Setting the Bar High: What to Look for in a Nutrition Bar
Nutrition bars can supplement your diet with essential nutrients that are difficult to incorporate into daily meals, but while these products are all great in theory, few actually make good on the promises adorning the front of their wrappers. If you want to know what’s really in that “healthy snack” you’re considering eating, take an educated look at the ingredient list on the back. There are a number of macronutrients - carbohydrates, fats, and proteins - and micronutrients - vitamins and minerals - that you should be aware your body either absolutely needs or absolutely should not have.
LUNA Bar, a branch of Clif Bar & Company dedicated to filling the nutritional gaps in women’s diets, puts out nutrition labels that I have found to be worth looking at. Their bars incorporate a lot of what you should be looking for in a nutrition product, and though they are marketed specifically to women, they are worth considering for men too. LUNA uses what they call the “CORE 4” - calcium, folic acid, iron, and Vitamin D. Why should you be excited to see these ingredients on the back of a wrapper? Calcium supports strong teeth and bones, and if you aren’t drinking a glass of milk or taking a supplement everyday, you probably aren’t getting enough of it. Unfortunately, even if you are drinking that milk or taking those supplements, it makes little difference if you aren’t getting enough Vitamin D, which supports your immune system and enables your body to absorb calcium. By incorporating both calcium and Vitamin D, products like LUNA Bars ensure that you can actually reap the benefits of the nutrition they offer.
While most people are aware, at least to some extent, that they need calcium and vitamin D, not many people know how essential the other half of the CORE 4, iron and folic acid, are to their diets. It is a common assumption that they are only necessary for girls to replenish red blood cell levels and generate new cells monthly, but they are important for reasons beyond those - and not just for girls. Folic acid supports strong skin and nails, and iron helps your body produce hemoglobin, which works to circulate oxygen throughout your body. A deficiency in the oxygen in your body can result in anemia, a condition marked by fatigue, shortness of breath, impaired brain function, and a sickly skin tone.
For many of us, iron is almost as hard to get as it is important to have. Red meat is the best source of it, with smaller amounts in leafy greens and other meats, but I know from experience how difficult these things can be to incorporate into your daily meals. That’s why having a nutritional supplement like a LUNA Bar, which offers both iron and the Vitamin C that can help you absorb it, is an easy way to help your body function as it should.
As important as what’s in a bar is what’s not. All of the good things - calcium, vitamin D, folic acid, iron, protein, and fiber - can be negated by the inclusion of sugar (high fructose corn syrup, fructose, sucrose), partially hydrogenated oils, and synthetic preservatives. What I like about LUNA is that their bars only include 5-9 grams of sugar and absolutely no partially hydrogenated oils or synthetic preservatives.
This information can be used to critically look at the nutritional information on any food product you are considering purchasing, not just LUNA Bars. Regardless of what nutrition bar you’re buying, it’s important to look for the CORE 4 as well as protein and fiber to make sure you’re getting what you need from your bar. Knowing what to expect from additions to your diet will ensure that the benefits the product offers outweigh the costs to your body and your wallet.
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What are your favorite nutrition bars? Let us know in the comments below!