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Happy New Year guys, I am going to kick it off by cutting the crap. A little controversial subject coming up, but I want to speak out about what’s on my mind. In January we will be pointing out some home truths. May I start off by stating that this is my opinion and ingredients I avoid.
We all lead busy, time-poor lives and when it comes to scanning the supermarket shelves for healthy options, many of us don’t have the time to run through the ingredients on the growing number of food items which claim to be healthier alternatives. For the vast majority of us, we take the food brands which describe themselves as ‘healthy’ or ‘organic’ at face value: with little or no time to check, we have to entrust ourselves to these claims. And this is the problem. The guys who market these products are clever people: food marketing teams have considerable skill in making packaging – and the messaging on it – very attractive to health-conscious consumers. They make bold claims about the health credentials of their brands while keeping the reality – i.e. the actual ingredients – tucked away in the small print.
I have discovered this is a particularly prominent issue with several health and energy bars which either claim to offer health benefits or are positioned for healthy living. Frankly I’m a little pissed off, many of these bars aren’t what they seem and are skewing the definition of what represents a truly healthy snack. Bad bars are giving good bars a bad name; bars should be as clean as possible, no unnecessary ingredients and made from wholefoods. Consumers need transparency and education, otherwise what’s the point? Here are a few revealing truths about certain, so-called ‘health bars’ that I’ve managed to uncover while on my travels: please take heed.
Sugar is sugar, right?
Nope. Bar brands can choose a multitude of sugar formats from glucose, organic cane syrup, raw cane sugar, grape juice concentrate, high maltose corn syrup, rice syrup, brown rice syrup to agave and maltodextrin. While many bars contain natural sugars, a high percentage of them are highly refined which means they only offer a rack of ‘empty calories’. If you’re going to put sugar into your body at least ensure it has some nutritional value outside of pure energy. Agave is one example of a popular, highly-refined sugar source which is virtually devoid of any nutritional value once eaten in a bar.
Bars which use natural sources such as dates contain sugar which is more nutritionally dense than a refined alternative as it contains fibre, minerals and vitamins.
KEY OFFENDERS: Bounce Energy Balls, Nature Valley, Kind & Eat Natural, Clif, Trek, & 9 bar
What about Soy?
Another watch out: Soy Lecithin is used extensively in health bars as an emulsifier (allows water and oil to mix). It is a deeply unpleasant vacuum-dried sludge left over from the soy oil refining process and – as with many other soy products – usually comes from genetically modified soybean plants. Avoid this ingredient or at least look out for organic or non-GMO soy lecithin.
KEY OFFENDERS: Nature Valley, Kind, Trek & Eat Natural
Does the same go for vegetable oil?
Absolutely. Producing vegetable oil involves chemical extraction, bleaching and deodorising. If that’s not enough to put you off then please also note its excess level of Omega-6 can lead to inflammation and illness.
KEY OFFENDERS: Nature Valley, Eat Natural, Trek & 9 bar
Can we assume natural flavouring is okay?
Sadly, no. Natural flavouring, as defined by the UK Food Standards Agency, is “a flavouring substance obtained, by physical, enzymatic or microbiological processes”. While this may seem harmless enough, the term ‘natural’ is often stretched somewhat by a number of manufacturers.
Take, for instance, Castoreum which is extracted from a beaver’s anal glands and used as vanilla flavouring; it’s so popular that beavers are nearly extinct. Or the plant extract, Benzaldehyde, which is used as almond flavouring and contains traces of hydrogen cyanide which is toxic.
If you see the ingredient “Natural flavouring” on your choice of product perhaps contact the company and ask what the ingredient consists of. Ask for the official ingredient name and look it up for yourself. So this is exactly what I did, I called Natural Balance Foods to ask what their “Natural flavouring” consists of:
Natural Balance Foods: “We cannot be too specific, we use anything derived from fruit, veg or herbs. Manufacturers of flavourings won’t give exact ingredients as it’s a protected recipe.”
If a food company uses good quality and flavourful ingredients with minimal processing, there should be no need to add “Natural flavouring”.
KEY OFFENDERS: Nakd & Trek bars
Challenge your bar of choice!
Surely. It’s time to cut the crap. Health bars – or energy bars purporting to be aligned to a healthier lifestyle – have to practice what they preach. I’m a little tired of reading ‘100% Natural Ingredients’ on pack, only to find that, when I dig a bit deeper, the product just doesn’t stack up.
Get real…or get out of the game!
P.S. Don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date with all things healthy!
Cacao & Spirulina in Perfect Harmony
There’s never a dull moment on the LoveRaw team: when we’re not sourcing some of the healthiest food ingredients from around the world, we’re normally sat thinking up innovative ways to make our superfoods even more delicious than they are already.
Take our new Cacao & Spirulina Energy Bar, for instance.
Healthy food straight from the Aztecs
Okay, so the healthy bit is covered by a small (but beautifully formed) plant called spirulina which is a complete protein containing more essential amino acids than you can shake a stick at. (In fact, what you may not know is that spirulina was originally a food source for the Aztecs and Mesoamericans and they were a pretty healthy bunch!) This plant is the daddy of superfoods. Seriously, just take a look at its credentials: it provides most of the protein you need to live (not a bad start), it helps prevent those little allergies like sniffling and sneezing, it reinforces your immune system, helps control high blood pressure and can even help protect you from cancer. Honestly, could there be a better superfood? Okay, if it did the dishes too, then that would possibly be better…
Now, the yummy bit is covered by the raw cacao which we ethically source from Ecuador! I know, it does seem like a long way to go just for a bit of flavour but it does seem to be worth it because this baby is selling like hot cakes (organic hot cakes…naturally!)
You see, when raw cacao is 100% pure and unprocessed – which it is in our gorgeous energy bars – then it’s full of natural antioxidants such as polyphenols and flavanols. And you know that anything containing ‘ols’ has got to be good, right? These particular ‘ols’ help neutralise harmful free radicals in your body which promotes overall health and (yes, there’s more) it is a fantastic mood enhancer.
But the real trick – and don’t go telling anyone this – is that we combine all this lovely healthiness with the other premium organic ingredients and (this is the clever bit) slow dry it all at 38°C, so no vitamins or minerals are lost! How clever are we?
Love LoveRaw? You’re in good company
Now, the gang here at LoveRaw doesn’t like to blow its own trumpet but, on this occasion, I’m going to blow our own trumpet. Why, I hear you ask? Because when one of our superfoods gets a glowing write up on thiswomansworld.com we want to shout it from the organic, ethically-sourced rooftops (if, indeed, there are such things). I mean when a review says, “the two bars I had the pleasure of trying were absolutely divine,” it’s pretty hard not to jump up and down in frenzied delight, isn’t it?
Now, when it comes to getting your hands on these fabulous energy bars of ours, the team at LoveRaw have made it real easy to locate and enjoy. The interactive stockist map on our website is a smart little tool; just type in your postcode and up will pop your nearest retailer who has had the good sense to put these wonderfully healthy goodies on their shelves. Oh, and by the way, my colleague has just left a note on my desk to remind you all that, as gorgeous as it is, our new Cacao & Spirulina Energy Bar does contains nuts and we wouldn’t want you blowing up to the size of a house unnecessarily, now would we?
LoveRaw Rewarded with top Award
With our new Cacao & Spirulina Energy Bar about to become a best-seller and receiving lots of lovely praise for how heavenly it tastes, we’re feeling a little smug right now, to be honest. Especially when all that comes on the back of the ‘commended award’ we received for our Cacao & Maca flavour bar in the recent FreeFrom Food Awards – which helps raise the profile of FreeForm foods with consumers and happens to be the industry's only award for excellence. We got commended in the ‘food to go’ category and the oh-so-impressed judges said of our delicious bar, “Crunchy, good texture, flavoursome – can really taste the nuts. Impressive that it’s free from so many allergens and low in sugar.” Fantastic!
Well, we can’t stand here resting on our laurels (as much as we’d like to!) we’ve got more healthy flavour combinations to find to keep you guys coming back for more.