We've all had nutrition bars before. They work for our busy lives and allow us to stay fueled and energized throughout jam-packed days. But what do we actually know about the bars that we eat?
Very little, truth be told. We pick up a bar and don't bother checking out the label, but if we did, we'd find artificial ingredients and nutritional value that is dubious at best. Here, the five biggest myths about nutrition bars are debunked.
1. Bars are full of highly-processed, synthetic ingredients.
It's true, most processed foods are loaded with synthetic ingredients. These products contain a surplus of artificial flavors, synthetic sweeteners and toxic chemicals you shouldn't even have to pronounce, let alone put in your body.
Fortunately, there is now a large selection of energy bars made with 100% real foods, grown and produced just as nature intended them to be. The healthiest options contain organic, raw whole foods like dates, almond butter, chia seeds and green superfoods like wheatgrass, barley grass, spirulina and chlorella.
Loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants such as beta-carotene, magnesium and chlorophyll, green superfoods pack a powerful nutritional punch and are an easy way to get more vegetables in your diet. Look for cold-processed energy bars that preserve enzymatic activity and retain more essential nutrients than heat-processed or baked bars.
2. If there's little or no sugar, it must be better for me.
Typically low sugar bars contain either sucralose or sugar alcohols. Sucralose, originally invented as a pesticide, is really just sugar bleached by the toxic chemical chlorine. Meanwhile, sugar alcohols, such as maltitol and erythritol, are made from genetically-modified corn and can cause digestive problems and allergic reactions.
The human body produces ATP, the universal energy molecule, by combining protein, fat and sugar (along with B vitamins). Without sugar, the body cannot produce energy, therefore all energy bars should contain a source of natural, preferably organic, sugar! Look for energy bars with a good balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates, as well as B-complex vitamins for optimum energy. Want a bar that won't inject you with toxic chemicals and wreck your digestion? Choose those made with natural and organic sweeteners like cane sugar, coconut sugar, honey or agave.
3. If an energy bar is coated in chocolate, it's no better than a candy bar.
Some of the most popular energy bars are coated in extremely cheap, low-quality chocolate, composed mostly of milk, lactose, corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils. These chocolate bars contain a limited supply of antioxidants and don't offer the same heart health and mood benefits of higher quality dark chocolate. Additionally and more importantly, non-organic chocolate is often contaminated with one of the most common neurotoxic pesticides, lindane. Lindane attacks the brain, liver, kidneys and endocrine system, causing a wide range of damaging side effects.
To get the most health benefits, choose an organic chocolate with cacao beans or chocolate liquor as the first ingredient listed on the label. For the most flavorful combination of sweet and bitter notes, look for a concentration of 65% to 72% chocolate, sweetened only with organic cane sugar.
4. Since soy protein is in most bars, it must be the best.
For years, soy protein was the best choice for bars due to its availability, stability and flavor profile, but new ingredient discoveries have led to better protein choices for consumers. For athletes and bodybuilders, whey isolate is still the king of protein bars due to its high biological value, as it is readily used for muscle growth and tissue repair. For those seeking a plant-based alternative, pea protein is now a better choice than both soy and rice for several reasons.
Soy protein is a known allergen and the largest genetically-modified crop in the world, while rice contains less utilizable protein per serving and, unless it is grown and processed in the United States (most of its comes from China), it is usually contaminated with toxic heavy metals such as lead and cadmium.
Peas, on the other hand, are an environmentally-friendly agricultural crop that consume less energy, water and fertilizer than other grains and legumes. Pea protein contains all nine essential amino acids and is especially rich in lysine, arginine and the branch-chain amino acids luecine, isoleucine and valine.
5. I can just eat a bar and skip a meal.
A perfectly balanced meal should contain every essential nutrient required for optimum health and superior well-being. If your bar is full of synthetic ingredients and is missing key nutrients, the meal that you are replacing will fail to meet your basic daily requirements, and over time nutrient deficiencies can cause a wide range of diseases.
Only bars loaded with both macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (essential vitamins and minerals) can be considered a true meal replacement. Compare the nutrition facts panel of your favorite bar with those that list all of the available vitamins and minerals, and choose one with the most complete nutritional profile.