6 amazing ingredients for developing natural foods

Consumers’ hunger for natural foods is stronger than ever. 

Whether it strengthens their immune system, gives them a bounce in their step or clears their skin, they want to know that what they’re putting into their bodies is going to benefit them in some way. 

What even qualifies as a natural food or ingredient? Well, according to Google, a natural food has had a ‘minimum of processing or preservative treatment.’ 

Ingredients manufacturer Symrise has said that, as well as minimal processing, look for ‘clean labels’ and ethical and environmentally friendly supply chains when searching for natural foods. 

With 3 in 4 shoppers planning to eat and drink healthier, up-and-coming food and beverage consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands should take note of this market opportunity and review which ingredients they could incorporate into their products. 

Looking for some inspiration for natural ingredients to mix, pour or bake into your products? Let’s look at some popular options:

6 of the best natural ingredients to use in healthy products

Himalayan Sea Salt

If you didn’t already know, it’s the pink salt you see in all the indie cafes. 

Himalayan salt is mined near the Himalayan mountains in Pakistan. People can’t get enough of it – you may have even seen rocks of Himalayan salt being used in lamps as home decor. 

Many claim that it’s densely packed with minerals and therefore beneficial to one’s health. The research on the benefits of Himalayan salt isn’t quite there yet, but we do know it’s essentially sodium. This element plays an important role in several biological functions, including fluid balance, nerve conduction and muscle contraction.

One reason why it’s thought to be so much healthier than regular salt is the way in which it’s harvested. Pink Himalayan salt is extracted by hand, minimally processed and free of additives. These are all buzzwords for natural ingredients! 

Compared to regular salt, it’s much higher in iron, which is what gives it its naturally pink tint. 

We’re not saying to snow your product under with Himalayan salt since everything is better in moderation. But if your product contains salt and you’re looking to draw in a conscious consumer’s eye, it might be worth swapping out the old table salt for pink salt. 

Health claims: 

  • Contains up to 84 different minerals and trace elements; particularly sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron
  • May improve respiratory diseases
  • May balance your body’s pH levels
  • May reduce signs of aging
  • May improve sleep quality
  • May regulate blood sugar
  • May increase libido

Figs

Figs are one of the most underrated fruits. They’re so naturally sweet and delicious that before the days of refined sugars, they were often used to sweeten foods and recipes. 

Derived from the ficus tree, these small round fruits have a unique taste and are often dried to preserve their nutrients. 

Even dried, the fruit still retains its nutritional value. Full of fiber, they’re famed for helping to keep your digestive system ‘regular.’ 

Whether you’re baking a pie, topping off a salad or making oatmeal more flavorful, consider including figs to add a natural source of nutritional sweetness. 

Health claims: 

  • Good for digestion
  • Prebiotic properties
  • Rich in antioxidants
  • Rich in potassium, which helps to lower blood pressure 
  • Calcium may be good for bone density

Cayenne Pepper

Looking to spice up your food or beverage? Look no further than cayenne pepper. It’s a natural ingredient usually found in Mexican, Asian and Cajun dishes. 

It’s also been used as a medicinal cure-all for thousands of years.

The pepper is full of capsaicin, which is what packs the heat as well as the medicinal properties. 

Depending on the type of cayenne pepper, the levels of spice can range between 5,000 to 50,000 units on the Scoville scale. That is how we measure the amount of capsaicin in the peppers.

Some ideas for how you could use this fiery natural food in a CPG product would be to incorporate it in a marinade, work it into a healthy ready-to-go curry, add it to a kombucha or sprinkle it on chips!

Health claims:

  • Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Relieves pain 
  • Maintains a healthy blood flow
  • Fights infections
  • Acts as an anti-inflammatory
  • Boosts immune system

Tulsi

More commonly known as ‘holy basil,’ this herb is thought to nourish the mind, body and spirit. Who could say no to that?

In fact, in Hindu culture, tulsi is believed to be the manifestation of the goddess Lakshmi in plant form, making it a sacred food. 

It’s believed to have adaptogenic properties, meaning that it can help the body to cope with stress and anxiety. 

We’re not done yet. Due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory nature, this herb is often used as a natural ingredient in toothpaste or mouthwash. 

We could go on listing perceived ways in which tulsi can turn your life around, but you’re probably already wanting ideas for how you could cook this ingredient up. Try mixing it with pasta sauces, or even use it as a natural food in a high-end hibiscus sorbet! There is endless potential for this herb, so start experimenting.

Health claims:

  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Supports eye health
  • Removes waste at cellular level
  • Acts as an anti-inflammatory
  • Accents anti-aging
  • Relieves pain 

Cashew nuts

More than just a delicious snack, cashews can be used as a versatile natural food ingredient for both sweet and savory products!

Did you know that cashew nuts are cooked before they’re edible? The truly raw cashew nut contains urushiol, a toxic substance also found in poison ivy. Cooking them makes them safe for our consumption.

While we’re dishing out the facts, did you also know that cashew nuts are actually a seed? We know, we’ve turned your life upside down. 

They’re great for getting your plant-based source of proteins and healthy fats. They contain plenty of copper, magnesium, manganese, zinc, phosphorus and more. 

Add cashew nuts into your stir fry mixes, turn them into a type of butter, use them as a binder in energy balls or use them to make a dairy-free cream cheese! 

Health claims:

  • Are full of antioxidants
  • Acts as an anti-inflammatory
  • Reduces chances of stroke
  • Prevents heart disease
  • Regulates blood sugar levels

Yacon Syrup

You’ve heard of maple syrup. You’ve heard of golden syrup. Now, get ready for yacon syrup. 

It comes from the nectar of the yacon plant, which is native to the Andes mountain range in South America. 

Its taste resembles that of caramel, though it only has about a third of the calories compared to refined white sugars. 

It’s full of fructo-oligosaccharides and inulin, both of which are prebiotics. The fructo-oligosaccharides are soluble fibers which don’t get digested and help waste move through the intestine. In other words, it can help your bowels work better.

Studies have shown that the syrup can help with significant weight loss for obese women with slightly higher rates of low-density or ‘bad’ cholesterol. 

Be careful. Too much of this stuff might make you gassy. 

Making cookies, muffins, caramel sauce? Yacon syrup could be your champion natural ingredient. 

Health claims:

  • Boosts the immune system
  • May lower blood sugar
  • Helps constipation
  • Aids weight loss
  • May help lower cholesterol

Hopefully you’ve found the ingredients that will help your next natural food or beverage product soar to success! 

If you found this helpful, you’ll be excited to know that Buffalo Market regularly shares helpful hints, tips, lists and information especially catered to CPG brands. Check out our blog here!


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