Just because a company claims that something is healthy doesn’t mean you ought to believe them.
I know we’re all busy, and sometimes it seems like the choices are between eating crap and going hungry. Perhaps you think you’re being “good” by picking up an energy or nutrition bar instead… but you might not be. Advertising can be misleading.
By way of comparison: Before we get into nutrition bars, let’s establish a baseline. A Snickers bar contains corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, and artificial flavors. Why these are bad:
- Sugar is your enemy. You get fat by eating sugar, not by eating fat. It’s responsible for insulin resistance and diabetes, and it’s the primary culprit in heart disease (NOT cholesterol!). It can also exacerbate certain very common digestive disorders like IBS by further causing an imbalance in gut flora, it can worsen PMS and hormonal acne, it exacerbates osteoporosis, it worsens anxiety and depression, and it can certainly make you feel fatigued. Need I go on?
- Hydrogenated oils (also called trans fats) are one of the most toxic things you can put in your body. They get incorporated into your cell membranes so that good stuff (like nutrients and cell signals) can’t get in as easily and bad stuff (like waste) can’t get out, setting you up for nutrient deficiencies, inflammation, and all kinds of Western diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, liver dysfunction, depression, reduced immune function, infertility, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Corn syrup: first of all, unless otherwise stated, this is genetically modified (as is soybean oil, previously mentioned). Second, corn syrup is mostly fructose, which is even worse for you than regular sugar because it’s unregulated in your body – meaning it has to hit your bloodstream right away, exacerbating the diabetes and heart disease connection mentioned above. However, corn syrup isn’t as bad as High Fructose Corn Syrup, which has a higher percentage of fructose and is also contaminated with mercury.
- Artificial flavors: anytime you see the word artificial, read “chemical.” Don’t put it in your body if you can help it. You have no idea what it is or what it’s doing.
How a Snickers bar stacks up against some common “nutrition” bars:
Stay away from:
- Vanilla Crisp Powerbar: contains organic evaporated cane juice (read: SUGAR), maltodextrin (read: SUGAR), fructose (read: SUGAR), dextrose (read: SUGAR), soy protein isolate and soy lecithin (read: GMO), and a long list of unrecognizable ingredients.
- Met-Rx Colossal Peanut Butter Pretzel: 410 calories – I don’t believe in calorie counting usually, but that’s nearly twice that of a Snickers! They also contains corn syrup AND High Fructose Corn Syrup, sugar, evaporated cane syrup, oligofructose and fructose, and dextrose (so that’s seven kinds of sugar), soy protein isolate (GMO) – and other ingredients that it would take me too long to discuss.
- Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Cherry: contains soybean and canola oil, soluble corn fiber, and modified corn starch (read: all GMO), sugar, dextrose, fructose, invert sugar, corn syrup (read: five kinds of sugar), artificial flavors and a few other ingredients I dislike.
A Slight Improvement:
- Clif Bar Chocolate Chip: Organic Brown Rice Syrup (sugar) is the #1 ingredient (the higher on the ingredient list, the higher percentage in the food item), with organic dried cane syrup (sugar) listed three more times. Soy is organic, though, which means it’s NOT GMO, so that’s good. And the other ingredients on the list are at least recognizable.
A better choice:
- KIND Plus Bars: these still have added honey and sugar, but all the ingredients on the list are recognizable, non-GMO and un-processed.
- LARA Bars: NO added sugar; the only ingredients are fruits and nuts. (I nearly always choose these if I must choose a nutrition bar.)
Take-home message: don’t be deceived by clever marketing. If you want a candy bar then eat a candy bar, but if you want something healthy, read your labels!