Have you ever wondered what all those long character ingredients in your protein bar (or powder) mean? Marketing is a very powerful tool and even though it’s marketed as being a “healthy” snack option, is it really? Often times when people talk to me about protein bars, they always say shortly after consumption their stomachs expand like a balloon. Remember that your gut controls your immune system, so listen to your gut always. Nothing that is good for you will give you side effects like that (unless there’s a unknown food allergy).
Let’s review the Quest Bar, for example. Quest Bars are promoted to be one of the healthiest protein bars in the mass market. But, how healthy are they? The ingredients in a Coconut Quest Bar are as follows: Protein Blend (Whey Protein Isolate, Milk Protein Isolate), Isomalto-Oligosaccarides (100% Natural Prebiotic Fiber), Almonds, Water, Erythritol, Coconut, Cashews, Sea Salt, Natural Flavors, Lo Han Guo and Stevia.
What exactly are these foreign ingredients?
Protein Blend (Whey Protein Isolate, Milk Protein Isolate): Whey protein isolate is the denaturation of protein that involves breaking down the structure of the milk protein. As it breaks down, the protein loses the peptide bonds which reduces the effects of the protein. In the process of denaturalization, the natural fat, lactose and the carbohydrates are removed. Therefore, making this ingredient an unnatural, processed and highly manufactured ingredient.
Isomalto-Oligosaccarides (IMO): Is a short-chain carbohydrate that is promoted as a dietary fiber as well as used as a sweetener. The starch that is found in corn and wheat are enzymatically synthesized from the natural starch and in this process converts the starch into long-chain glucose molecules. This product is advertised to be a natural starch, source of fiber and sweetener. However, in order to make the product of IMO, it needs to be chemically and mechanically formed making this an unnatural ingredient.
Erythritol: Is an industrial produced four carbon sugar molecule that is promoted as a low-calorie sugar replacement and/or substitute in foods. The sugar alcohol is made by fermentation of natural sugar that is found in corn. Here’s how this is made, the sugar (glucose) is combined with protein enzymes to break down the natural sugar which is then mixed with a yeast and the yeast ferments the glucose to form erythritol. From there, the heated fermented mixture forms crystals that are washed and dissolved and purified again and isolated into a solid form. To summarize: glucose + protein enzymes + yeast + heat = erythritol. Leaving this again, as an unnatural and chemically formulated ingredient.
Natural Flavors: The term natural flavor, is created by the breakdown of the essential oil in products by heating or roasting the product. The use is for flavoring of food but serves no nutritional value.
Lo Han Guo: Is the Chinese version of Stevia, however, it is created through a Chinese Munk fruit instead of a plant. The munk fruit extracts a molecule called mogroside, which is then processed and manufactured into a powdered sugar and used as a sweetener. The powdered sugar is also known to be 300x sweeter than regular sugar.
Stevia: Stevia is a green leafy plant that is found in South America. It is used as a sugar replacement in many products. However, the stevia sold in the market are processed and manufactured so they do not often resemble the natural properties of the stevia plant.
As you can see the bulk of the ingredients in a protein bar are all manufactured and chemically produced. Our bodies are naturally built to break down whole natural foods so when you ingest ingredients such as this, your body will view it as an invader and in often times will reject it. This is the result of that balloon-like feeling you receive after consumption or even a bad stomachache. If this does happen to you, it’s likely that your body isn’t absorbing these manufactured ingredients which, if you think about it, means you’re wasting money on a product that serves you no purpose or nutritional value.
So, before you go ahead and stock up on your protein powder or protein bars, review the ingredients first and spend 10-15 minutes doing your research to ensure you are getting your money’s worth in a nutritional way!