Now we’ve arrived at the third and final part of our three part series on protein and energy bars! The focus of this article will be on the ingredients, how they interact with your body, and how to determine whether or not they fit into your fitness and lifestyle goals. If you haven't read the previous entries in this blog, you can read part one here, and part two here.
First of all, there’s a protein source. This may or may not be present in energy bars but is always present in protein bars. The common sources of protein are milk & whey protein, egg protein, and soy protein. Generally, we look at a few factors for protein to determine it’s usefulness: bioavailability, amino acid profile, and absorption. While it’s still a pretty new common source in bars, egg white protein is one of the best types of protein sources out there due to it’s high bioavailability and complete amino acid profile. While it tends to be rather uncommon as a protein source in protein bars, it’s becoming more and more popular as people catch on to how versatile egg protein can be. In fact, here at Caveman, we offer an egg white-based protein bar that may be just what you’re looking for! If not, then whey and milk protein is probably your best bet due to similar characteristics such as high bioavailability, fast absorption, and complete amino acid profile. Finally, there’s soy protein - which, while tempting as a plant-based protein source due to it’s seemingly high protein availability, is probably best avoided in favor of other sources like pea or hemp due to its tendency to be genetically modified. In addition, it contains compounds like isoflavones that can adversely affect your hormonal balance.
Next you’ve got sweeteners. The most common ones you’ll come across are sucrose, sugar alcohols, high fructose corn syrup, natural sweeteners, and sucralose. Sucrose is just sugar - it’s added to create sweetness but can add a lot of unnecessary calories. The same can be said for high fructose corn syrup, a cheaper alternative to sucrose, which is potentially worse for you because it’s more processed. Sugar alcohols are a more popular type of sweetener in protein bars - they are extracted from starches and include compounds like xylitol, maltitol, and erythritol. Sugar alcohols are great in moderation if you’re looking for low-carb options, but eating too many of them can lead to digestive issues like gas, bloating, and can cause long-term digestive problems. Natural sweeteners are just as they sound - this category includes ingredients like fruit juice or syrups extracted from plants (e.g. coconut sugar, tapioca sugar, maple syrup) used in the place of sugar. Finally, there’s sucralose, which is synthesized from combining sugar with chlorine molecules to create a sugar-like molecule that doesn’t get absorbed into your body. Like sugar alcohols, sucralose is fine in moderation but can cause adverse side effects if too much is consumed.
Finally, there’s fillers. First, why are there fillers? Sometimes they are used to help the bar come together, other bars use them to add nutritional balance, and... Generally the more fillers something has, chances are higher that it’s probably not very good for you, but context matters. It’s important to know what role some of these ingredients play to determine whether or not they’ll help you, so let’s take a look at some of the most common fillers you’ll find in bars. Typically, the ones you’ll find in most bars include inulin, soy or sunflower lecithin, and palm oil variations. Inulin is a fairly common fibrous additive that’s used to increase the dietary fiber content of foods - the purpose of which is to prolong digestion, which can be good for people trying to keep their insulin levels down. Next is lecithin, which is most frequently derived from soy as soy lecithin or from sunflower seeds as sunflower lecithin. It’s main purpose as an additive is to prevent fats from sticking together or otherwise preventing clumpy textures in the final product. While lecithin isn’t necessarily harmful, any high amounts of soy should probably be avoided - which is why Caveman products make a great choice for anyone avoiding soy since soy is seen as a “non-paleo” ingredient. Finally there’s oil varieties, such as palm oil, sunflower oil, or even coconut oil; which are used for processing food due to it’s high saturated fat content. Like lecithin, oils aren’t harmful in moderation, but because of their high fat content they should not be consumed in excess of what your dietary regimen dictates.
At Caveman Foods, we believe that knowing what goes into the food you eat is key to maintaining long-term health and wellness. We hope that this series of articles has helped you with just that, in addition to giving you an understanding of how best to use bars in a balanced diet plan.