Updated August 7th, 2019 by Renee
Many companies use expensive marketing campaigns to give the impression that their protein and energy bars are "good for you". Yet, many bars on the market these days are simply glorified candy bars, filled with harmful ingredients hidden in that enticing package on the shelf....
But fear not: we'll tell you what to look for on the label, and the ingredients you need to avoid!
Here are 6 ingredients to beware of in protein and energy bars:
Fillers: Fillers are unnecessary ingredients added to a food that do not naturally occur in the food. They are usually added to increase the weight of the product without increasing the price of production. Fillers might also be added for flavor, shelf-life, or even appearance. Some common fillers to avoid are carrageenan, maltodextrin, dyes, and preservatives. A good rule of thumb to follow is if you can’t pronounce the name of the ingredient (or haven't heard of it), it’s probably one to avoid.
Carrageen: Carrageen is a seaweed derivative used as an emulsifier in many foods. It has been known to cause issues with your gut and intestinal irritation. It's often found in nut milks as well.
Preservatives: Preservatives are added to food to prevent or slow down the growth of mold, bacteria, and yeast. Some common preservatives to avoid are aspartame, sodium nitrate, and ammonium sulfate. Aspartame is considered one of the most dangerous additives in food. It is commonly found in “diet” foods but is far from good for you and has many proven side effects. For a list of other preservatives to avoid and why check out this article by HealthFitnessRevolution.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): The most common artificial sweetener used today, HFCS can be found in everything from protein bars to soda. Keep an eye out for this one! It is linked to obesity and can lead to heart disease if consumed too often. It is also known to cause an increase of fat stored in the liver. Not to mention, this corn syrup is almost always from genetically modified (GMO) corn.
Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil, Canola Oil, and Hydrogenated Fats: These oils and fats are primarily saturated fats, and could make up your recommended daily serving in just two tablespoons. Avoid these ingredients to reduce the risk of high cholesterol and heart disease. These fats have also been known to cause resistance to the appetite suppressant hormone causing you to eat more.
Artificial Sweeteners: The 5 most common artificial sweeteners are aspartame (Equal), Sucralose (Splenda), Acesulfame K, and Saccharin (Sweet ‘n Low). These artificial sweeteners can be found in everything from chewing gum to toothpaste and energy bars to coffee creamer. They can cause an increased risk for heart disease, IBS, and type 2 diabetes among other things. Avoid these ingredients and go for honey, Stevia, dates, or coconut sugar instead.
Non-organic soy: Soy is a very common additive in bars (and food products in general) as both a source of protein and a binder/emulsifier. 93% of soy on the market today is genetically modified, and conventional (non-organic) soy is often heavily sprayed with pesticides. Even organic soy is an allergen for many people, as (unfermented) soy naturally contains many anti-nutrients.
Although none of these ingredients will cause diseases immediately or even with minimal consumption, it is still a wise choice to always read the label and avoid these ingredients where possible. Packages are designed by marketers to get you to believe what they want you to about their product, even if it’s not true. Beware of vague labels that say things like “all natural” or “healthy”.
Remembering all of these ingredients can be difficult, so just stick to this rule of thumb: “If you can’t pronounce it, don’t consume it.” Look for whole foods and real ingredients that you’ve heard of and can trust.
Now, not all products with good marketing are bad, and there are definitely several great choices out there that are good for snacks and meal replacements, and will fuel your body well.
Here at CLEAN.FIT, we do the work of reading labels for you, and we strive to provide a wide variety of clean, real-food based snack options for you in each month’s box. You can get your box here, and if you want some #snackinspo, you can see what goodies we've included in past boxes!