It is a question many health enthusiasts have never considered: are protein bars healthy?
Protein bars are a perfect snack for people who simply don’t have the time to sit down for a complete meal and who are looking for a quick, nourishing and convenient snack on the go.
But how healthy are these protein bars? Have you ever stopped to wonder what’s actually in them?
While the mention of a protein bar can conjure up an image of perfect health in one’s mind, it is extremely important to choose your protein bars very carefully, since they can truly make or break your health. Many protein bars vary from being healthy and nutritious to being completely loaded with harmful ingredients such as: hydrogenated oils, sugars, chemicals, additives and fillers, as well as preservatives.
If you’ve ever wondered do protein bars make you put on weight? In truth, the answer is yes. These harmful ingredients can actually lead to stomach problems and weight gain.
Perhaps you’ve even asked yourself, are protein bars good to eat for breakfast? While starting your day with a delicious high protein breakfast does keep you satisfied all day, it’s important to opt for whole foods over protein bars.
However, by choosing high protein bars made with real ingredients, most will range anywhere from 3 – 20 grams of protein per serve but you’ll want to pay attention to good sources of fat, carbs and fiber. The amount of protein you need depends on your needs and your activity levels. A bar with 6 grams of protein would be ideal.
What To Look For
Before you buy another protein bar, you’ll need to educate yourself on the seven most common unhealthy protein bar ingredients, along with what makes them the worst protein bars and why you should avoid them.
Soy Protein Isolate (SPI)
While all soy is not created equally, soy protein isolate is processed as unhealthy soy. The process of “isolating” the soy protein can leave behind traces of the neurotoxins hexane and aluminium and even cause digestive issues due to higher concentrations of trypsin inhibitors that could block the digestion of plant protein. If it isn’t organic, you can count on it containing GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Look for soy free protein bars.
A seaweed derivative that’s used as an emulsifier in many products, carrageenan is often found in protein bars. It has been known to cause intestinal irritation in many people. Always check the label for this ingredient if you suspect that it’s a problem for you.
High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
Made by adding enzymes to corn syrup to convert its glucose into fructose, HFCS is a chemically made sweetener that studies have linked to weight gain, increased abdominal fat and insulin resistance thanks to the high fructose content. Choose low sugar protein bars.
Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil
Palm kernel oil is a cheap and unhealthy fat. Unlike plain palm oil, palm kernel oil can’t be obtained organically. Instead the oil must be extracted from the pit with gasoline-like hydrocarbon solvent. The fractionated form is the most processed.
This includes ingredients like Maltitol Syrup, Xylitol, Sorbitol, Lactitol, Mannitol and Erythritol. Sugar alcohols are included in bars for sweetness, especially in low carb protein bars. Sugar alcohol doesn’t impact blood sugar as much as regular sugar because they’re not well absorbed in the digestive tract.
One of the most harmful ingredients commonly found in protein bars is artificial sweeteners, which can lead to severe insulin imbalances in the body and which, in turn, can lead to blood-sugar spikes that will increase cravings for sweet foods. Some research even suggests that these artificial compounds may hinder your body’s natural ability to produce a hormone responsible for controlling the feeling of satiety and blood-sugar levels – a hormone called GLP-1 – which makes you feel even hungrier after consuming the protein bar, instead of satisfied. Artificial sweeteners not only make you overeat, but they can also increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
A type of soluble fiber found in asparagus, onions and artichokes, works as a prebiotic to promote digestion and good gut bacteria. However, the inulin found in most protein bars is extracted from chicory root to raise the fiber count. When consumed in large amounts, it can actually do the opposite to promote healthy digestion leading to an upset stomach, diarrhoea, gas, bloating or constipation.