Natural Energy Bars – A Healthy Choice?

Welcome back to the What Supp Blog, where we explore all things nutrition and performance related! Today’s post is a an insight into some of those sweet treat indulgences that are promoted as “healthy options”.

Now first and foremost, a brief disclaimer. I absolutely love to indulge in pretty much everyone one of these treats. From a nutritional standpoint I often think ‘right or wrong’ choices is not always a good way to look at it. As is often the way, it’s not that black and white.

Choices

Many of the bars I highlight below, in terms of choices, are far better options than your regular chocy bar. That’s if you are wanting to indulge your sweet tooth of course. Most are cold pressed, with “all natural” ingredients and no added vegetable oils or highly processed sugars and syrups . These are all a bonuses of course, and again, make them a better choice than a Snickers.

Most of these bars are simple, devoid of preservatives and in relative terms, won’t spike your blood sugars to the same degree as many a high sugar laden treat. Or will they. For those that don’t know, the continual raising of blood sugars, or glucose, is what can cause weight gain, metabolic disfunction and disease.

Metabolising Sugar

In a nut shell, you breakdown carbohydrates (essentially sugars & starches), and to a degree protein, into glucose which causes the release of the hormone insulin. Insulin carries the glucose around your body to the hungry cells for energy. When each cell is full, the remainder gets stored as fat. This is of course a natural bodily function. Where things go wrong is the excessive over spiking of insulin on a continual, multiple times a day basis. This can lead to your cells becoming insulin resistant at worse, and at best, foggy head, mood swings and a build up of inflammation in the body.

Now it’s beyond the scope of this post to give a full detailed description of all the what’s and why’s of excessive insulin spikes, but needless to say most will agree that excessive sugar ain’t doing nothing for nobody.

All Sugar Equal?

Again, and I can’t emphasise this enough, on the spectrum of good choice/bad choice, many of these paleo/vegan/gluten free bars rank a flip of a lot closer to good than a Twicks. But, know what you’re eating. Whether it’s organic coconut palm sugar, white processed table sugar, honey or even a high glycemic fruit like a date, it’s all the same (or very similar) to your body – sugar.

Don’t get too bogged down either with fructose (fruit sugar that is also isolated and manufactured in many products), sucrose (table sugar) or glucose, (blood sugar). They all have a detrimental impact. Glucose will raise blood glucose levels most rapidly of all the sugars and therefore increase insulin secretion. Whereas fructose will have the least effect on glucose and insulin, but it will raise triglycerides levels, (basically fat in your blood stream). This can actually be far nastier, leading to cardiovascular disease and weight gain. Sucrose will break down to glucose in the body and many products will have combinations of these sugars.

Snack Time

Here’s a list of some of the sweet treats options that are open to you. I have scoured the supermarkets of the UK and the least processed, closest to healthy options appear to come from Nakd, Primal Pantry, Planet Organic and some dark chocolate brands. There are obviously others but these appear to be the most readily available.

I’ve basically included dark chocolate as when the nutritional content is considered, it actually has a far greater claim on being a healthy energy bar than many other options out there. For more on why dark chocolate, have a read of this previous post about human’s real best friend; https://whatsuppblogblog.com/2017/03/05/chocolate-a-superfood/

Soo, just quickly before we look at that indulgent lil afternoon snack list, here’s a quick note on the side. I have not included any bars which contain oats. Oats have a high carbohydrate content and many of the options on the market that I checked included the likes of rice bran syrup, apple/grape concentrate, fructose etc etc. All of these little offenders are titled differently to divert the consumer from the fact they are buying sugar. So basically that’s just more sugar on your sugar.

The brands

Nakd

First up we got Nakd bars. These little numbers are both pretty damn affordable and pretty damn tasty.

Natural balance foods, the creators of Nakd bars, state their bars are “completely different to other cereal bars because they’re made with a wholefood approach, which means that we believe in minimal processing and we don’t add any sugar, syrups or mysterious additives to your food.”

See the below list of Nakd products and their accompanying sugar content starting with the lowest content offering:

– 12 grams of sugar in 35g pecan pie nakd bar

– 12.4 grams of sugar in 35g ginger bread nakd bar

– 13.6 grams of sugar in 35g peanut delight nakd bar

– 13.6 grams of sugar in 35g cocoa orange nakd bar

– 13.7 grams of sugar in 35g cashew cookie nakd bar

– 14.3 grams of sugar in 35g apricot crunch nakd bar

– 15.6 grams of sugar in 35g carrot cake nakd bar

– 15.9 grams of sugar in 35g cocoa delight nakd bar

– 16 grams of sugar in 35g Bakewell tart nakd bar

– 16.6 grams of sugar in 35g berry delight nakd bar

– 16.7 grams of sugar in 35g cocoa coconut nakd bar

– 17.7 grams of sugar in 35g lemon drizzle nakd bar

– 18.2 grams of sugar in 35g blueberry muffin nakd bar

– 19.3 grams of sugar in 40g pack of coconut bliss nakd fruit & nut nibbles

– 20.2 grams of sugar in 40g pack of salted caramel nakd fruit & nut crunch nibbles

Planet Organic

Alrighty, next we have Planet Organic’s own range of grain free bars. Planet Organic is basically a paleo/vegan/nutrition bod’s wet dream. All the food sold there is in line with three key principles; organic (funnily enough), natural and sustainable.

– 7.8 grams of sugar in 30g Planet Organic Chia Vanilla Energise Bar

– 7.8 grams of sugar in 30g Planet Organic Chia Vanilla Energise Bar

– 8.4 grams of sugar in Planet Organic Cacao Brazil Nut Energise Bar

– 9 grams of sugar in 30g Planet Organic Goji Pumpkinseed Energise Bar

Primal Pantry

Right, next up Primal Pantry. These bars clearly align themselves to the paleo lifestyle. This can be seen with some great combinations including coconut and macadamia nuts (awesome omega 3 to 6 ratio) being a personal fave.

The Primal Pantry fames itself having been created by a qualified nutritionist. As their site states; “The award-winning Primal Pantry bars contain no added nasties or funky sounding names, just honest, simple ingredients that can be found in your own kitchen cupboard.”

We’ve got the standard and smaller version bars first, followed by the larger protein bars after:

– 14.9 grams sugar in 45g coconut & macadamia bar / 9.9 grams sugar in 30g bar

– 15 grams of sugar in 45g açai & super-seed bar

– 16.1 grams of sugar in 45g almond & cashew bar / 10. 7 grams of sugar in 30g bar

16.9 grams of sugar in 45g apple & pecan 45g bar /

– 17.1 grams of sugar in 45g brazil nut & cherry bar

– 17.5 grams of sugar in 45g hazelnut & cocoa bar / 11.7 grams of sugar in 30g bar

Primal Pantry Protein Bars

– 20 grams of sugar in 55g cocoa brownie hemp protein bar

– 21 grams of sugar in 55g cocoa orange hemp protein bar

– 21 grams of sugar in 55g double espresso hemp protein bar

– 22 grams of sugar in 55g mixed berry hemp protein bar

Dark Chocolate

Below are 3 bars that are pretty much widely available in most spots at the snack counter.

– 10.15 grams sugar in 70% 35g lint bar

( 29 grams in 100g lint bar )

– 10 grams of sugar in green & blacks organic 35g bar 70% ( 28.5 grams of sugar in 100g bar )

– 10.46 grams of sugar in 26g 72% willie’s cocoa Venezuelan bar

Conclusion

Right, so hopefully you’ve had a little scan through. Just to emphasise the point, and this is a big one; a quarter of a teaspoon of sugar equals one gram. So basically a full teaspoon equals 4 grams of sugar.

As can be seen, some of these bars have a pretty shockingly high sugar count, even some of the 35 gram bars, (although do bear in mind size differentiation). The Planet Organic hit some impressive low scores but again, size matters, they’re only 30grams a pop.

The dark chocolate has, as can be clearly seen, an impressive lower sugar content also. For those going low carb or keto, this makes it a clearly better choice. As already highlighted, there are a number of other benefits to consuming chocolate. Be weary though, these diminish with lower percentage cocoa bars and experts will argue that the nutritional value is negligible under 70% – 80% cocoa.

Timing

This is not to discount the value of the all natural ingredients in the bars we looked at. As with most things in life, timing is all important. Especially when looking to consume any particular carbohydrates or sugar.

So, if having a bar such as those discussed, the numero uno time would be post exercise. Although this may seem counter intuitive, as the treat will give the body calories and exercise will subsequently burn it off, it’s a tad more newonced than that.

This is primarily as your body is looking to replenish it’s depleted glycogen (energy) stores and is eager for them to be replenished. So in a nutshell your body is in the right metabolic state to use the carbohydrate and sugars being given to it.

A less optimal time to cram in on sugars and carbs, especially non complex carbs, would be the morning or evening, especially having completed no exercise prior. Adding any sugars first thing is a sure fire way to ensure blood sugar roller coasters and food cravings throughout the day.

So if you are looking to move away from sugar, which you damn well should be, start reading labels. Hope you’ve found this post interesting! If so, please like, share and leave a comment. Big love to you for reading.

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