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Sweets Review: So Delicious Dairy Free Coconut Milk Mint Chip Frozen Dessert

Having reviewed another So Delicious product (here) as well as another brand’s coconut milk mint chip (here), I decided to write a review for So Delicious’s Mint Chip. As with their other products in this lineup, this is a dairy-free, soy-free frozen desert which has a coconut base, sweetened by agave syrup.

Flavor

As you might expect from the name, this frozen dessert has a fresh, minty coconut base with a nice amount of chocolate chips dispersed throughout. The mint overpowers the subtle coconut flavor, probably because there is no whole coconut used, only coconut oil and cream. For those not accustomed to coconut-based frozen desserts, it tastes sort of like a dulled down, diet version of a normal milk-based desert. In some sense it is, because of the lower calorie and sodium content.

My biggest problem is that there isn’t really anything special or unique about the flavor. It loses hands down to the same company’s German Chocolate, whose succulent caramel and pecan pieces really make for a great taste experience. There is something strange about the Mint Chip’s texture, a lack of creaminess almost to the extent of being gummy. When I opened the sealed package the ice cream was in an odd shape with a little tornado shaped hole in the middle, almost as if it had partially melted and than refrozen. That could explain why the texture is so funky, or it could be due to the proportions of the gums that are used.

Just as with Luna & Larry’s Mint Galactica product, a balance of contrasting flavors is lacking. While this rival product does have a smoother texture, Mint Chip has the advantage of having larger sized chunks of chocolate with richer flavor. Overall I rate these two products’ flavors on the same level.

Even though I didn’t love the flavor of either coconut-based mint-flavored desert, it’s not that I dislike all minty desserts. There are some milk-based ones I do enjoy such as Bryer’s Mint Chocolate Chip and Talenti’s Mediterranean Mint. Both of these have much more sugar and calories, so its not entirely fair to compare them to the coconut versions. Hopefully I’ll get an opportunity to review one of these products sometime in the near future.

Nutrition/Ingredients

As is with many companies, the products in a set all have similar nutritional information and ingredient makeup. This product is no different and has much in common with the same company’s German Chocolate frozen desert.

In a 85 gram serving (four total in the container) there is 170 calories, with 80 of those from fat, and both figures are lower than many milk-based deserts. Protein is low compared to most milk-based ice creams at only 1 gram per serving, although fiber is quite high at 6 grams, thanks to the chicory root extract. Sugar is only 13 grams per serving, well below average compared to most milk-based ice creams, but comparable with other company’s coconut-based products, such as Luna & Larrys.

This product’s ingredients have a few key differences from the German Chocolate flavor. One is that it has significantly less ingredients thanks to the omission of caramel sauce, which contains a few undesirables like carrageenan and sodium citrite. Because of this I would say Mint Chip is arguably more healthy that German Chocolate.

In addition, Pecans and shredded coconut are not present in Mint Chip, and are replaced by chocolate liquor. For those who didn’t know (I didn’t until I looked it up), chocolate liquor is pure cocoa mass in liquid form and has nothing to do with alcohol. (According to Dictionary.com, “liquor” has a secondary meaning “any liquid substance”)

At first I thought the “mint flavor” listed on the label meant something which tastes like mint (either artificial or natural in origin), but doesn’t necessarily contain natural spearmint or peppermint. I checked with the company and they said this simply means “peppermint extract”, so it is the real stuff after all. I wish they would just list it an extract (as is done by Luna & Larry’s) since it sounds much better and leaves no room for doubt.

I slightly prefer the ingredients of Mint Galactica to this product because the former contains entirely organic ingredients, while Mint Chip has only two (organic coconut cream and organic agave syrup).

Full ingredient list: ORGANIC COCONUT MILK (WATER, ORGANIC COCONUT CREAM), ORGANIC AGAVE SYRUP, CHOCOLATE FLAKE [DRIED CANE SYRUP, COCONUT OIL, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), CHOCOLATE LIQUOR, VANILLA], CHICORY ROOT EXTRACT, CAROB BEAN GUM, GUAR GUM, MINT FLAVOR.

This product is certified gluten free, as per the small icon printed on the top of the carton.

Price/Availability

I bought this for $5.99 at Publix, though it is sold at many other supermarkets.

Ratings:   Flavor: 6.0   Nutrition/Ingredients:  8.0  Price:  7.0  Overall: 7.0

Summary

This is a no-frills mint flavored coconut frozen desert with chocolate chips. It has healthy ingredients and moderate calorie/sugar levels which urges me to recommend it over most milk-based ice creams. However, So Delicious’s German Chocolate is much better tasting and has a similar nutritional profile, so you might want to consider going with that instead.

References

http://www.sodeliciousdairyfree.com/products/coconut-milk-frozen-desserts/mint-chip

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chocolate_liquor

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Product Review: Organic Nectars Cashewtopia Chocolate Hazelnut Gelato

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Did you know gelato made from cashew nuts existed?

Until recently I didn’t either. In fact, if it weren’t for me going out of my way to find unique desserts in order to have material for my reviews, I probably would have never tried Organic Nectar’s Cashewtopia Chocolate Hazelnut gelato.

Packaging

One of the reasons I had not been interested in this product is the packaging, magenta and black text against a plain white background, didn’t really appeal to me.  This design could be said to succeed in the sense of differentiating the product line from competitors, but it feels too sterile to me, almost like a medicine bottle design.

My other issue with the package design is that there is just too much text. There is over 10 lines of text no the front, and the back is even worse, with a very long description of how healthy this product is for you. Reading this, we learn that this gelato is sweetened with coconut and agave syrups, made in-house by the same company which are also sold as separate products. It makes me happy to know they are using two natural sources of sweetness, and the fact the sweeteners are self-produced means they probably have greater control over their quality. But it also annoys me since they are not-so-subtly advertising their own products in both the long descriptive text and the ingredients list below.

The thing that got me thinking about the design of this product was the “org” abbreviation for “organic”, used several times on the label. As it was the first time I had seen this particular shortening, it took a few seconds to register, especially because the full word “Organic” is used elsewhere in the ingredient list (it so happens this is only for their self-made syrup and nectar). After thinking about it for some time I finally realized that the only reason they abbreviated to “org” is because they ran out of space with such a cluttered and over-verbose design.

I was able to get the needed information from the package, but I just wish they had conveyed it in a more elegant and minimalistic way.

Flavor

To be honest, the flavor is very… lets just say different that what I was expecting. The hazelnuts scattered throughout are small and irregularly shaped, but they have a nice crunchy texture in the mouth. The problems is with the base itself, which has a strong sweetness that tastes somehow odd to me, and tastes quite unlike cashews. I’ve had a dessert which contained a high proportion of agave (Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss, Chocolate Hazelnut fudge), but in that product the sweetness was toned down. Here, its more in-your-face, and just tastes different. I’m not sure how to explain it – a effect caused by cashews, some difference in the plant or processing of the agave, or possibly some other minor ingredient.

It’s not that I hate the taste, just that its strange and hard to get accustomed to. Even the scent is very unusual and has some overtones not present in coconut, agave, or cashews.

Having said that, I’ve been able to eat over half a pint so far, and will likely finish it up in the next few days. The only question is will I buy this again, hoping to get used to it for the sake of the nutritional benefits, or stay with frozen desserts which are more my taste.

Nutrition/Ingredients

The marketing quip on the label is correct in that this gelato has (slightly) below-average calories, with 160 calories in a 85 gram serving. My mini database of ice cream figures has about 170 calories as an average figure for this serving size. Sugars is 16 grams which is also a bit below average, though the sugar is from two natural sources (coconuts and agave) so it may be healthier than some frozen desserts which use only table sugar.

Protein is suspiciously low at 2 grams per serving. Cashews apparently have 5 grams of protein per 28 grams worth of total weight, and from that you can infer there is a relatively small amount of cashews in this product (my calculations estimate 8-10%). Just because they are listed first doesn’t mean there is necessarily a huge amount of it present.

Nutritionally this product is great, with a wide array of natural sources, some of which are thought to have many beneficial health effects, such as coconut and cashews. There is no added sugars, no artificial flavors, and no artificial colors. For those trying to avoid certain foods, everything is dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, gluten-free, vegan, and certified organic and kosher.

My only concern is the “org chocolate hazelnut flavor” ingredient, listed last. It seems to indicate something besides actual chocolate or hazelnuts, similar to the “natural flavors” category I despise. I had an exchange with an employee of Organic Nectars over email and was told the organic flavorings are only 0.025% of the total weight, “composed of NON-GMO carriers, as well as flavoring components comprised of  one or more of the following: Natural extracts of plant origin, (from vegetables or fruits), Essential Oils (from vegetables, fruit or spice sources) and essences of plant origin (from fruit primarily).”

As with other companies, they won’t tell you what’s in their ‘secret sauce’, but its nice they have limited the possible components and the proportion used in the product. Honestly I don’t understand how anything present in such a small dose (0.025%) could have any effect on the taste, but I clearly have more research to do in this area so I can learn how these “natural flavors” are made and influence the overall taste.

Full ingredient list: raw org cashews, purified water, Organic Nectars AgaveLight (raw organic agave syrup), org hazelnuts, org gum acacia (nutritional acacia sap fiber), org agave inulin (nutritional prebiotic fiber), org raw cacao powder, Organic Nectars PalmSweet (organic evaporated coconut palm nectar), org virgin coconut oil, org safflower oil, org raw cacao butter, org guar gum (nutritional jaguar plant seed fiber), org arrowroot, pink crystal salt, org chocolate hazelnut flavor.

Price/Availability

I bought this at Whole Foods for around $7.49, quite expensive for a pint. I understand premium/specialty products have justification to keep their prices high, but in the long run I feel this product only has a chance to succeed if they lower prices to a more reasonable level.

Ratings:   Flavor:  5.0 Nutrition/Ingredients: 9.0  Price: 6.0   Overall: 6.7

Summary

This gelato is a Jekyll/Hyde to me – amazing nutritional potential but the weird sweetness that dominates the flavor is hard to ignore. I recommend waiting until the price drops to $5-$6 and then try it yourself, or one of the company’s other flavors.

References

http://www.organicnectars.com/products.html#

So Delicious Coconut Milk German Chocolate Frozen Dessert – product review

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Introduction

I’m a proponent of all type of ice creams, including soy, coconut, and even goat milk-based. I’ve previously reviewed one of Luna Larry’s Coconut Bliss products (here), and this time I decided on reviewing another brand’s coconut frozen desserts that is soy free and dairy free.

I’ve had real German chocolate cake, as well as Cold Stone Creamery’s ice cream of the same flavor, and enjoyed both immensely. Unintentional or not, I’ll be comparing this to those products.

Flavor

To be honest, the first time I tasted this frozen dessert, I was a bit disappointed with the flavor. But when I tried it again the next day, it tasted much, much better. It took a mighty effort of willpower to stop myself from eating 2/3rds of the carton in a matter of seconds. From this I deduced two possible reasons for the difference in enjoyment. The first is that I was tired, not to mention on a full stomach, so my body was rejecting the ice cream. The other reason is that maybe it took my taste buds two tries before it “got” the flavor and learned to appreciate it fully. In any case, I’ll try to  sample something on two separate days before I complete my review, whenever possible.

The appearance of this ice cream isn’t too appetizing, at least when compared to Cold Stone’s version (see references section below for a nice picture of the latter). The nuts are small and their color blends in with the chocolate so they don’t stand out. The coconut shavings are also few and far between, and blend into the chocolate and caramel base.

However, as you gradually start to shovel spoon after spoon into your mouth (of course after letting it partially melt) your doubts start to disappear. Rich chocolate swirled with sweet caramel, coconut shavings that tickle the tongue, and crunchy pecan pieces that entertain the teeth – its all there. There is no brownie as with the Cold Stone version, but the flavor is comparable and there is approximately 200 less calories and half the sugar.

If you take a deep whiff you’ll notice the coconut smell stands out, with a slight overtone of the caramel. There is little to no chocolate scent as cocoa is used in relatively small proportion compared to the coconut and caramel ingredients.

Nutrition/Ingredients

This product has 180 calories in a single 85 gram serving, slightly lower than the average of equivalent milk-based creams. Its also slightly higher than some of the other flavors of So Delicious coconut milk.

Sugar content is 14 grams per serving, which is typical for other coconut based frozen desserts, but quite low compared to many milk-based creams. I’m always amazed with the apparent sweetness of coconut-based products given their low sugar content. Its probably because agave syrup is commonly used, which is roughly 1.5 times sweeter than table sugar due to a high concentration of fructose. I’ve mentioned in a previous post that agave is potentially healthier than table sugar, but keep in mind that is still unproven and it may turn out that there is no difference from a nutritional point of view.

There is only one gram of protein in contrast to the relatively high fiber (6 grams of fiber which is 24% DV). I believe most of this comes from the chicory root extract which is high in fiber. Vitamins and Minerals, as listed on the package, are negligible except 6% of Iron.

Here is the full list of ingredients:

ORGANIC COCONUT MILK (WATER, ORGANIC COCONUT CREAM), ORGANIC AGAVE SYRUP, ORGANIC DRIED COCONUT, CHICORY ROOT EXTRACT, CARAMEL SAUCE (ORGANIC TAPIOCA SYRUP, WATER, MOLASSES, PEA PROTEIN, NATURAL FLAVORS, ORGANIC COCOA BUTTER, SODIUM CITRATE, SALT, CARRAGEENAN), PECANS, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), CAROB BEAN GUM, GUAR GUM, NATURAL FLAVOR.

Sodium citrate is used for flavor and also to regular acidity, and carob bean gum and guar gum are both used as thickeners to control texture. I’ve been seeing this in many of the products I’ve reviewed lately, but “natural flavor” is always a bad thing to me due to lack of transparency.

Carageenan, a substance extracted from seaweed, is used to thicken and stabilize the dessert. While it is generally accepted by the FDA as a food additive, some experts advise against using it in infant formulas, and some scientific research had indicated there is a possibility it can promote cancer. However these results were done with tissue cultures as opposed to directly with human subjects, and they are disputed by the scientific community.

I feel that the most nutritious ingredient in this dessert, by far, is the coconut itself – in the form of coconut milk and dried coconut. Though I am skeptical on those who claim coconuts are a “superfood” or one can live purely off them, there is a large number of vitamins and minerals in them: potassium, phosphorous, iron, zinc, folate, and manganese, among many others. There is also a large number of health benefits claimed, including raising good cholesterol, helping the immune system, and promoting heart health. (Check out the links I have provided in the references section for a starting point on researching coconut’s potential benefits.) I don’t think there is enough evidence to be 100% certain of many of these supposed benefits, but from the point of view that a wide variety of foods are good for health I feel it is wise to include some coconut in your (ice cream) diet.

On a final note, I’d like to mention a word of caution about how much nutrition coconut actually contributes to this product. While “coconut milk” is listed first on the label, and hence highest in proportion that other ingredients, coconut milk itself consists of water and coconut cream, with water in higher proportion. From this all that we can determine is that the coconut milk is at most 50% coconut cream, possibly much less. That would actually put the amount of coconut cream used less than other ingredients, such as agave which is listed second.

Price/Availability

I picked this up at Whole Foods Market for around $4.99 on sale, whereas it usually sells for $5.99.

Ratings:   Flavor: 8.0   Nutrition/Ingredients:7.5    Price:7.0    Overall: 7.5

Summary

This frozen dessert combines the potential health benefits of coconut with a reasonable amount of sugar and calories, not to mention an unforgettable flavor that makes it one of my favorite coconut-based ice creams.

References

http://sodeliciousdairyfree.com/products/coconut-milk-frozen-desserts/german-chocolate

http://www.coldstonecreamery.com/icecream/signaturecreations/germanchokolatekake/index.html

http://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/calories/cold-stone-creamery-german-chocolate-like-it-852207

http://inrfood.com/ingredients/419

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrageenan

http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/coconut.html

http://healthism.blogspot.com/2011/07/vitamins-and-minerals-in-coconut.html

http://authoritynutrition.com/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coconut-oil/