Are protein bars good for you? They’ve certainly become popular as an easy, go-to snack on the way to or from the gym, and for those days when you don’t have time for a meal. They can even be used as an aid to help weight loss. But are protein bars a healthy snack? Does it depend on the brand or flavor you buy? And, are some protein bars an unhealthier choice than a bag of chips or a chocolate bar?
Sometimes called energy bars, protein bars can contain a range of ingredients, from the healthy to the surprisingly unhealthy. While many of the best protein bars are packed with seeds, nuts and whole grains, some can also come loaded with added sugar and sweeteners – often to mask the bitter taste of some of their more healthy ingredients.
When it comes to choosing a healthy protein bar, knowing what ingredients to look for on the packaging, and understanding basic nutritional information, can help you make an informed choice.
This article takes a closer look at protein bars, their nutritional makeup, and what health benefits they provide. It also considers whether protein bars are the healthiest way to get the protein you need.
Are protein bars good for you: Nutrition
When it comes to how ‘good’ protein bars are for you, it depends on the brand of protein bar and what ingredients go into the bar. Most protein bars contain a good mix of ingredients that provide flavor and texture, such as nuts, seeds and dried fruit. They may also contain whole grains, such as oats. To bind these ingredients together, and improve the overall flavor, they may also contain sugar syrups, artificial sweeteners, chocolate, milk, eggs, or yogurt powder. Vegan brands may choose to use plant-based agents, such as soy or rice.
Given the variety of ingredients, it’s impossible to say whether every protein bar is good for you. But knowing standard nutritional information can help. According to the US Department of Agriculture, an average 63g protein bar will contain the following nutrition:
|Amount||% Daily value|
|Total lipid (fat)||9 g||14%|
|Fatty acids||3.5 g||18%|
Using this as a guide, we can see that our average protein bar is a great source of protein, fiber, and calcium. It’s also a good source of carbohydrate and iron.
It’s important to note that not all protein bar manufacturers show their ingredients on the packaging. Some use a blend of ingredients that are kept secret from their competitors, so it can be difficult to know exactly what you’re taking into your body. Opting for protein bars that have a full list of ingredients will help you make a more informed choice.
Many protein bars use highly processed forms of protein to load their bars, instead of using less-processed foods. So you may notice ingredients such as whey protein isolates or soy protein isolates. If you want to avoid more refined and processed foods in your diet, you may want to give these a swerve and opt for bars that pack more protein from less-processed sources, such as nuts, grains, and seeds.
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