Wednesday, July 17, 2013

PROBAR Core Bars

PROBAR recently sent me a package of their new Core protein bars and I immediately told them I wouldn't touch them. Why? Because they are loaded with soy and were not Non-GMO Project Verified at the time. So I held on to them for a few months and as soon as I got the message that they'd been Non-GMO Project Verified, I dug in.  So, to be clear -- yes, they are now Non-GMO Project Verified. Yay!

The PROBAR Core bars are loaded with 20 grams of soy-based protein, which can be a great complement to a solid workout routine. They boast that the ingredients are recognizable and I would say that most are. But, some really aren't.  Let's break down one of the bars -- the Peanut Butter Chocolate (my favorite!).  The ingredients are as follows: soy protein isolate, tapioca syrup, ground peanuts, agave syrup, dried cane syrup, glycerine, fractionated palm kernel oil, agave inulin, partially defatted peanut flour, omega blend (flaxseed, chia seed), tapioca starch, cocoa, soy protein concentrate, natural flavor, salt, soy lecithin, cocoa processed with alkali, unsweetened chocolate, gum arabic, rosemary extract, tocopherols added to protect flavor, citric acid, and ascorbic acid.

 I'm not going to evaluate every ingredient, but let's pick out a few. First, I have no problem with the soy protein despite all of the conflicting reports on health benefits. As a Food for Life instructor, our program's nutritional guidelines maintain that soy is generally beneficial based on empirical evidence. As far as the sweeteners - and there are a lot of them, but they are quite natural.

The ingredient that really gave me pause was the fractionated palm kernel oil. "Fractionated" does not sound natural. So I did a little research. Fractionating oil involves heating the oil, then cooling it quickly so that it breaks up into fractions (hence the name). The fractioned oil is then passed through a filtration process, during which it's separated into liquid palm olein and solid palm stearin components. Confusing, I know. The key thing is that the filtration process separates out most of the liquid part of the oil, leaving a high concentration of solid fat behind. Fractionated oil is great in preventing the chocolate coating on these bars from melting, but unfortunately it's not so kind to your waistline or health: "Palm kernel oil is about 80 percent saturated fat and leads to increased LDL (bad) cholesterol," says Christine Gerbstadt, M.D., R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. So they advise to avoid both fractionated and regular palm kernel oil. Eh- not so good.

So besides that bad oil, I'm okay with the ingredients. And the flavor of the bars was quite good. The  Peanut Butter Chocolate was by far my favorite. It was like eating a peanut butter cup loaded with soy crisps. When you take a bite, you will notice a thin coating of chocolate, a thick layer of peanut butter, soy crisps, and then more chocolate. Yum!

I guess my second favorite was the Mint Chocolate, which is like a thin mint in a bar! This is the one that I felt tasted most like I was eating a candy bar. There were some really nice flavors that made it refreshing to eat.

The Brownie Crisp was good as well. It was just a LOT of chocolate. We're talking chocolate inside and out.

Lastly, there is a Cookie Dough flavor that is sort of like cookie dough.  It had the same texture as the others with chocolate and cookie dough-like flavoring.

The only other thing I will say about these bars are that they are high in calories at 280-290 calories per bar. That is good if you are using it as a meal replacement bar, but not as good if it is an in-between meal snack. The fat content is 9-11 grams as well. I found these bars to be particularly satisfying in that I didn't want to snack for hours after eating them, which is a good thing.

The sodium is on the high side at 350-430 mg per bar and sugars are on the high side as well at 14-17 grams per bar. That said, I really like that they are high in fiber at 4-6 grams per bar and are loaded with Omega 3&6 fats from chia and flax seeds.

I also really like that all of the bars are vegan, gluten-free, and Non-GMO Project Verified. In sum, I liked the flavor of these bars, but am concerned about the use of fractionated palm kernel oil. If I had to choose, I'd stick with the PROBAR Meal replacement bars instead. If you'd like to try them for yourself, click here. Save 40% off your first order by using the code BLOGGER when you check out.

Full Disclosure: Although the products were provided to me for free to review, that in no way influences my veracious opinion. 

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