Originally Answered: I am 19 years old and am trying to change my snacking habits to be more healthy?
Hi Moca. I love questions like yours because it's rare to see people here in Diet and Fitness who actually care about their HEALTH. I'm giving you a star :)
What you want to do is read the labels to check the ingredients. After writing this, I could only fit in info on the Nutrigrain Bars' ingredients. Some of these you'll have to get familiar with so you don't confuse them with "bad" stuff. Like niacinamide or folic acid...those are B vitamins. A good idea is to use your phone. Mine has a data plan so I can use the internet whenever I want and not have it charge extra. This way, I can Google ingredients right in the store.
Here's the list, and explanation, of what's in a Nutrigrain Bar.
1. Whole Grain Rolled Oats. No problem here!
2. Enriched Flour. For some reason, people like white flour. I don't know why, I guess it looks prettier to them or something. To make white flour, wheat must be stripped of everything that makes it healthy. All the vitamins/fiber because those are contained in the brown parts of the wheat. What you have left is this stuff you pound into a flour and bleach to become white. Yeah, sounds real healthy. This caused a lot of health problems back in the day when people started using white flour, so they "enriched" it by adding some nutrition back in. While that sounds nice, our bodies don't like synthetic stuff. We can absorb more nutrients from the whole version of the wheat (or any food) than from a stripped and "enriched" product. If you see "bleached enriched flour" or "unbleached enriched flour," it's basically white flour and you want to avoid it.
3.Whole Wheat Flour. The entire wheat kernel is crushed into flour. This is a good thing, as it retains all the nutrients.
4. Sunflower and/or Soybean Oil with TBHQ for Freshness. TBHQ has been associated with an increased risk of cancer. Any time they add something "for freshness," they do it to keep the food fresh longer than it should be. It's like life support for the product...and that's not healthy.
5. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). You may have seen commercials saying stuff like "It's made from corn" and "Like sugar, it's okay in moderation." You'll also notice that, at the bottom of the screen, the commercial was made by the Corn Refiner's Association who, unlike me, have something to gain when they lie to you (which mean I'm not lying to you!). You see, corn is a heavily subsidized product in the United States. That means that farmers are given a lot of money to make corn, and then the corn is stored and uses are created for it. You'd be AMAZED at allllll the stuff made from corn. Like what? cellulose, xylitol, calcium sterate, ethyl lactate, polydextrose, saccharin, maltodextrin, gluten, sucrose, sorbital, HFCS, ethel acetate, ciruis cloud emulsion, citric acid, ascorbic acid, di-glycerides, baking powder, fructose, sorbic acid, starch, vanilla extract, margaine, semolina, fibersol 2, ethylene, alpha tocopherol, inositol, white vinegar, and they also put it into animal feed...including farmed fish! The greatest invention for the corn growers was high fructose corn syrup. Because it's subsidized by the government, corn is "artificially cheap," which means that you and I buy it for cheaper than it SHOULD be to make. While that sounds nice, it means it also bumps out legit products that are actually good for you. So what's so bad about HFCS?
Well, you'll hear it's "calorically the same as sugar," which is true. Both are carbohydrates, and all carbohydrates contain 4g of calories. That's how it works. The thing is, not all carbohydrates (or other foods) are digested the same. While 1g of honey will give me a sugar high and up my blood sugar levels (important if you're trying to avoid or have diabetes), 1g of insoluble fiber isn't even DIGESTED, so you actually don't get those 4 calories at all because your body can't process it. If I'm holding a piece of bark from a tree and a carrot and I tell you that they are "calorically the same," does that mean you're going to eat the bark? Of course not, we're not meant to eat bark!
In the same fashion, we're not meant to eat these artificial things. Whether you believe we evolved or were created, the food on this planet is what our bodies are meant to digest to extract nutrition. Not lab-made, chemically-altered food; not multivitamins; basically, nothing that isn't found in nature. When we do, the body either doesn't digest it or stores it in the fat cells. In the case of HFCS, the liver gets hit with it and says, "HOLY SH*T STORE FAT." The liver likes to send out "store fat" signals. If you get too much sugar or alcohol, it'll send that signal. When something calls itself HIGH Fructose (fructose is a type of sugar), it should send a signal to you that it's MORE than just regular stuff. :)
6. Sugar. Yep, they just put regular ol' sugar in there. Not exactly good for trying to avoid diabetes.
7. Honey. Honey is a natural sweetener, but many people have bee allergies that also makes them react to honey and bee pollen. A better substitute would be agave, which is sweet and syrupy, comes from a plant, and is lower on the glycemic index. This means that it doesn't spike the blood sugar as much...and we learned that's not only bad for diabetics and those trying to avoid diabetes, but also makes the liver want to store fat.
8. Dextrose. Another simple sugar. Anything that ends is "ose" is a sugar. If it ends in "tol" it's a sugar alcohol (which is sweet but doesn't impact your blood sugar and isn't digested), and if it ends in "alose" then it's an artificial sweetener.
9. Calcium Carbonate. A form of calcium.
10. Soluble Corn Fiber. A form of fiber, from corn.
11. Nonfat Dry Milk. Self-explanatory, although milk is bad for you (email me to learn more, this is already long enough!).
12. Wheat Bran. A part of the whole wheat, good for you.
13. Salt. We do need some salt in our diets, but add your own to taste...don't just buy it pre-added.
14. Cellulose. A type of fiber.
15. Potassium Bicarbonate. This is baking soda.
16. Natural and Artificial Flavor. They don't actually have to list what these flavors are. Natural flavors in savory foods almost always contain beef, chicken, or pork. Artificial flavors...well...we already had the discussion on putting fake crap in your body!
17. Mono- and Diglycerides. There's a lot of interesting info here about them: http://www.westonaprice.org/Mono-and-Di-… Again, this is to save space. Basically, they can contribute to the amount of trans fat in a product.
18. Propylene Glycol Esters of Fatty Acids. Propylene glycol esters of fatty acids are mixtures of the esters of these fatty acids with propylene glycol. They are mainly the mono-esters with some di-esters and the commercial products will contain mono- and diglycerides when fats are used for transesterification with propylene glycol. Studies show that the body will break this down into propylene glycol and fatty acids. So what's propylene glycol? Here are some uses: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propylene_g… What happens when you eat it? Propylene glycol is metabolized in the human body into pyruvic acid, which is a normal part of the glucose metabolism process and is readily converted to energy.
19. Soy Lecithin. A lecithin is used as an emulsifier and can be completely metabolized by the body. Soy lecithin just happens to come from soy.
20. Wheat Gluten. The part of the wheat that makes it get doughy and tough.
21. Niacinamide. One of the B vitamins.
22. Sodium Stearoyl Latylate. Another emulsifier, this one combined with lactic acid, which almost always comes from milk.
23. Vitamin A Palmitate. Vitamin A.
24. Careenagen. An extract from seaweed that holds things together, like a gummy. Used instead of gelatin.
25. Zinc Oxide. Zinc.
26. Reduced Iron. A form of iron.
27. Guar Gum. A binding agent, like careenagen. Made from Guar beans.
28. Pyridoxine Hydrochloride. Another B vitamin (B6).
29. Thiamin Hydrochloride. Another B vitamin (B1).
30. Riboflavin. Another B vitamin (B2).
31. Folic Acid. Also known as folacin. Another B vitamin (B9)
33. Corn Syrup. A syrupy sugar derived from corn. Not as bad as HFCS, but another high glycemic sugar.
34. Strawberry Puree Concentrate. Self-explanatory.
35. Glycerin. A type of sweetener that doesn't hike up blood sugar like regular sugar does. Unless it says "vegetable source" or "vegetable glycerin," then it is derived from either animal fat or biodiesel production. The vegetable source can be digested completely.
38. Sodium Alginate. A dye thickener extracted from seaweed.
39. Modified Corn Starch. Corn starch has two components, amylose (a straight chain polymer of glucose) and amylopectin (a branched chain polymer of glucose). In nature—for example, in corn—it is found structurally in a granule. Corn starch is “sticky”. But, when you extract the starch from corn and then use it as a food ingredient, it quickly loses that stickiness when heated. And it can cause bakery products to become stale. How food scientists modify the starch depends on how it will be used. It can be cross-linked (chemically treated to cross-link starch molecules in the granule), for example, so it swells but doesn’t fall apart. Or it can have various derivative units added to it so it doesn’t stale as easily.
40. Citric Acid. Derived from fruit and used to add a sour taste or as a preservative.
41. Natural and Artificial Flavor. We did this one already.