How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health
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Are Nutrition Bars Really Nutritious?
(ARA) - With the growing concern for proper health and nutrition, some have supplemented their diets with nutrition bars. Some have even replaced meals with nutrition bars. But if you think you're eating healthy by including a nutrition bar in your diet, think again.
"Most nutrition bars on the market today are either mislabeled or contain less healthy nutrition than a McDonald's Big Mac," said William E. Wheeler, Ph.D., RD, sports nutrition advisor for Life Time Fitness. "Nutrition bars first began as modified snack bars. Consumers bought these first bars simply because they were labeled 'nutrition' bars. Unfortunately, these bars were no better than a regular snack bar."
Many nutrition bars' labels can be misleading. A recent independent study by ConsumerLab.com found that 18 of 31 nutrition bars sampled did not contain the levels of ingredients that the labels claimed, the biggest issue being the mislabeling of carbohydrates. Many bars contain far more carbohydrates than indicated on the label because many manufacturers do not include glycerin in the total carbohydrate counts. Glycerin is a carbohydrate metabolite that keeps bars moist, adds bulk and provides texture. Some research has suggested that glycerin may not be fully metabolized by the body, and many bar manufacturers exclude glycerin in the total carbohydrate count.
Some bar manufacturers have responded to knowledgeable consumer demands for healthy nutrition in a bar. Life Time Fitness, the leader in health and fitness, has recently launched its Fastfuel High Performance Protein Bars. Low in fat, the bars' labels fully disclose all ingredients and are available in a variety of flavors.
Of course, eating whole foods along with a balanced diet is the preferred way to get adequate nutrition. But with our hectic lifestyles this can be almost impossible. If you must skip a meal, then reach for a healthy nutrition bar by following these guidelines from Wheeler:
- Protein content of the bar should be between 14 and 31 grams.
Lower protein content is usually associated with energy bars and higher protein levels can be found in protein bars. "Sources of protein in the bars should be a combination of at least two different types of protein, such as whey, caseinate or soy protein. Look for additional high-quality protein or amino acids such as glutamine, carnitine and arginine for added muscle repair, maintenance and growth. This diversity of protein sources allows your body to readily use the available supply for its metabolic functions," said Wheeler.
- Carbohydrate content should range between 19 and 29 grams.
All carbohydrate values should include glycerin, but it's wise to check the side panels for any disclaimer used by the manufacturer. The most common is, "Note: Glycerin and sugar alcohols, while included in the 'Calories' count, have been omitted from the 'Total Carbohydrate' count as they have only negligible impact on blood sugar levels."
- Carbohydrate values should contain at least 3 grams of soluble fiber per bar.
Fiber is important for nutrient utilization as well as overall gastrointestinal tract health. Consumers should also realize that it is impossible to manufacture a bar with zero carbohydrates. Carbohydrates fuel the brain and provide energy for exercise -- a necessary function in the body.
- Nutrition bar will contain fats.
Fats help keep bars moist and give it flavor. Fat content should range from three to six grams with two to four grams being saturated fat. Just as bars with no carbohydrates are impossible to manufacture, so are bars that contain no fat.
- Look for a bar that contains 10 to 15 percent of the Daily Value for essential vitamins and minerals.
Most of us don't get enough vitamins and minerals throughout the day so supplementing our diets with a nutrition bar is a great way to accomplish both with one snack. Vitamins and minerals are also beneficial in times of stress.
- Look for nutrition bars that do not contain the artificial sweetener, aspartame.
There are some indications that aspartame may affect short-term memory loss. Sweeteners such as sucralose have fewer potential risks, and even affect our taste buds in a natural way.
- Finally, the most important criteria is taste.
"If the bar does not taste good, the protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamin and mineral content does not matter," said Wheeler. Many bars on the market have the texture and consistency of an old leather shoe -- dry, unpalatable and flavorless. Fortunately, flavor technology has allowed bars to be manufactured with improved taste. Life Time Fitness' Fastfuel High Performance Protein Bars have a 100 percent great taste guarantee and are available in flavors such as peanut butter, chocolate cream and yogurt covered peanut butter, for even the most discerning taste bud.
For more information about Life Time Fitness' Fastfuel High Performance Protein Bars, visit www.lifetimefitness.com. For more information about ConsumerLab.com's study on nutrition bars, visit www.consumerlab.com.
Courtesy of ARA Content