in California limiting groundwater use. Many farmers are choosing to cut back on tomato production altogether, focusing on less water-hungry crops that are easier to cultivate in areas with groundwater restrictions and historically low rainfall.

Tomato paste is one of those ingredients so full of flavor that it can make a dish pop. It belongs in various recipes because it blends the umami and sweet tastes that result from cooking tomatoes for a long period of time. Because tomato paste has a strong flavor, most recipes only require a slight amount, so it’s best to buy it in small cans or jars. What happens when you run out of this versatile ingredient and your recipe calls for its unique flavor and texture?

Some like to use tomato sauce as a substitute, but the big difference between paste and sauce is the flavor and texture. Tomato paste is reduced by boiling it until it thickens. It produces a more robust, acidic flavor and a naturally sweet taste. The sauce is lighter, has more liquid, and it may also have added sugar, sweet notes, and other ingredients or flavors like garlic and basil. A rule of thumb is to use 3 tablespoons of tomato sauce for every one tablespoon of tomato paste your recipe calls for. Add the sauce to your recipe. Cook and stir constantly until the sauce has reduced and thickened. If your recipe calls for sugar in it, you might want to substitute ketchup and reduce the amount of sugar your recipe calls for. These are nice substitutes, but they are no match for the flavorful tomato paste.

What do you do if you are a manufacturer of a product that contains tomato paste? Natural flavor modifiers might help. LifeWise Ingredients has two products – P60M and Simply Savor Tomato. They boost the tomato profiles and add back the fresh, bright flavor. In addition, our products help potentiate a stronger tomato flavor which may reduce the amount of tomato paste you need in your applications. Why not click here to reach out for a free sample and try it? At LifeWise, flavor is just the beginning…

A world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins. – Laurie Colwin


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May 30, 20230

If you Google this question on the internet, you will get a lot of different answers. According to Thomas Hummel, author of the book, “Taste and Smell: An Update,” there are between five and several dozen independently experienced sensations on the tongue. The five most standard, and common flavors in food that are directly detected by the tongue are: sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and savory/meaty (umami).

Taste is one of your most basic senses. It helps you evaluate food and drinks so you can determine what’s safe to eat and prepares your body to digest food. It certainly helped our ancestors to survive.

Taste refers to the perception of the sensory cells in your taste buds. When food compounds activate these sensory cells, your brain detects a taste like sweetness. Flavor, on the other hand, refers to taste and odor. Sensory cells in your nose interact with odor particles and then send messages to your brain.

As mentioned above, there are dozens of others tastes…

Kokumi is a newer flavor that some say will become the sixth standard and common taste. Kokumi translates (from Japanese) to “mouthfulness, and heartiness. This taste has been proclaimed by researchers from the same Japanese food company, Ajinomoto, who helped convince the taste world of the fifth basis taste, umami, a decade ago.

Astringent is a taste that humans perceive. It contains tannins that constrict organic tissue. It causes a puckering sensation that might be described as rubbery, dry or rough. It may also be described as harsh when found in wines. An astringent flavor is typically found in unripe fruit, green apples, rosemary, and lentils.

Cool or hot sensations are not referring to temperature but rather to foods that chemically trigger a sensation that is similar to a cool or hot sensation. For example, a cool sensation may come from mint or menthol, whereas hot sensations may come from spicy peppers. These sensations come from a different set of nerves. In fact, the exposed mucous membranes in the nose and eyes are also affected by these.

A few new ones that are currently being researched by scientists are: alkaline, metallic, and water-like.

Check in to next month’s blog to learn more about the science behind taste and what can affect your sense of taste.


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April 28, 20230

Believe it or not, there are many factors that alter our flavor perception. Not sure I really gave this much thought before now, but it makes sense. These factors vary greatly from your age to your health.

Did you know that your taste buds begin to degenerate around age 45, and taste loss continues to diminish as you continue to age? As a result, you may need to increase certain flavors. For example, the thresholds for sweet, salt and bitter are 2.5 times higher in the elderly compared to younger consumers. That means you may need to increase the amount of the flavor you are looking for as you age to appreciate the same perception you had when you were younger. There’s actually a reason many kids don’t like sauerkraut or maybe dill pickles until they are older when the flavor seems less intense.

Meal timing and choice are contributing factors. Your taste sensitivity is reduced for one to four hours after eating or drinking. Spicier foods have a greater impact on this taste sensitivity.

Smoking can damage nerve endings and decrease the taste buds’ ability to register bitter, sour, sweet and salty tastes. Yet, just two days after quitting, these nerves begin to heal, and a person may experience a sense of taste and smell that is stronger than before.

Taste buds can be impacted by high and low temperatures. Decreasing temperature may increase the response to bitterness and decrease the response to sourness. The opposite is true as well. Increased temperatures may increase the response to sweetness and decrease it to saltiness and bitterness. Who knew?

There are additional factors that alter our taste perception as well. According to FONA, your hunger level, life experiences, health status, adaptation, and taste medium can be factors. It makes sense. If you have the flu, your taste buds are less sensitive. If you tie a comfort food to a special experience or memory in your life, it brings you great joy because it affects the other senses as well.

When you’re tasting, you usually engage other senses as well, such as smell, mouthfeel, texture, hearing and more. They help us to describe the flavors and tastes we are experiencing. Enjoy engaging your senses!


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April 2, 20230

Consumers are growing more health-conscious than ever before. Because of this, the demand for health and wellness products is on the rise. Spices and herbs are replacing sugar, salt, and artificial additives. Consumers want natural flavoring, organic foods, and safe dietary supplements.

Spices and herbs have been in use for centuries both for culinary and medicinal purposes. They enhance the flavor of our food, and provide aroma, texture, and color to feed our senses. We use them to preserve foods, and many contain incredible nutritional and health benefits that protect from acute and chronic diseases. According to the National Institutes of Health, there is now ample evidence that spices and herbs possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitumorigenic, anticarcinogenic, as well as glucose and cholesterol lowering activities, and they contain properties that affect cognition and mood.

According to Medical News Today, the top ten healthy herbs and spices are as follows:

  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Cumin
  • Peppermint
  • Echinacea
  • Cinnamon
  • Chili Powder
  • Parsley
  • Oregano
  • Cardamom

Spices and herbs not only improve the taste of food but are also a good source of vitamins B and C, iron, calcium, and other antioxidants. It’s like having a medicine cabinet in your cupboard.

Why not add a little spice to your life today?


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February 26, 20230

Although there is no definitive answer as to who actually invented the snack bar in the US, it is clear that it started with some healthy granola in a kitchen that ended up in bar form. They became popular in the 1980’s by athletes and fitness enthusiasts. They typically contained cereal grains, nuts, protein powders, sweeteners, fats or dried fruits. It was deemed a healthy and convenient, on-the-go snack that provided quick energy on demand. You would typically find them in the health food section of the grocery store.

Today, you can find snack bars in several grocery store aisles, like cereal, snacks, health food, and even in the candy aisle. You can also find them in gas stations, convenience stores, pharmacies, gyms and grocery stores. We have a variety of flavors to choose from, such as peanut butter banana with dark chocolate, s’mores, blueberry cashew, lemon meringue, and so many, many more. They sound divine!

Snack bars are deemed to be healthy snacks for when you are on the go. It’s no wonder snack bars are all the rage! You can throw them in your bag, have some on hand in the car, quick snack when you’re out and unable to eat a meal, they don’t require refrigeration. The global market for protein bars is growing quickly and expected to surpass more than $2 billion by the end of 2026, according to the financial analysis site, MarketWatch.

What’s the catch? Many snack bars are highly processed, high in salt, and loaded with sugar. “Many protein bars are really just candy bars with a lot more protein,” said Dr. Eric Rimm, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Would you purchase a box of candy bars to have on hand as quickly as you would a box of snack bars (also known as nutrition and/or protein bars)? Probably not.

You want to pay attention to the nutritional content of the snack bars you choose. Check the grams of added sugar and protein, as well as the number of calories. Look at the ingredients. Nuts and fruit are good. What about the other items? It is good to be informed. You might want to take a look at your go-to snack bar and compare it to sweets such as candy bars, cookies, and bakery items. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not saying don’t eat snack bars. They have all of the conveniences I mentioned above. You just might want to rethink whether or not you are eating something healthy for you. If that’s your goal – verify the ingredients or grab a healthy snack such as a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts.


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June 13, 20220

In last month’s blog, we shared how eating a healthy salad each day can help you to obtain the daily amount of vital nutrients, fiber and good fats that you need. The big question was, “Is this too good to be true?” Perhaps. There are actually a few common mistakes you can make with salads that reduce the health benefits, the primary culprit being salad dressing.

Salad dressings are like the icing on the cake. They add lots of flavor and encourage us to consume more fruits and vegetables, hence “A salad a day can boost your health!”

In an attempt to minimize the number of calories you consume you might choose a fat-free salad dressing with the thought that less calories in will maintain or create weight loss. Fat-free dressings are just that – free from fat, and they are primarily made up of water. Without the oil molecules, your intestines won’t absorb certain vitamins like A, D, E and K. Bottom line is that you need fat to absorb the nutrients from the vegetables and fruits you consume. It also helps to increase your fat satiety so you’re not hungry right after you finish that salad with fat-free dressing.

If you’re looking for less calories and fat, but still want flavor and all the health benefits of eating those delicious fruits and vegetables, you may want to opt for a light dressing versus fat-free, or make your own salad dressing from scratch. There are two primary types of salad dressings: creamy and vinaigrette. Creamy has a base of mayonnaise, sour cream, yogurt, heavy cream, etc. Vinaigrette has a base of oil and vinegar. The latter is probably your healthiest option, and it becomes even more flavorful with herbs and seasonings.

If you consume a light salad dressing, you may notice high acidic notes, a reduced fat mouthfeel or increased levels of sugar and/or salt. Bottom line, you want a flavorful taste, good mouthfeel and you want to absorb all of the vitamin and nutrient benefits from your salad. That’s why, at LifeWise Ingredients, we produce a variety of flavor modifiers to create a great flavor profile, improve mouthfeel, while reducing acidic notes, salt and sugar and all this while our product lands on the ingredient declaration under ‘Natural Flavors”. A salad a day can boost your health and taste good too!

Eat your salad today!


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April 30, 20220

Most of us are health conscious these days. We want to be healthy, not just from a weight and/or fitness perspective, but healthy throughout our entire bodies.

Evidence suggests that eating five servings of fruits and vegetables each day is good for your health and lowers the risk of many health conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only one in ten American adults actually eat their recommended amounts of fruits and veggies each day. We could, however, easily include a salad each day to meet or exceed this recommended guideline.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, “A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar which can help keep appetite in check.”

It’s important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, diverse, and all colors of the rainbow. By doing so, you will receive a wide array of minerals and nutrients. If you eat a salad every day, the primary side effect you will notice is a huge boost in nutrient consumption. Here are just a few examples of some of the health benefits:

Leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes are all common in salads and they are a great source of natural fiber which helps to reduce your (LDL) cholesterol and control blood sugar levels, as well as avoid constipation.
Citrus, berries, bell peppers broccoli, tomatoes and carrots are rich in vitamin C which serves as an antioxidant to protect your cells against damage and improves the integrity of tissues, like skin and blood vessels.
Raw or roasted seeds added to your salad will aid your intake of healthy fats. Olive and avocado oils found in salad dressings help as well.
Spinach, watercress, kale, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts are rich in vitamin K which plays a key role in bone health and proper blood clotting.
Spinach helps to improve the performance of mitochondria that is found in our cells to help produce energy, and to inform and power our muscles.
Romaine lettuce provides two key ingredients that help protect the heart muscle: folate and fiber. High levels of folate have been shown to assist in the prevention of stroke and cardiovascular disease.
The water found in vegetables hydrates our bodies and is necessary for youthful skin tone and basic bodily functions.

Let’s face it, eating a salad every day is healthy because you get vital nutrients, fiber and good fats. And, one of the great things about salad is that you can be creative and make it with whatever you have on hand, including: lettuce, vegetables, proteins, herbs, sprouts, toppings and a dressing. Not only that, but they are cool, crunchy, and fun to eat with lots of textures, colors, and flavors. They are delicious, attractive, easy to make, easily ordered at a restaurant, and are good for you.

Sound too good to be true? Well, there are a few mistakes people make with salads. The primary culprit is the salad dressing. Stay tuned for next month’s blog to find out how you can enjoy a delicious dressing on your salad without the added calories, sugar or fat.

Eat your salad today!


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February 16, 20221

Consumers love their snacks, but their tastes have changed from sodium enriched or sugary to better for you.

Mindful eating, a greater awareness of health and wellness, has created a demand for snacks that are plant-based, have increased protein, and reduced sugar.

In fact, limiting the intake of refined sugar was the second most widespread dietary preference/restriction among consumers in 2021, according to Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Health and Nutrition Survey.

While high-protein snacks, bars and bites are popular choices as a quick way to boost energy and reduce hunger, they also contain highly processed ingredients like artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup.

But when replacing key ingredients to make snacks healthier, it can result in a different taste, texture, and mouthfeel. So as much as consumers say they want healthy, reduced sugar products, they still want them to taste good!

To keep the good taste in protein bites, protein bars, baked goods, cereals, drinks, dairy products, and desserts, LifeWise offers SimplySweet, which reduces the sugar and/or other sweeteners without sacrificing flavor. SimplySweet masks metallic notes in high intensity sweeteners and makes products taste more like real sugar. Less sugar also assists in calorie reduction, a plus in combatting obesity.

 


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