Protein bars are great in theory. They are a lifesaver when it comes to busting hunger and can help you meet your daily protein needs. In reality, most of them are full of garbage. Have you ever taken a few minutes to look at what's actually IN them? You might be surprised to learn the truth about the ingredients in some of the most popular protein bars on the market right now, but there are plenty of virtuous ones as well. We want to hold protein bars to their promise of helping us design our bodies, so we're here to discuss the five best and five worst protein bar ingredients and recommend some that meet our standards.
Let's get right to it...
Avoid These Ingredients:
#1 - Soy Protein Isolate (SPI)
Unfortunately, Soy Protein Isolate is one of the most prevalent protein sources you'll find in protein bars, especially those marketed to women. Most soy in the US is GMO, or genetically modified, and some studies have indicated that soy is toxic for hormone balance because of how the soy is processed (natural and fermented soy products such as edamame, tempeh, miso, etc.). Avoid it as there are superior sources of protein on the market with a safer track record.
#2 - High Fructose Corn Syrup
Made from GMO corn, the increase in HFCS in the American diet has been correlated to the uprise in obesity. HFCS has been shown to have high levels of mercury, which can lead to symptoms of mercury toxicity over time. There are numerous natural sweetener alternatives, so HFCS has no business being in protein bars.
#3 - Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil
Palm kernel oil is extracted with a gasoline-like hydrocarbon solvent, with the Fractionated form being the most processed. It has an unfavorable fatty-acid profile, and demand causes deforestation and wildlife harm. This is definitely an ingredient to avoid.
#4 - Sugar Alcohols
Sugar Alcohols can be spotted because they end in the suffix -ol, such as Maltitol Syrup, Xylitol, Sorbitol, Lactitol, Mannitol, and Erythritol. Sugar alcohols are not well absorbed in the digestive tract and can cause digestive distress. They can cause extreme bloating, definitely what you want to avoid if you want a flat belly.
#5 - Artificial Sweeteners
Your body can't break these down, so again they can cause digestive distress. They also distort your taste for sugar because they are so much sweeter than natural sugar. Artificial Sweeteners have been linked to an increase in waist circumference, which is an indicator of metabolic problems.
Those are the top 5 worst protein bar ingredients...and you will actually find bars that contain ALL of these ingredients in them! If that's the case, they are actually worse than candy bars.
The best ingredients to see in a protein bar include dates for energy, nuts and seeds for satiety, and high quality protein from pea, hemp, and rice. You can purchase our favorite healthy protein bars with good-for-you ingredients through our affiliate links below:
Rise Protein Bar:
Papa Steve's No Junk Protein Raw Protein Bar:
Raw Revolution Protein Bars: