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Healthy…or Not? Energy Bars
May 2, 2011
We’re fortunate in this country to have so many different types of food available to us. And thousands of new food products are introduced to every year. The downside of that is that many of these new foods aren’t always so healthful — candy, gum, snack foods, and beverages account for most of the newbies that show up in the supermarket.
Energy bars tend to fall into several different categories: high protein, moderate protein, high carbohydrate, meal replacement, weight loss, and even bars especially aimed at women. Names of bars that you may be familiar with include Balance, Clif, Luna, PowerBar, MET-Rx, Larabar, and Atkins Advantage. There are many more to choose from, as well. Some bars promote organic and all-natural ingredients.
The name and the packaging can be very deceiving, however. Some of these bars are not a whole lot different than a regular granola bar or even a candy bar that has been fortified with vitamins and minerals. If you check the ingredient list, you may be surprised to find that they contain various types of sugar (including high-fructose corn syrup) and saturated fat (from palm oil and partially hydrogenated oils). These are the same ingredients found in your average candy bar.
Energy bars aren’t necessarily any better for you than a candy bar or a granola bar in terms of blood glucose control. Other possible downsides of energy bars have to do with the type of protein they contain. The protein source in some products comes from gelatin or collagen and therefore may be missing some essential amino acids. Other bars are overloaded with vitamins and minerals (you’re very likely getting more than enough of these micronutrients from the other foods you eat). And you’ll come across bars that have other added ingredients, such as herbs, like guarana or ginseng, supposedly for even more energy!
How to Choose an Energy Bar
I’ll admit that I’ve occasionally grabbed an energy bar for a quick snack. They’re easy, they’re convenient, and as I said earlier, you can find them just about anywhere. And some do provide good nutrition. But unless you are training for the Tour de France or the Olympics, you likely won’t get much of a benefit from them. A 45-minute workout at the gym or a walk around the block is great, but you don’t need to “fuel up” with these bars. They won’t necessarily give you any more energy than, say, eating a piece of fruit with some peanut butter. If preventing low blood glucose is a concern, again, eating some fruit, yogurt, or crackers can do the job just as well.
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