Wander the aisles of any grocery store, and you’ll see the word protein on all kinds of items. Protein is a vital macronutrient, but it is also a trendy food item. That makes protein bars increasingly popular. While added protein can definitely be a good thing, not all protein bars are created equally. Are protein bars healthy? They can be, but it is important to check the ingredients list and find out if your favorite protein bar is actually a healthy addition to your diet.
There is no right or wrong number of calories to find in a protein bar. It all depends on the needs of your diet. However, one of the biggest problems with protein bars is that they are loaded with calories. All too often, people grab protein bars as a snack and end up eating several hundred more calories than they really need. Paying attention to calorie count is a big part of how to choose the right protein bar.
Quality of Ingredients
Some protein bars are loaded with processed ingredients and unnecessary chemicals. If you’re not sure what qualifies, read through the ingredients list. If the protein bar is made with quality, natural ingredients, then you’ll see items like nuts, coconut, salt and turmeric. Complicated, chemical-sounding names, however, are usually not a good sign. Stick to a high quality bar like gluten free protein bars from WOLO.
Grams of Protein
The best protein bars do, of course, need to contain actual protein. Sadly, there are plenty of snack or energy bars that claim to be filled with protein, but actually contain just a few grams. Fewer than 10 grams is not a sufficient amount of protein. Instead, look for bars that contain 15 or more grams per serving
Source of Protein
Just as important as the amount of protein available is where that protein comes from. Not all sources of protein can be absorbed readily by the body, and not all contain all the essential amino acids. Look for a whey protein isolate for the extra energy and muscle-building power you need most. Other great sources include milk protein isolate or even pea protein, which is great for vegan consumers.
Every once in a while, a protein bar will taste just like a candy bar. How is that possible? Sometimes, it is because the ingredients are virtually identical to that of a candy bar! One way to see how much junk is in a protein bar is to look at the sweeteners used. High-fructose corn syrup is problematic, but some artificial sweeteners can also cause digestive problems. Small amounts of natural cane sugar or stevia are the best way to sweeten a protein bar without all that added junk.
Carbohydrates are not the enemy! In fact, carbs are your body’s most direct source of energy. Protein bars can and should contain carbohydrates, but pay attention to how many grams are listed. Anywhere from 20 to 25 grams is a healthy place to start, especially if the bar contains sufficient fats and protein to balance it out.
Added Vitamins and Minerals
One of the things that makes a protein bar extra healthy is having plenty of vitamins and minerals in the ingredients. Some vitamins are naturally occurring in the main ingredients, but there can also be added vitamins and minerals. Spotting ascorbic acid in the ingredients list, for example, means a serious boost of Vitamin C with every single bite.
Fiber is a critical nutrient for a number of reasons. It can aid your digestive system, and it also helps you to feel full after eating. Look for protein bars that contain around 10 grams of fiber, which is a sizable portion of the FDA’s daily recommended serving.
One of the biggest misconceptions around fat is that it can lead to weight gain. In reality, a healthy amount of fat is important to your health. The key is to consume the right kinds of fat. Coconut oil, for example, is full of the healthiest fatty acids. These support brain function, joint health and can even help the body fight infection. Best of all, healthy fats in your protein bars can help you feel satisfied for longer, stopping you from reaching for unhealthy treats later on.
Finally, it is important to check for common allergens in your preferred protein bar. After all, no bar is healthy for you if it causes an allergic reaction. Some bars are completely soy and gluten free, which can help you feel better about consuming them on a regular basis.
Protein bars can be a healthy addition to your diet. The key is ensuring that you’re reaching for the healthiest bars possible and keeping your health and nutrition a priority.