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Adding additives? Subtract them for me.

The notion of ‘adding something in’ often has a positive connotation - it’s frequently synonymous with more and better. However, when it comes to adding additives, it’s a whole new story…I’d far rather they were taken far, far away.

One product that seems to be a popular hiding place for some of the worst additive offenders is energy bars. These are possibly one of most poorly marketed food items available to us. Advertising leads us to believe that many common ingredients found in these bars are actually not that bad for us — or worse, even good for us. The problem is that most of them contain synthetic derivatives from poor-quality sources that frankly I’m not sure we should be going anywhere near.

Before I bad mouth the bar completely, I have to stress that there are of course some good guys out there…free from bad ass junk. I know Will has a bit of a love thang goin’ on for the BodyMe bars for example. All I’m saying is that it’s essential to know what you’re looking out for, to be able to tell apart the goodies from the baddies. Luckily for you (!) Nutri-Nous is here to help!

Let’s take a look at some of the worst offenders, that should have an Alice in Wonderland type anti-label on there…”DON’T EAT ME”.

Soy protein isolate (SPI): considered to be soy’s heavily processed stepchild. “There is a lot of controversy around soy and whether or not it’s good for you,” says the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. “But the real controversy lies with soy isolate, not whole food soy products like organic tofu and whole soybeans.” Generally, soy protein isolate is made from de-fatted soybean flakes that have been washed in either alcohol or water to remove sugars and dietary fiber. This process strips the pure soybean of its nutrients.

“This is a problem with a lot of our foods today…they have become so manipulated that they’re unhealthy.”

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS):

Is an inexpensive chemically made sweetener.

But don’t be romanced by its sweet allure, warns the Telegraph. “This artificially made sugar has apparently been linked to everything from diabetes and obesity to the potential inhibition of leptin, the hormone responsible for telling your brain that you're full. Ever wonder why you could eat a whole packet of biscuits and never feel satisfied?

So why are companies putting it in your food? One word: ‘profit’. It’s chemically very similar to table sugar, only a lot cheaper to make. Food companies can call on corn syrup to keep costs down and push profits up. The only problem is this is all at the expense of your health. The solution? If any food contains the words “high fructose corn syrup”, throw it straight in the bin.

Inulin: aka “sweet poison”. This is a type of fiber found in plant foods like asparagus, onions and artichokes. It’s heralded as working as a prebiotic to promote digestion and good gut bacteria (thumbs up!). However, the inulin found in most energy bars - in supplement form - is extracted from chicory root to up the fiber count. When consumed in large amounts, it can actually do the opposite of promote healthy digestion, it can give you the runs / Thunder Down Under / back door trots (I wont include “ass-quake” which was another term I was unfortunate enough to overhear the other day); it can also give you the bottom burps, the one-cheek sneaks, the trouser coughs. You’re getting the picture?! Sorry folks.

If however you’re thinking that you don’t know how much is too much, just look at where the ingredient sits in the ingredient list. They are listed in order of occurrence by weight, so if it’s up near the top, then you know it's got a lot.

OK, so moving on. You’re getting a feel for what to avoid, but what should you steer yourself towards?

Whole Grains:

Oats are common to find in energy bars. All oats are considered whole grains; there are various stages of processing but there are no refined oats to watch out for. Whole grains are a healthy source of carbohydrates and fiber to help keep you full.

Nuts and seeds:

These are the "good fats" as well as an excellent source of protein and fiber.

Dried Fruit:

The most natural sweetener you can get. Full of vitamins and minerals which white sugar and high fructose corn syrup are lacking.

However, I’d say that the best thing to look for is a short ingredient list, and one that doesn’t need anything explained. If in doubt, just make your own…

I shove (beautifully written Mel, demonstrates such appreciation for the culinary art) a load of nuts, eg almonds, in the blender and blitz. Add raisins / dates / peanut butter / flaxseeds / chia seeds / coconut oil / desiccated coconut / cocoa powder. Any or all of the above will taste and do you good.

Let’s face it, healthy eating is always difficult, we’re all crazy busy and that’s just how it is. But an easy rule of thumb is that the more processed, manipulated and modified the food in your hand, the worse it will be for you. If you haven’t got time to make your own energy bars, then Damn it Janet, just grab an apple and a few handfuls of nuts. I’d far rather do that than ingest a load of SPI, or HFCS. Y-U-C-K. J-U-N-K.


Take ‘em away.


Institute for Integrative Nutrition


I am not a dietician or a nutritionist, and make no claims to the contrary. What is written on this site should not be taken as fact or advice. It is merely an opinion blog.

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