How To Choose A Healthy Sports Nutrition Bar

by in Diet Tips, Fiber, Kitchen Sink, Protein, Sports Nutrition, Whole Foods Diet February 9, 2009

PhotobucketFinding a truly healthy nutrition bar can be tough as I noted in my article, “Zing Bars Awarded Best Nutrition Bar 2008.”

I interviewed the makers of Zing Bars, nutritionists Michael Kaplan, ND, Minh-Hai Tran, MS, RD and Sandi Kaplan, MS, RD to help us better understand the following qualities to look for in a healthy sports bar.

What qualities should people look for when purchasing a healthy sports bar?

100% Natural Ingredients: In our opinion, a bar does not need to be 100% organic to be a healthy choice.  With the rising cost of food in general, organic ingredients can sometimes strain a food budget.  We recommend comfortably settling for a 100% natural bar, free of colorings, preservatives and additives.

High quality protein: Not all protein sources are as efficiently utilized by the body.  There are several measurements that seek to describe protein quality.  One such measurement is a protein’s Biological Value (BV).  The higher the Biological Value of the protein, the more nitrogen the body can absorb, use, and retain. As a result, proteins with the highest BV promote the most lean muscle gains.

Whey protein has the highest BV value, with a relative 104 rating.  Egg protein is second with a relative 100 and milk proteins rank third as relative 91.  Beef and soy protein have relative BV scores of 80 and 74 respectively.  Rice protein scores even lower than soy protein on the BV spectrum.  However, rice protein’s gluten free, relative hypoallergenic profile solidifies its usefulness as a protein source for those looking for a vegan alternative to soy protein.

PhotobucketHigh quality fat from sources such as nuts and seeds. High quality fat is important for at least two reasons:

  • Fat helps stabilize blood sugar: Nuts, when consumed with a meal or snack, significantly reduce the rate at which glucose from carbs enters the bloodstream.  This means better blood sugar balance and control.  Nuts are comprised predominantly of monounsaturated fats and are a rich source of phytosterols, magnesium and folic acid which are means they are cardioprotective (reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease).
  • Fat helps with satiety: A meal or snack with a balanced amount of fat (with respect to carbs and protein) will help increase feelings of fullness and satiety.  This can be very helpful in terms of portion control.

Fiber is a key player in any healthy food.  Fiber increases satiety by adding bulk, helps to slow the absorption of glucose from the diet, sweeps away dietary cholesterol in the gut, helps to create a nourishing environment for beneficial gut bacteria and scrubs toxins from the digestive tract.  This is just a partial list of the benefits of fiber.

We recommend 3 grams (or more) per bar. In our opinion, fiber really speaks to a particular food’s “Carbohydrate Quality.”  We define Carb Quality as follows: First, 3+ grams of Fiber.  Second, minimal use of sugar alcohols.  Third, the use of low glycemic sweeteners, such as Agave nectar.

Low allergens: (see the next article in this series discussing common allergens found in sports bars – coming up soon!)

Authors: Michael Kaplan, ND, Minh-Hai Tran, MS, RD and Sandi Kaplan, MS, RD

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