How KIND are your bars? A Cardiologist’s Perspective
The FDA recently took action against KIND, asking them to remove the word “healthy” from both their packages and their website.
False promises of health benefits on food products is one of the major factors behind our nation’s deteriorating health. We’re all trying to make good choices for our families and ourselves, but who can we trust?
While the focus is often on the nutrition panel, the ingredient list is the place to look if you want to make a well-informed choice. The ingredient list is highly regulated by the FDA. Not only must all the ingredients be listed, they must be listed in descending order by weight, so the most prevalent ingredient appears first.
Here are examples of marketing hype along with the Top 4 Tips I give my patients to help them evaluate snack bars and other foods.
Tip #1: Always look for “sugar splitting”
Sugar splitting is dividing sugar into various forms with different names to reduce their weight and move them further down the ingredient list ranking. This is a deceptive practice to make you think a food has less sugar in it than it actually does.
Some sugars are added for practical reasons — even the darkest chocolate has a touch of sugar for palatability, and some dried fruits would turn into hard rocks without a little sugar or juice concentrate in the drying process. But most sweeteners are added simply to increase sugary taste or to cover up an unpleasant taste of another ingredient.
The result: Americans consume 22 teaspoons of ADDED sugar EVERY DAY. There are nearly 50 different ways sugar is hidden in an ingredient list.
KASHI® CHEWY GRANOLA BARS CHERRY DARK CHOCOLATE
The promise: No high fructose corn syrup.
The reality: Sweetener “split” into 5 separate ingredients.
ROLLED WHOLE GRAIN BLEND (HARD RED WHEAT, OATS, RYE, TRITICALE, BARLEY), BROWN RICE SYRUP, CHERRIES (CHERRIES, APPLE JUICE CONCENTRATE, RED TART CHERRY JUICE CONCENTRATE), SEMI-SWEET CHOCOLATE (CANE SYRUP, CHOCOLATE LIQUOR, COCOA BUTTER, SOY LECITHIN, VANILLA), SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE, SOY GRITS, DRIED CANE SYRUP, CHICORY ROOT FIBER, CANE SYRUP, HONEY, CORN FLOUR EXPELLER PRESSED CANOLA OIL, RICE STARCH, VEGETABLE GLYCERIN, OAT FIBER, EVAPORATED SALT, KASHI SEVEN WHOLE GRAINS & SESAME BLEND (WHOLE: HARD RED WHEAT, OATS, RYE, BARLEY, TRITICALE, BROWN RICE, BUCKWHEAT, SESAME SEEDS), NATURAL FLAVORS, MOLASSES, SOY LECITHIN, WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE, ALMOND FLOUR, PEANUT FLOUR.
Tip #2: Not all fiber is created equal
The research around fiber is clear, only naturally-occurring fiber that is part of whole foods has a health benefit.
Watch out for:
“Inulin” also called “chicory root”, “chicory root fiber”, “chicory root extract”
“Soluble corn fiber”
“Soluble wheat fiber”
These extracted but otherwise natural additives are not gritty and virtually disappear in foods and beverages. That makes them popular with manufacturers, but they can also quickly ferment in our digestive tracts, causing bloating and intestinal distress.
FIBER ONE® CHEWY BAR OATS & STRAWBERRY
The promise: 9 g of fiber.
The reality: A large proportion of the fiber is added. Also notice the 6 “split” sweeteners. See if you can find them all.
CHICORY ROOT EXTRACT, WHOLE GRAIN OATS, NATURAL STRAWBERRY FLAVORED FRUIT PIECES (SUGAR, CRANBERRIES, CITRIC ACID, NATURAL FLAVOR, ELDERBERRY JUICE CONCENTRATE, SUNFLOWER OIL, SOY LECITHIN), RICE FLOUR, HIGH MALTROSE CORN SYRUP, BARLEY FLAKES, SUGAR, ALMOND PIECES, HONEY, CANOLA OIL, MALTODEXTRIN, GLYCERINE, RICALCIUM PHOSPHATE, PALM KERNEL OIL, SOY LECITHIN, SALT, FRUCTOSE, COCOA PROCESSED WITH ALKALI, MALT EXTRACT, BAKING SODA, NATURAL FLAVOR, CARAMEL COLOR, MILK, MIXED TOCOPHEROLS ADDED TO RETAIN FRESHNESS.
Tip #3: Look at the entire ingredient list
Is that one good thing worth eating the rest? Manufacturers are quick to hype a positive nutrient without mentioning all the bad stuff you have to eat to get it. If you can’t pronounce it or you don’t recognize it, maybe you shouldn’t put it into your body. Remember, don’t assume an ingredient is safe to ingest just because it’s in food.
META® HEALTH BAR CRANBERRY LEMON DRIZZLE
The promise: 3 in 1 multi-health fiber
The reality: Contains titanium dioxide, a common component of paints and sunscreens. Notice added sweeteners are mentioned 9 times. See if you can find them all.
ROLLED OATS, CORN SYRUP, CRISP RICE (RICE FLOUR, MALT EXTRACT, SALT), INVERT SUGAR, GRANOLA (ROLLED OATS, SUGAR, CANOLA OIL, HONEY, MOLASSES), CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, DRIED CRANBERRIES (CRANBERRIES, SUGAR, SUNFLOWER OIL), PSYLLIUM HUSK, RAISIN PASTE, GLYCERIN, WHITE COMPOUND COATING (SUGAR, PALM KERNEL OIL, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE, TITANIUM DIOXIDE, SOY LECITHIN, SALT, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS), SUNFLOWER OIL, NATURAL FLAVORS, GUM ACACIA, SOY LECITHIN, LEMON POWDER, SALT, CITRIC ACID, TOCOPHEROLS.
Tip #4: Look for the bait & switch
The front of the package might call out an attractive ingredient, but the ingredient list might reveal a different story. Many manufacturers lure you in with promises of blueberries or strawberries, when what they actually give you is “flavored fruit pieces”. Substituting in flavored, often colored apple pieces is especially common.
KIND® BLUEBERRY PECAN + FIBER
The promise: Blueberries and fiber.
The reality: Some blueberries with blueberry flavored fruit pieces and chicory root.
ALMONDS, PECANS, HONEY, BLUEBERRY PIECES (BLUEBERRIES, SUGAR, APPLES, PLUMS, APPLE JUICE, VEGETABLE GLYCERIN, CITRUS PECTIN, SUNFLOWER OIL, NATURAL BLUEBERRY FLAVOR), CASHEWS, NON GMO GLUCOSE, RAISINS, CHICORY ROOT FIBER, CRISP RICE, SOY LECITHIN.
By the way – did you spot the added sugars? Now go back to the Fiber One example. Can you find any strawberries?
At Step One Foods we believe in substance, not hype. We know what you eat directly impacts your health – and that every ingredient matters. No gimmicks. And because our foods are naturally low in sodium and high in whole food fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants and plant sterols, Step One Foods bars are an especially terrific choice for anyone trying to control their high cholesterol, high blood pressure or high blood sugar.
STEP ONE FOODS™ DARK CHOCOLATE CRUNCH BAR
The promise: High levels of fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants and plant sterols.
The reality: High levels of fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants and plant sterols.
BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE [UNSWEETENED CHOCOLATE, SUGAR, COCOA BUTTER, SOY LECITHIN (AN EMULSIFIER), VANILLA], ALMONDS, WHOLE PINTO BEAN FLOUR, CHIA SEEDS, OAT BRAN, WALNUTS, DRIED CRANBERRIES (CRANBERRIES, APPLE JUICE CONCENTRATE, SUNFLOWER OIL), RAISINS, FLAX SEED, PLANT STEROLS, SASKATOON BERRIES.
From a cardiologist’s perspective, products should not be judged based upon marketing claims but upon the four critical building blocks of heart health they deliver.
Since the publication of this blog, the FDA has reversed its stance on allowing KIND to classify as a "healthy" snack bar, but the ingredients have not changed.
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