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by Janice Stensrude
published in Uptown Express September 1994

New nutrition-intensive powdered drinks offer a painless alternative to packing pounds of fresh vegetables into your countertop juicer.

Functional foods, pharmafoods, nutriceuticals and Frankenfoods are trendy names for "Designer Foods," according to the June 1994 issue of Inc. magazine. The "Designer Foods" label, says Inc., originated with the Designer Food Program, a 5-year, $20-million program of the National Cancer Institute, launched to explore the link between diet and cancer.

Inc. defines Designer Foods as "foods (or parts of foods) that have been developed to provide health benefits in addition to their nutritional content." A publication aimed at the small and/or start-up business, Inc.'s particular interest in Designer Foods is the growth of the consumer market, estimated to be "one of the fastest growing segments of the food industry -- projected to reach revenues of $7.5 billion to $9 billion next year."

Among the Designer Foods listed is Green Kamut, one among an increasing number of "green drinks," whose popularity stems from the touted benefits of wheatgrass, alfalfa, and a host of nature's greens that have been long associated with superior health.

According to Inc., Green Kamut Corporation founder David Sandoval launched his business last year with $300,000 and expects his 1994 revenues from pharmaceutical and natural-foods companies in 16 countries to be in the $1-million range. Apparently, somebody believes the claims for the product -- a lot of somebodies.

Sandoval's version of the popular green drinks is a powdered drink mix with listed ingredients of 65% Kamut leaves and 35% alfalfa. It is the Kamut part that is new on the health-food scene.

As the story goes, 40 years ago a U.S. Airman mailed 36 kernels of wheat to his father in Montana, believing them to be from an Egyptian tomb. The Montana wheat rancher grew the wheat for a few years, showed it at the county fair, and then it was forgotten. In 1977 father and son Mack and Bob Quinn somehow acquired a jar of the wheat and spent a decade growing it on their Montana ranch. The Quinns apparently commissioned research that placed the origin of the grain to the fertile crescent which extends from Egypt on the Tigris-Euphrates area. They began marketing it under the brand name "Kamut," which is registered as a trademark in the U.S., Canada and Europe. They have even received a Variety Protection Certificate from the United States Department of Agriculture, which recognizes the grain QK-77 (Kamut) as a specific and protected variety.

Imagine that! After only 6,000 years, the United States government has given someone the exclusive right to benefit from the sale of seeds that may have been pilfered from a sacred tomb. It's some comfort, though, that the beneficiaries of this peculiar arrogance are people who spent time, effort and love in bringing something of value into our modern world.

Described as an ancient relative of durum wheat, claims for the product include that it has been used successfully by wheat-sensitive people. This claim is based on research attributed to Eileen Yoder, Ph.D., President of the International Food Allergy Association. If these studies are valid, the grain is of real value to the growing number of wheat-sensitive people (and even their pets) who have been attempting to make do with brown rice flour and various other wheat substitutes with varying degrees of success.

Although there have been an increasing number of Kamut products introduced to the market by a variety of manufacturers since its introduction as a pasta product in 1989, Green Kamut Corporation holds exclusive marketing rights to all products made or derived from the green leafy portion of the young plant. So if you had plans of setting up a Kamut juice stand on your curb, forget it!

Green Kamut Corporation states that they plant Kamut and alfalfa together on 2,800 acres of virgin organic farmland. The companion planting, they say, is so that the alfalfa will build nitrogen in the soil, which makes for higher chlorophyll content in the Kamut, and the high altitude of the cropland contributes to a significantly higher protein content.

The laboratory analysis figures in Green Kamut literature show the plant to be higher in most nutritional factors than common wheat. The figures to write home to mother about include 23% higher in magnesium, 25% higher in zinc and "significantly" higher in Vitamin E. Of the 18 amino acids usually found in wheat, the laboratory analysis figures show Kamut to be 34% to 65% higher in 16.

The rationale for including Kamut in a green drink is based in the acceptance of wheatgrass juice as a concentrated source of chlorophyll and many vitamins and minerals. Claims for wheatgrass juice include that it helps to build red blood cells, washes drug deposits from the body, purifies the blood and generally detoxifies. It would be supposed, then, that a better wheat does all of this better.

Green Kamut's other ingredient, alfalfa, is more widely known among health-food habitués. With roots reaching 30 to 50 feet into the earth, alfalfa drinks into its healthy little leaves nearly every mineral known to science, as well as containing healthy doses of chlorophyll, Vitamins F, K, B, D and E, essential fatty acids, and beta-carotene. Alfalfa tablets have long been considered a basic to the vitamin-poppers arsenal of basic essential supplements.

Green Kamut's literature states, "Green Kamut is the ideal food for people lacking deep green vegetable nutrition or for people who believe in juicing but think it's too expensive, too messy or too inconvenient." That covers a lot of people.

According to the manufacturer, each bottle of Green Kamut, which retails for $22.50, contains 90 servings. That's a tidy 25 cents for a six-ounce glass (equivalent to one ounce of fresh wheat grass juice, states the manufacturer). Compared to, say, carrot juice at 75 cents for six ounces (8 ounces of juice per pound at a dollar a pound), that's a nice savings, fewer trips to the grocery store and time saved by not having to clean veggies, crank up the juicer and clean up the mess.

No claims are made for a superior taste over the fresh-juiced varieties, but then how many of us are entranced with the fresh taste of grass?

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