Gabe Mirkin, M.D.
I am saddened by the number of people who think that health bars are
healthful. I am disappointed that many parents put these health bars
in their children's lunches because they think that health bars are
more healthful than candy.
An interesting report from Center for Science in the Pubic Interest
evaluates health bars and finds that most flunk any reasonable
definition of healthful. For a food to be healthful, it must be made
from whole grains (not stripped down flour that has had vitamins,
minerals, and phytochemicals removed), provide at least 2 grams of
fiber (the average North American gets only 11 grams of fiber per
day when he and she need at least 35 grams per day.), contain at
most a gram of saturated fat (because it raises cholesterol in
people who take in too many calories), and should certainly have
fewer than 14 grams of sugar per serving. (Excessive intake of sugar
causes a high rise in blood sugar in diabetics, that causes sugar to
stick to cells and be converted to sorbitol, a poison that damages
cells and shortens life.)
The Center for Science in the Public Interest evaluated 86 health
bars and found only 6 that could be called healthful. Among the best
were Health Valley's Fruit Bars, Granola Bars, Bakes and Healthy
Breakfast Bakes. They all had less than 11 grams of sugar in each
bar, no saturated fat and fewer than 150 calories per bar. Barbara's
Nature Choice Cereal Bars also did well.
Atkins Almond Brownie Diet advantage had more than 220 calories
(too many) and 3 grams of saturated fat (more than an egg yolk),
but on the good side, it has no sugar. Jenny Craig Oatmeal Raisin
Diet Bar is anything but a diet bar. It contained more than 200
calories (to much), and 22 grams of sugar (way too much).
A healthful bar should be made from whole grains, provide at least
2 grams of fiber, contain at most a gram of saturated fat ), and
should certainly have fewer than 14 grams of sugar per serving.