What's in your Protein Bar?
A few months ago, this is something that never would've occurred to me! I loved to snack on protein bars, and I had it in my head that a) it's in the health foods section, and b) it's got a crap ton of protein in it! So it's going to be good for me, right?
Well, apparently there is a dark side to protein bars! Or should I say a "sweet" side...
BEFORE YOU EVER BUY A PROTEIN BAR...YOU BETTER CHECK YOUR PROTEIN BAR FOR SUGAR GRAMS.
Most of the protein bars that we all know, love, and buy a ton of actually have more sugar grams than they do protein grams! Seriously!
Even if it's got low sugar, continue to check the ingredients, or just the nutrition label. Health food companies will try to trick you by labeling something as low sugar, when it may still contain sucralose, other artificial sweeteners OR sugar alcohol. I fell for that too in the protein bars to the left - ThinkThin Protein Bars, which advertised 20g of protein and 0g of sugar! No sir! Instead, they contain 13 - yes, 13 - grams of sugar alcohol!
WHY ARE ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS AND SUGAR ALCOHOL BAD?
Many people, including some diabetics, find themselves buying products that advertise "no sugar" or "sugar-free." But those products are sneaky, because oftentimes, they contain something else. Sugar alcohols found in foods include sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, isomalt, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates. Several are found in fruits and vegetables, but that doesn't necessarily make them health foods!
Sugar alcohols have become a popular alternative in health food products because they have lower calories and effect blood sugar levels less. However that is not to say that they don't have no effect! They can STILL result in an insulin and blood sugar spike, though this is a smaller spike than that associated with sugar and carbs.
I personally don't love the idea of sugar alcohols. Why? Because they are also known to cause gas and potentially have laxative effects. I would prefer to keep my stomach un-bloated, thanks!
And remember those sugar spikes I mentioned? Data has been published implicating spikes in blood sugar levels in over-eating and cravings. Specifically, this research found that:changes in blood glucose drove hunger and cravings by stimulating parts of the brain that are associated with reward.
No bueno, am I right?
Personally, I don't like the idea of cravings OR all that nasty GI stuff! So I personally steer clear of as many of those high-sugar (or fake low-sugar) protein bars as I can!
I personally love Qwest Bars (and no - I don't receive any money from them to say that)! After raiding all of the protein bars in my grocery store, Qwest Bars are still the only ones that I've found that truly have low levels of both sugars, artificial sugars, and sugar alcohols. The "most" natural Qwest bars are shown in the image below. They are described as such because they truly have NO artificial sweeteners, and only use the natural sweeteners stevia and erythritol. And here's a little more information about erythritol.
HERE ARE THE NATURAL QWEST FLAVORS...
BUT, AREN'T PROTEIN BARS - EVEN QUEST BARS - STILL PROCESSED FOOD?
Yes! That is still true. Quest bars are still processed food, and you should still stick to whole foods as much as possible. If you haven't gotten addicted to protein bars like some of us have, don't start. But, if you do need a sweet treat to replace snacking on cookies or chocolate, drinking wine, or eating too many carbs/cheese...I like Quest Bars for that purpose! :-)