Nutrition Bars and Healthy Fats
Food technologists have come up with what they apparently consider a breakthrough in nutrition: “nutrition” bars with fish oil replacing some of the canola oil.
Unfortunately, the full text of the article is available only to subscribers, and the abstract doesn’t say what product they’re talking about, if indeed it is yet currently available, and what the other ingredients are.
Now, there’s good evidence that fish oil, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, can contribute to health in people who have high levels of omega-6 fatty acids in their diet. Americans today tend to eat more omega-6 fatty acids than people did in past times, and the ratio of omega-6:omega-3 is much higher than it is in many people eating their native diets.
So increasing your consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is a good thing, although fish oil capsules can raise blood glucose levels in some people with diabetes, and I prefer to get my fish oil by eating fatty fish. However, good fish isn’t always available everywhere, so I can understand why some would choose to supplement with capsules.
However, it doesn’t make sense to me to increase your consumption of snack bars because they contain omega-3 fatty acids. Snack bars usually consist of highly processed food ingredients, and even the “low-carb” versions usually contain some ingredients that will raise your blood glucose levels more than you’d expect on the basis of the carb counts they advertise. These ingredients include “glucose in disguise” as maltodextrin, glycerin, and maltitol, as well as other sugar alcohols.
When I’ve read the ingredients on snack bars, even low-carb ones (and they’re often hidden under a fold in the wrapping and then printed so small you need a magnifying glass to read them), I’ve quickly put the products back on the shelf. Usually looks like a collection of junk ingredients to me.
If you want to be healthy, a first step is to give up fake foods like snack bars and shakes. Sure, there are times when we’re out and about and can’t find any healthy whole foods, or we’re late for a meeting and don’t have time to hunt healthy food down and we didn’t have time in the morning to prepare anything to take to work. Then a bar with added omega-3s is better than a bar with only omega-6s. But if we can limit these emergency situations, we’ll be better off.
Christmas is coming up in a few months, and most of us splurge a little during the holidays. But if we get through that, a good New Year’s resolution for 2013 would be to eliminate bars and shakes from our diets and eat real foods instead.
We’ll be healthier for it.