The market for sports food and supplements is extremely wide, making it often difficult to find your way around and choose the best products that are effective, healthy and tasty at the same time.
In particular, there are many varieties of energy and protein bars, whose formulation can be very different, depending on the choice of ingredients.
If the goal is to enhance the taste while minimizing the selling price, this result is very easy to achieve by adding sugar, artificial sweeteners, flavors and additives of various kinds, including substances that help to increase shelf life. The result is an attractive product, which can be stored for a long time and for this reason can be sold at low cost.
If, on the other hand, the goal is to obtain a product that is both tasty and healthy, i.e. as natural and as similar as possible to a fresh food, the choice of ingredients will exclude all the additives mentioned above, which means sugar, sweeteners and artificial preservatives. Such a product probably cannot be stored for too long, but it will be nutritionally richer and more alive.
If you, like us, value your wellbeing and health, you certainly want to make sure you eat healthy and natural foods, even when you exercise; this is why we thought we’d share with you this simple guide to the consultation of nutritional labels, so you can better choose your bars.
1. How do I know what my bar contains?
Quite simple: read the list of ingredients. As a general rule, a natural product contains only simple ingredients, and is free of added sugar or sweeteners (sucrose, glucose, maltulose, etc.). The latter, in particular, may be calorie-free, but they have a strongly negative effect, especially on our intestinal bacterial flora.
2. What is the list of ingredients?
It is a simple list of all the ingredients used to compose the bar, and is different from the nutritional label, which instead shows the amount of protein, carbohydrates and simple sugars, fats and other micronutrients, per 100g of product or per single dose. Carbohydrates, or sugars, are macronutrients naturally present in food and are an integral part of a product such as the bar, which can provide a different percentage of sugars, depending on whether it is an energy bar or a protein bar. For this reason, I can (and must) find the sugars in the nutritional label of a natural bar, however, it is better that there are no sugars in the ingredient list.
3. So what would be best on the ingredients list?
Imagine you have to make your own bars at home. The choice of ingredients will fall on natural foods, which, naturally containing sugars, will have a sweet taste, without the need to add sweeteners or flavors. Fruit is the most sugar-rich food: this is why dehydrated fruit lends itself well to being a perfect ingredient. Dried dates, bananas or apricots are also an excellent glue to keep together any other ingredients I will decide to add to my bar in order to obtain a tasty and balanced mix. Dried fruits (such as hazelnuts or almonds) provide crispness and energy, and can be combined with cocoa powder, cinnamon or other ingredients such as cocoa butter or plant extracts with excellent antioxidant power, replacing artificial preservatives.
4. And what is best avoided?
The presence of sugars such as sucrose, dextrose, polydextrose, glucose syrup, sorbitol, or preservatives such as sulfur dioxide, hydrogenated fats and palm oil (and the list might go on), means that the bar is not for us.