So-called superfoods have been hitting health food store shelves for years but that doesn’t mean consumers can’t make room for one more.
Meet moringa- a fast-growing green plant that’s full of nutrients like calcium, protein, iron, potassium and more. Native to Southeast Asia and West Africa, moringa grows best in hot, dry climates across the tropics. Unlike kale, the plant is rarely eaten raw, and instead ground into a paste with peanuts known by the West African Hausa people as kuli kuli.
Lisa Curtis, founder of San Francisco-based Kuli Kuli foods, was volunteering in the Peace Corps in Niger when she first tried moringa. Though they are the first company to widely sell moringa food products in the U.S., all of the moringa used in their foods comes directly from women’s cooperatives across West Africa including Niger and Senegal.
“We're committed to our current suppliers but expect to add on new cooperatives as we grow,” Curtis told FoxNews.com . “We're currently in conversation with a few organizations in Haiti.”
Aside from moringa, Kuli Kuli bars—the first product from Curtis’ line—use nuts and fruits sourced from small family farms in California. The bars currently come in three flavors: Black Cherry, Dark Chocolate and Crunchy Almond.
“We started by experimenting in farmers markets, testing out different flavors and letting our customers ultimately decide what our first three flavors would be,” says Curtis.“I often tell people that it’s the healthiest delicious chocolate bar they'll ever have.”
The bars are vegan and gluten free. Each contains about 190 calories and about the same amount of sugar and carbohydrates as found in the gluten-free, vegan Larabar, which has similar ingredients. Kuli Kuli bars is high in protein and has 25 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A and calcium.
Can something this healthy actually taste good?
We tried all three flavors. Though not exactly a replacement for dessert, Black Cherry tasted tart and fresh like a cherry pie. The Dark Chocolate certainly won’t be putting Hershey out of business anytime soon—the chocolate isn’t very pronounced—but it still has a nutty flavor that’s very satisfying with none of the chemical kick found in artificially enhanced protein bars.
So far Kuli Kuli has found success after being picked up by Whole Foods Markets. In less than nine months, their products can now be found in 100 stores across the country.
Fox News Entertainment Producer Ashley Dvorkin covers celebrity news, red carpets, TV, music, and movies. Dvorkin, winner of the 2011 CMA Media Achievement Award, is also host of "Fox 411 Country," "Star Traveler," "Fox 411 Big Screen," and "Fox on Reddit."