Are Health Bars Really Healthy?

In response to demands for more nutritious snacks, there are a variety of so called health bars in our grocery store aisles. They range from fruit and nut, granola, Power Bars and cereal bars. According to the hype surrounding these bars, they are supposed to give quick energy without a sudden sugar crash and provide nutrient density. The question is, are they really any better than a candy bar or even simple carbs like white bread?

One study looked at the Power Bar which is geared for athletes. It is a high energy bar with a high ratio of complex to simple carbs. It produced a fast sugar peak about 30 minutes after eating and also showed a fast drop in sugar levels. It was faster than the candy bar or a peice of white bread. While it's sugar performance was not desirable, the Power Bar is nutrient dense.

Most of the cereal health bars lack basic nutrition. Some are made of refined carbs with a sugary fruit mix in the middle. While their may be some vitamins and nutrients added, they are full of empty calories that will jack your blood sugar levels up and then down. Some granola or nut health bars are a step better. The granola nut base adds some fiber to the product which will slow the blood sugar rise and prevent an insulin response. Overall these products are primarily sugar based and have little to no protein and other nutrients.

The best heath food bars are probably found in the health food store. Here you can find mixes of different formulas of carbs, proteins and fats. A bar that is moderate in all three will regulate your insulin which is a fat storage hormone. It will also help keep you full longer.

For the most part, the health bars sold in the grocery store are not much better than candy or white bread. Most are too high in refined carbs and sugar, thus creating a surge in insulin which can promote fat gain. If you like energy bars visit a health food store and choose something with moderate levels of carbs, proteins and healthy fats.
Dr Lanny Schaffer is an Exercise Physiologist and the President of The International Fitness Academy. For more cutting edge information on nutrition and fitness go to

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