Fact: The nutrition market has exploded in popularity as our world is increasingly on-the-go. Also a fact: Standing in the nutrition bar section of the grocery store and actually selecting a bar for purchase is now more overwhelming than ever.
To make matters even more complicated, the bar market has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry ready to meet your specific dietary need, whatever that may be: high protein, low carb, all natural, gluten-free, non-GMO, Vegan, Paleo, etc. You name it and it’s probably within arm’s reach.
Choice is great, so long as the touted differences actually mean something. That’s what got us thinking. What if you could design the perfect nutrition bar based on five simple elements? What would those elements be and why would you want to include them? The purpose of this exercise is to eliminate the noise and pinpoint the crucial components of an exceptional nutrition bar to help you separate the truly healthy bars from all of the other “health” bars out there.
So here is our list (in no specific order) of the top five characteristics of an extraordinary nutrition bar. Of course, this isn’t meant to be an all-encompassing list by any means, but it should offer a general roadmap in finding a nutrition bar made without compromise. In other words, if you’re on a quest to find the cleanest bar out there, this would be a good starting point.
By weird stuff we are broadly referring to “filler” ingredients, artificial sweeteners and preservatives. This one seems simple enough, but is oddly violated more often than you might think. Cost is a big reason why some companies add ingredients that are mostly void of any real nutritional value. So if you see rice crisps, high fructose corn syrup and/or a long list of difficult-to-pronounce ingredients, it’s probably best to move on. A good rule of thumb: the fewer ingredients the better.
Certified organic not only ensures that the nutrition bar is void of chemicals, pesticides and other harmful ingredients, but it also means that these same ingredients have been independently verified as organic, and growers/processors/manufacturers must all submit to an annual audit to prove it.
Nuts are one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, so their use in most nutrition bars seems a natural fit. The catch: phytic acid in nuts can hinder your body’s ability to digest precious micronutrients. Sprouting nuts/seeds helps to reduce the presence of phytic acid, and therefore, makes them more nutritious. Unfortunately, the process of sprouting is time-consuming and expensive, meaning that very few nutrition bar makers will go this route.
Not all nutrition bars emphasize protein, but if they do, it’s good to know where the protein is coming from. As it turns out, not all proteins are created equal. So how can you compare and contrast the different sources? A good marker for protein quality is the nutrient bioavailability (gauges the proportion of nutrients actually absorbed by the body) and the quality of the protein as measured by the amino acid profile (also known as the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score or “PDCAAS”). Egg white protein boasts a perfect score in both measures, meaning that it has extremely high “usability” by the body’s cells and is equipped with the entire spectrum of amino acids. Whey protein also scores high in both categories, while casein protein has a lower bioavailability score but has a comparatively high protein quality score. Other protein sources such as rice, hemp and pea score much lower in both metrics. So if protein is what you are after, shoot for the higher quality sources.
Nutrition bars that are engineered to spend months and months on the shelf shouldn’t go into your body. You’re better off eating the wrapper (only half kidding). It is our view that if a product doesn’t go bad at some point, then it probably wasn’t meant to be consumed in the first place. Fresher is better.
Which brings us to our final point: don’t forget that your nutrition bar should taste good! We thought that one went without saying.
Michael Winchell and Anthony Ostland are the owners/founders of Mammoth Bar, an organic raw protein bar. Michael and Anthony can be reached at email@example.com and more information about Mammoth Bar can be found at www.mammothbar.com.