Health bars, known also as protein or granola bars, are viewed as a healthy food by many people. It seems like there’s a bar for everyone and every dietary need. Are these bars as healthy as the marketing claims they are? Let’s find out!
Why Health Bars Aren’t Actually Healthy
Many health bars are more or less dressed up candy bars. In fact, many of them contain as much or more sugar than the average chocolate bar! They also often contain a long list of ingredients, some of which you probably can’t pronounce or even spell, which should be a red flag that this is not the type of food you want in your diet. These types of ingredients often tend to be artificial fillers that you don’t want to expose your body to.
What to Watch Out for When Purchasing a “Health” Bar
If you find yourself in a situation where you need a quick grab-and-go snack, and a protein bar is the only option, here are some ingredients you may want to steer clear of. These pop up a lot in these so-called health bars, so make sure to read the ingredient list carefully.
- Added Sugar: Stay away from any bar that contains added sugar. Added sugar goes by many names including cane sugar, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, dextrin, dextrose, barley malt, and brown rice syrup, to name just a few. The one you really want to stay away from is high fructose corn syrup, as this is one of the leading causes of obesity seen today. Now, it may be next to impossible to find a bar that doesn’t contain some added sugar, so if you must eat one of these “health” bars, you can choose to stick to bars that are naturally sweetened. Go for bars that have pure maple syrup or raw honey instead of refined sugar.
- Vegetable Oils: Vegetable oils like canola or soy oil are extremely inflammatory, and should be avoided. These oils tend to show up in bars because they are less expensive than other oils like coconut or avocado oil. Stay away from any bar that contains vegetable oil to help prevent adding to your inflammatory load.
- GMO’s:GMO’s, or genetically modified organisms, have been a topic of conversation for quite some time now. They should be avoided in general until we know more about their potential health risks. Unfortunately, GMO’s find themselves in some bars, making them not such a great option for a healthy diet. Some of the biggest GMO crops happen to be soy and corn, both of which are commonly found in these “health” bars. GMO crops are genetically modified, manipulated in a lab. The problem with these GMO crops is that most of them have been designed to withstand massive amounts of pesticides and herbicides, and the safety of GMO consumption is still very much unknown. What we do know is that more and more people are looking for proper GMO labeling, and steering clear of anything genetically modified. With that said, some of the ingredients that pose the highest risk of being a GMO product include corn, soy, canola, and sugar-beet, all of which are commonly found in protein bars. Just be mindful of these ingredients and avoid any bars that may contain them.
The Healthiest Health Bars
So, while it is best to stay away from these processed “health” bars, there are some options that are better than others. Here are two bars that are free from artificial ingredients and are lower in sugar.
- Epic Bars: EPIC bars are sourced from 100% grass-fed beef, venison, and wild-caught salmon, and are gluten-free, dairy-free, and paleo. They are made with meat or fish, fruit, and nuts. These bars are also low-glycemic and don’t contain the harmful added ingredients many other bars contain. These bars are a great choice for anyone on a paleo diet or for the meat lovers out there.
- That’s It: That’s It bars are excellent for vegans or vegetarians or for those who may not be interested in eating bars sourced from meat or fish. That’s It bars only contain fruit and are a great source of fiber. They also make veggie bars! These bars are paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, and vegan.
While health bars are convenient and make a quick and easy snack for people on the go, more times than not they aren’t the healthiest option. Remember that if you do need to grab a protein bar as a snack, you should check the ingredient list. Stay away from anything with added sugar, GMO ingredients, and vegetable oils. Instead try making your own health bar. You can easily make your own with just a handful of ingredients such as dates, rolled oats, nuts, and raw cocoa nibs. Get creative and make your own non-toxic bar instead of the store-bought options.
Here’s a DIY health bar to get you started.
Cranberry & Raw Cocoa Health Bar
- 1 cup of raw cashews
- 20 pitted Medjool dates
- ¼ cup dried unsweetened cranberries
- 2 Tbsp. raw cocoa nibs
- Pinch of sea salt
Add the raw cashews and dates to a food processor and blend until the mixture comes together.
Add the cranberries, raw cocoa nibs, and sea salt. Blend for another 10 seconds.
Pour the mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread to about 1-inch thick and freezer for 15 minutes.
Cut into granola bars and store leftovers in the fridge or freezer.