Protein bars are very convenient, especially when you are in need of a healthy option to pick you up during the course of your day. If you are an active person that needs meal replacements, a short break from supplements such as organic wheatgrass juice powder or a nutritious snack that helps you keep your energy levels up between your meals, then these are a godsend.
However, that does not mean you choose any protein bar you see – some of them are not even healthy anyway, and they bear more similarities to candy bars. If you were to examine the contents of the bars you eat very closely, you might discover they are not as beneficial to your body as you once thought. At the end of the day, this raises a very important question: how do you know the difference between an unhealthy and a health bar? Here are some guidelines to help you out.
They must not contain sugar as their first ingredient
When you look at this, it may seem like the most obvious thing in the world. However, awareness about it bears a significant purpose.
First, many people never examine the ingredients of the foods they buy – if you think about it, your first instinct might be looking at whether the protein bar has ‘protein’ or the calories it has. Second, sugar has very many names, it is easy to fool you if you do not know what to look for – these include terms like maple syrup, dextrose, agave nectar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, and so on. Third, the order of ingredients will tell you the priorities that ingredient holds in the product, whether you know it or not.
Keep this in mind – just because the bar has some whole foods, does not mean it has fewer quantities of the stuff you do not need. All the ‘whole-food’ bars need to be bound by something, and that something is usually sugar syrup.
If you are not sure, just know that the primary ingredients (the first three to five ingredients) must be protein sources, nuts, vegetables or fruits. The protein and fiber contained in these ingredients take longer to digest than normal sugar, so you feel fuller for longer.
It must have at least ten grams of protein
This will be determined by the purpose of the protein bar. If you want something that acts as a meal replacement or protein supplement, then it must contain a minimum of ten grams or ideal amounts of higher protein content.
That also means the first ingredient will be a protein source, such as egg, casein, whey isolate or pea. It is also important to note soy crisps will not be the best protein source, so bars that have this as the first ingredient are not the best option.
However, if you are seeking purposes other than protein supplement, you can consume bars that have fewer protein quantities. These will normally have ingredients that are more of a source of healthy fat, such as oats and peanut butter.
The maximum amount of sugar must be 15 grams, not more
The truth is you can be easily duped when buying a protein bar because most of them are simply candy bars. If you do not know why, look at the sugar content of what you are eating. That also means their calorie count is higher.
A good example would be the Gatorade Why protein bar, which contains sugar content at 29 grams. Many of them also have more sugar than protein. Yes, the revelation of these details may shock you, especially when you have consumed them for so long without knowing what you are eating.
This does not mean sugar is bad – after all, it is useful as a binding agent in these bars. In addition, many bars will have more than 10 grams of sugar. However, there is a catch in this: if the bar you are dealing with has more than ten grams of sugar, the sugar must come from natural sources such as lactose or fruits. Why is this though?
Sugar in form of lactose (found in milk products), as well as fruit sugar, has four calories for every gram. These sugars will also have other nutrients that you always get from your dairy or fruits, such as Vitamin C and calcium. The lesson here is added sugar never gives you benefits, even in terms of your long-term health.
Sugar alcohols – watch out for them
This is not alcohol, just for the record. These are just a certain category of artificial sweeteners.
They include glycerol, xylitol, isomalt, and sorbitol. They are common in the so-called ‘sugar-free’ products, and too much of their consumption can lead to diarrhea, of course depending on the reaction of your body to them.
Their effects can be similar to whey concentrate, so always make sure to the effects of the ingredient for your case. For instance, if you eat the bar and it does not give you a feeling of fullness, instead of giving you the urge to rush to the bathroom, then make sure to avoid it in the future.
The bars must have a total calorie count of less than 400
A good protein bar must act as a supplement, which means they are supplying the nutrients you lack in your diet, similar to multivitamins or protein powders. If the bar you are eating contains 400 calories or more than that, you are basically eating the equivalent of half a Chipotle bowl, and you are not consuming a necessarily ‘healthier’ option.
If the bar you are dealing with is a protein one, then the protein content must be at least 15 grams. If it has fewer quantities than that, then it is not adding value to you. In addition, the carbs must be lower than the protein.
The secret to getting a good protein bar is studying the ingredients, as that is the distinction between them and a normal candy bar.
Examine the ratio of carbs to protein