Depending on the ingredients contained in your protein bar of choice, they can either be great for you and your diet, or they can be shockingly harmful to your health.
When it comes down to it, the ingredients that make up a protein bar determine how good they are for you. The general rule is that if a protein bar contains many different ingredients or ingredients that you can't easily pronounce, they’re probably not as healthy as you’d be led to believe by the brand’s marketing messages on the package.
Protein bars are incredibly popular health snacks which have dominated the fitness industry, and for good reason. They’re easy to bring with you on a hike or to a day at the office and a great way of ensuring that you’re getting enough protein into your diet.
However, not all protein bars are made equal, and that’s more apparent as different brands come out with protein bars that claim to be the best of the bunch.
It’s great to know that you should be aware of what you’re putting into your body by acknowledging the ingredients on the label, but how do you know what you should be on the lookout for?
We can't cover every bad ingredient out there because there are so many used by brands pretending to offer healthy protein bars but here are some specific ingredients in certain protein bars that you should avoid.
Unfortunately, many protein bars on the market today contain the most famous fructose which is high-fructose corn syrup. HFCS contains a high number of calories, but offers no essential nutrients, meaning that it doesn’t provide the nutrition that you need.
It’s made from chemically processed sugars that can cause your insulin levels to spike and can really damage your metabolism. Not only that, but high-fructose corn syrup has also known been to increase the risk of suffering from diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
For example, Zone Perfect bars admittedly contain corn syrup, even though they claim to be designed by expert nutritionists. Corn syrup is different than high-fructose corn syrup since it's glucose but the Chocolate Almond bars also contain Fructose syrup as highlighted below.
Some protein bar brands use fructose syrup because it's cheaper than healthier options. While there is debate on whether fructose syrup leads to excessive fat production in your liver – which is known as lipogenesis and leads to fatty liver disease, the point is you do not want to be regularly consuming hidden sugars.
A holiday pecan pie at a holiday meal with your family is one thing while consuming regularly is another.
Looking at the amount of ingredients contained in Zone Perfect bars alone (we counted to 15 in the Chocolate Almond Bar and didn’t bother counting the rest as your head begins to spin) indicates that the snacks aren’t all that healthy for you.
Zone Perfect Chocolate Almond protein bar ingredients
In contrast, Naked Nutrition’s Naked Bars are produced with only 5-7 ingredients and contain rice syrup rather than corn syrup or fructose syrup. Rice syrup is effectively pure glucose, which can be metabolized by your body, whereas corn syrup is just fructose, which can damage your liver.
Be aware that some brands will simply include ‘fructose’ on their nutrition labels to disguise the presence of high-fructose corn syrup.
Avoid: Sugar Alcohols
Sugar alcohols are commonly used as sweeteners in protein bars as they’re a substitute for real sugar, however they can cause an array of health problems.
While some people can tolerate sugar alcohols, many people find that consuming them leads to digestive problems. Most sugar alcohols cannot be digested by your body, so they’re metabolized by the bacteria in your large intestine.
Consuming excessive amounts of sugar alcohols, or simply consuming more than normal, can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea as your body will struggle to get rid of the chemical.
Pure Protein bars contain the sugar alcohol called Maltitol which can also cause your blood sugar levels to spike and is known to be one of the worst sugar alcohols for digestive problems. Even though they boast of being low in sugar, these bars contain quite a few grams of sugar alcohols, which can leave you feeling worse for wear.
Naked Bars do not contain any artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols so you won’t have to suffer from the negative side effects of consuming chemicals like Maltitol.
Pure Protein Bar Birthday Cake Flavor Ingredients
Clearly, in the above image there's more we could highlight as concerning ingredients.
But the point of this example is when checking the nutrition labels of a protein bar, make sure that you check for alternate names that are really sugar and how many grams of sugar alcohols it contains, rather than just checking how many grams of sugar it contains.
Using sugar alcohols is one of the common methods being used to hide the true sugar content by brands that are less forthright with their customers.
Parabens are preservatives that are commonly used in cosmetic products; however, they’ve also been found to be used in certain food products.
Even though they aren’t in every protein bar, there are a few big brands that do use parabens in their snack foods, which is a cause for concern. This is due to the fact that parabens are known to have a negative effect on hormone function and can work to disrupt the natural processes of your body.
Notably, parabens mimic the hormone oestrogen by binding to oestrogen cell receptors, which makes your body think that it contains higher than normal levels of the hormone.
This, in turn, can increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer and suffering from tumor growth. Notably, Oh Yeah! protein bars contain parabens as shown by the image below, which may lead some health conscious people to want to avoid the brand all together.
Oh Yeah! Protein Bar Ingredients
Again, the ingredient list for these bars is miles long, which is a warning sign itself, and it contains so many other ingredients that have been proven to be bad for your health.
Naked Nutrition’s protein bars are produced using a minimal amount of ingredients. This ensures that you can understand what you are putting into your body as shown below with the ingredients used in Naked Nutrition's peanut butter protein bar and chocolate protein bar.
Naked Nutrition's Chocolate Almond Naked Bar Ingredient List
So, Are Protein Bars Good For You?
In conclusion; depending on the ingredients that a protein bar contains, it can either be good or bad for you.
Many protein bars with extensive lists of ingredients usually contain chemicals or additives that make their protein bars cheaper and easier to mass produce and are not from real foods that human bodies are meant to consume.
Therefore, it’s always a good idea to read labels and choose a brand that contains as few ingredients as possible and that is made with real food based ingredients you recognize and can pronounce.