New York startup unveils plant-based meal replacements
Food-tech start-up Levana Nourishments has created a next-generation clean-label nutritional shake that acts as a complete meal replacement. The 100% natural formula combines a short list of gently dehydrated, finely ground plant-based whole foods to deliver a balanced, nutritionally dense, and highly palatable meal replacement.
Levana Nourishments shakes are the brainchild of food professional Levana Kirschenbaum, CEO & Founder. “Not all meal replacement shakes are created equal,” Kirschenbaum explained. “Most of them target weight-loss or sport nutrition and are not designed to close a dietary gap or provide the whole-meal nutritional value that many consumers desperately need. Moreover, many meal-replacement shakes are high in sugar and contain ingredients that cannot fit the bill for a fully integrated meal. Others are simply carriers for protein powders, and can contain artificial flavors or other non-nutritive additives.”
The Levana plant-based portfolio of nutritional shakes is sugar-free, gluten-free, nut-free, and soy-free. It also is non-GMO, NFC-certified natural, and certified kosher. Levana nutritional shakes come in three flavors: vanilla bean, mixed berry and cocoa-coffee, and are available on a private-label basis to the B2B nutraceutical and functional food sectors.
Kirschenbaum’s husband’s confrontation with cancer spurred her to create a powdered, complete meal replacement to nourish him through chemotherapy. Although he responded to the treatment, he experienced a disastrous weight plunge due to extreme appetite loss and an inability to tolerate most foods, including all the standard institutional meal replacement products.
The author of four cookbooks and owner of the popular Levana Restaurant in Lincoln Center, was put off by the high sugar content and non-nutritive ingredients found in many commercial and institutional meal replacements. Kirschenbaum drew on her extensive experience in the natural food industry to create a line of concentrated nutrition shake powders based on pure, simple – and, importantly, familiar – plant-based ingredients.
“Even in the initial phases, the results were very promising, with a highly effective version of what eventually became the Levana natural meal-replacement line,” sais Kirschenbaum. “Today, these potent full-meal shakes make up the lion’s share of my husband’s nutrition needs.”
Under the close guidance of the globally recognized food scientist, Joe Regenstein, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Food Science for Cornell University, and following years of R&D experiments at the Pure Functional Foods Plant in Savannah, New York, Kirschenbaum arrived at a composition of hemp, chia, flax, pumpkin, sunflower seeds, avocado, and other all natural ingredients for her formulations.
Challenges to production involved the need for an ultra-fine grind for effortless ingestion in order to make the powder fine enough to be suitable for parenteral feeding formulations. To solve this, the protein from the hemp, flax, chia, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds – the main ingredients in the formulations – first has to be separated from the fat. The fat then is naturally processed into powder, using tapioca as a carrier, with both then reintroduced into the formulation matrix. “These healthful fats are a highly valuable nutrient, providing concentrated calories, and adding suspension and viscosity while being neutral in flavor,” explained Kirschenbaum.
Together, the formulations comprise the calories, protein, fat, fiber, minerals, vitamins, and micronutrients mandated for a full-nutrition meal – without added sugar and with very low sodium. A complete nutrition analysis was performed by Laboratory Corporation of America (Labcorp), allowing Levana’s formula to be classified as a true meal replacement to counter the effects of malnutrition, and in a way that won’t interfere with digestive regularity, according to Regenstein. “The ingredients were scrupulously selected as pure, wholesome ingredients naturally charged with these desired properties,” he attests. “They work together synergistically to restore a person’s nutritional equilibrium, precisely in line with Levana’s vision.”
The formula underwent successful trials under the supervision of a senior dietitian from the Presbyterian Weill Cornell medical center under the guidance of senior dietitian Jackie Topol, MS, RDN before it was finalized into a ready-to-market product suitable for parenteral feeding as well as for conventional feeding.
“Even a small serving packs a wealth of nutrition and calories, as well as naturally occurring antioxidants,” added Kirschenbaum. “It’s proven to be perfect for feeding people for whom the relationship with food has been irrevocably damaged. The texture and flavor of the base recipe are very unobtrusive. It will absorb whatever flavor it is paired with.” The nutritional powder also caters to those who are dairy intolerant or pursuing a more plant-based lifestyle.
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