The McDougall Newsletter
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From Jan/Feb '99

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POWER BARS--WHO NEEDS THEM?

One of the most popular (and profitable) products at the natural foods stores and the supermarkets are the so called "energy / power bars" and the "cereal / breakfast bars." I like to think of them as candy bars. They are loaded with calories and simple sugars. How many people do you know who need more calories? Some are also high in protein--another ingredient Americans consume in dangerous overabundance. These are consumed as a meal replacer, for a quick bite on the run and as snacks. But most bars are filled with ingredients that are not nutritious, and sometimes hazardous. For example, simple sugars will contribute to obesity, elevated triglycerides and cholesterol, and rot your teeth. The vegetable oils contribute to cancer and obesity. The cow’s milk proteins are a common cause of allergic reactions. The extra protein in some bars will overwork the kidneys and liver, and contribute to kidney stones and osteoporosis. Most bars are deficient in dietary fiber, complex carbohydrates, and the proper mix of vitamins and minerals that are found in whole starches, vegetables and fruits. You are fooling yourself if you think these bars a reasonable substitute for real plant foods. But for most Americans some of the bars may be a substantial improvement over their usual fare of burgers, malts, and fries. I guess it’s all relative.

The first constituent on the ingredient label of most of these bars is simple sugars, such as: sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, dextrose, honey, juice concentrates, fruit puree, fruits, dehydrated fruits, molasses, red beet juice, and/ or dehydrated cane juice. Compare the sugar content of a regular candy bar with these energy power bars. For example, a 1.55 oz. Hershey’s milk chocolate bar has 22 grams of sugar, which means 38% of the 230 calories are simple sugar, and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup has 21 grams of sugars, which means one-third of the 250 calories are sugar. You will find the percent of calories that are from simple sugars surprisingly similar. Of course, there is a lot more fat in these chocolate candy bars, than the energy bars. 

If not the first ingredient, then the sugar is second after protein. Even then simple sugar still contributes to most of the calories. For example, Balance Bars by Bio-Foods Inc list Protein Blend first, then high fructose corn syrup but 36% of the 200 calories are sugar and 28% are protein. The common sources of protein used are cow’s milk and soy protein. Many contain other ingredients that the health conscious consumer will try to avoid like whole milk, butter, milk solids, whey, partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening, soybean and other vegetable oils, monoglyceride (fats), diglycerides (fats), lecithin (fat)

BREAKFAST, CEREAL, AND GRANOLA BARS:

These bars are sold with packaging and names that indicate they are healthy for you such as Barbara’s Nature’s Choice, 100% Natural, Fat-Free, organic Whole Wheat. However, they are loaded with calories, mostly from sugar. For example, the Quaker Fruit & Oatmeal Cereal Bars have 16 grams of sugar, which means 46% of the 140 calories come from sugar.

The healthiest cereal bar I could find was made by Clif Bar Inc. called Kicks Bar. The ingredients are simple, mostly natural, without added oils or dairy products. The sugar comes from brown rice syrup, whole rice syrup, grape juice concentrate, and fruit. Only 8 grams of sugar, representing 27% of the calories.

SUGAR PROTEIN BARS:

They range from very high sugar to moderate sugar. By combining honey and fruit, Montana Naturals Int’l., Inc.has made a bar that contains 130 calories of which 92% of the calories are from simple sugars. The PowerBar by Powerfood Inc. is made of high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice, milk protein, butter and other ingredients. More than one-third of its 230 calories come from sugar. As the milk solids and / or soy protein are increased they take over the first ingredient spot, but they’re still mostly sugar.

One variation of these bars, the Think! bar by phD Inc. adds the herb, ginkgo and the fat, choline. Both of these substances effect the nervous system, supposedly in a way that provides better brain function. But, it is still a sugar bar.

The healthiest of the single bars is again the Clif bar by Clif Bar Inc. The apricot bar is made of rolled oats, brown rice syrup, flour, bran fruits and other ingredients. They use apricots treated with sulfur dioxide which some people are sensitive to. Of the 250 calories on 22% are simple sugar.

After looking over what is available on the shelves there is great need for a Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods Meal Replacement bar. A little sugar for taste but with lots nutritious ingredients

 
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From Jan/Feb '99

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Back Issues of Newsletter

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