Is your “health bar” a fraud? Read your labels for these common harmful ingredients

I am often asked if something is healthful/nutritious or not, and very often it’s some type of health bar. I totally get it guys…you want a snack or some kind of QUICK FOOD with perhaps some protein and nuts or something. So you want a bar you can grab and take with you. The sad thing is, most of the “health bars” out there are NOT HEALTHY AT ALL! I am going to list some common ingredients in those health bars and explain why they’re detrimental. Also, sugar comes in MANY different forms so I am going to list a few of the common names to watch out for.

  1. CANOLA OIL. Highly processed oil. This oil is not only 90% GMO (genetically modified), but also it’s a hydrogenated oil. Think: cancer causing and inflammation provoking. Much better options are coconut oil, 100% pure olive oil, organic ghee or grass-fed butter.
  2. BROWN RICE SYRUP. Another word for SUGAR. Zero nutritional value and very high glycemic index (worse than table sugar, actually), avoid this like the plague.
  3. SUCRALOSE. (AKA Splenda) This is an artificial sweetener, which of course, we want to avoid like the plague as it can cause cancer and alter your taste-buds to where you actually crave MORE sweets. I avoid anything with sucralose at ALL costs.
  4. NATURAL FLAVORINGS. What the heck are these? These “natural flavors” can contain hundreds if not thousands of other ingredients that don’t have to be disclosed. More likely than not, these are genetically modified ingredients. Natural flavors are not natural – they are altered in a lab. This is why we want to avoid them – because we have no clue what they are. If you see them in a food item, do yourself a favor and put it back! While consuming these in moderation may be OK (no you won’t get cancer from occasional natural flavors), it’s obviously best to center our diet around real, whole foods and not questionable ingredients like these. I avoid them. Read more about why natural flavors are such a proble HERE – Food Babe is one of my favorite most inspiring people.  David Kessler, former head of the FDA, even disagrees with the use of natural flavors. They make you crave more food – don’t eat them!
  5. SOY LECITHIN. This is a food additive that is made from cottonseed, rapeseed, soybeans or sunflower. Many side effects of consumption include bloating, skin rashes, stomach pain, etc. Soy lecithin is made from SOY, and 90% of soy is genetically modified, therefore should be avoided. Also, women in particular should avoid consuming soy products as it can mimic estrogen in the body and this can lead to the potential of breast cancer cell development.
  6. FRACTIONATED PALM KERNEL OIL Palm oil, palm kernel oil, fractionated palm kernel oil. WHAT IS WITH ALL THESE PALM OILS! First of all, palm oil and palm kernel oil are different. Palm oil comes from the fruit itself and palm kernel comes from the pit. The main difference is that PALM FRUIT OIL is 50% saturated fat as opposed to palm kernel oil which is 80% saturated fat. Palm oil from the fruit itself IS more healthful due to the higher antioxidant content. Palm kernel oil has a similar chemical structure to that of coconut oil, however, this does not mean it’s equal to coconut oil in terms of nutrition. Palm kernel oil cannot be obtained organically, which is interesting, and must be extracted from the pit using a “gasoline-like hydrocarbon solvent”. Fractionated palm kernel oil should be avoided like the plague because EVEN MORE processed. It’s used by manufacturers who like its stability and melting characteristics. The healthful properties are lost at this point, when you get to fractionated palm kernel oil. Further making palm oil a problem is the production itself which is leading to deforestation and abuse of workers. More than 85% of the palm oil in packaged foods in the U.S. is grown in Indonesia and Malaysia where human rights abuse is very common.  – think child labor and forced labor. As I mentioned, it’s leading to rainforest destruction, as well as driving orangutans to extinction. It is because of these things that you should avoid purchasing anything with conventional palm oil/palm kernel oil. Sustainable palm oil is an approach that aims to produce palm oil without harming people, animals, or causing deforestation. However, there are still questions regarding whether or not this is 100% truthful and not just a scheme. Read more about palm oil here. At the very least, if you must purchase products with palm oil, choose sustainably sourced, palm oil from the fruit.In regards to consuming MCT oil of quality, PURCHASE THIS BRAND HERE – as it’s made from organic coconuts and definitely high quality oil.

FORMS OF SUGAR/OTHER INGREDIENTS TO AVOID: Besides what is already listed, avoid anything ending in “-ose”, maltodextrin, beet sugar, corn sugar, turbinado, malt syrup, carob syrup, brown sugar, cane juice solids/crystals, barley malt, agave syrup, rice syrup,  to name a few.

At the end of the day, avoid processed foods as much as you can, this includes pre-packaged “health” bars or protein bars. Most of them are filled with a combination of the above ingredients are are simply not good for your health. Try making your own homemade clean bars for a change! Where you can control each ingredient and ensure you are getting wholesome nutrition. I also recommend you google the ingredients in something to see what the heck it is for yourself. I do this a lot if I am unsure about an ingredient, and it’s how I’ve gained all the knowledge I have today.

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