Tag Archives: GMOs

A look at Protein Bars, particularly IsaLean bars

Good Evening!

My wonderful brother has a friend who wanted my take on a particular brand of protein bars him and his wife have been purchasing.  These are IsaLean bars.  I had never heard of them, but the name alone suggested to me that these bars would be filled with highly processed ingredients.   Let’s have a look at what I discovered.

Here is the ingredient label of the IsaLean Bar in Natural Oatmeal Raisin flavor

IsaLean Natural Oatmeal Raisin Bar

My initial thought was “wow, lots of ingredients”, but where are the natural ingredients?  Oh yes, there they are!  Out of the over 40 ingredients, 4 are perhaps natural in my book (raisins, rolled oats, water and cinnamon).  So red flag #1, less than 10% of ingredients are natural.  Yikes.

Among the listed ingredients, the ones that give me great pause are: tapioca starch, lecithin, brown rice syrup, maltitol, fractionated palm kernel oil, natural flavor, malitiol syrup, polydextrose, high oleic safflower oil, natural flavor (again) and maltodextrin.  Here are some of the problems I have with each.

Tapioca Starch – Extremely high glycemic index of 85.  To compare, sugar has a GI of 70.  No nutritional value.

Lecithin – the label doesn’t tell us what type of lecithin is used.  It can be soy, eggs, milk, marine sources, rapeseed, cottonseed, and sunflower.  Most of the time it is derived from genetically modified soybeans. So what is lecithin?  It is the generic term to designate any group of yellow-brownish fatty substances occurring in animal and plant tissues composed of phosphoric acid, choline, fatty acids, glycerol, glycolipids, triglycerides, and phospholipids (e.g., phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine, and phosphatidylinositol).  It is used in the food industry as an emulsifier in packaged food products.  This is a highly processed ingredient that is genetically modified and most likely chemically extracted.  I will take a pass.  (I would be less concerned if this was non-GMO soy lecithin, or even if the type of lecithin used was listed)

Brown Rice Syrup – this is a sweetener I see all over the snack bar market.  I am not a fan at all.  This has a glycemic index of 100 and, unless specified, is typically derived from genetically modified brown rice.  Don’t let the words “brown rice” fool you into believing this is healthy.  It is made from whole grain rice treated with enzymes that break down natural starches into sugars.  It is a refined and concentrated sweetener that is often used as a substitute for high fructose corn syrup.

Maltitol – This is one of the many sugar alcohols used to make processed snacks and desserts “sugar-free”.  Consumption of maltitol and other sugar alcohols can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, including a laxative like effect.  Maltitol is produced from starch mainly in corn or potatoes.  Definitely derived from GM food that is then highly processed into the final product.  My personal experience years ago with maltitol was an uncomfortable one.  I recall bloating and overall GI upset.

Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil – Let’s start with palm kernel oil, then we can touch on what fractionated palm kernel oil is.  It can’t be obtained organically. Instead, the oil must be extracted from the pit with a gasoline-like hydrocarbon solvent. In short, palm kernel oil is a cheap, unhealthy fat, which well-known Dr. Andrew Weil recommends avoiding products containing it.  Now what about the fractionated palm kernel oil?  Fractionation is a further phase of palm oil processing, designed to extract and concentrate specific fatty acid fractions. Fractionated palm oil, as found in food products, has a higher concentration of saturated fat than regular palm oil and is used for the convenience of manufacturers who like its stability and melting characteristics.

Natural Flavor – this additive makes me angry because it can mean pretty much anything!  The FDA Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 defines the term natural flavor as “the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional”.  In all seriousness, this can be anything, including MSG.  Here’s an example of a natural flavor ingredient that will turn your stomach – it’s called castoreum and is an extract derived from the beavers’ anal glands.  Mmmmmmm.  Just think of all the creative ingredients that can be hiding under the “natural flavors” label.

Maltitol Syrup –  Read Maltitol above, then add a more processed and concentrated version of this sweetener, which contains 50-80% maltitol and most of the remainder is composed of sorbitol.  Sorbitol is another sugar alcohol that has well-documented cases of stomach upset and diarrhea in some individuals.  Perhaps this is why sorbitol has been linked to IBS.  The glycemic index of maltitol syrup is higher than maltitol, but just slightly below sugar.

Polydextrose – This is a multi-purpose food additive synthesized from dextrose (glucose), plus about 10 percent sorbitol and 1 percent citric acid. It is a soluble non-viscous manmade polymer that is only partially fermented by the gut microbiota.  Food companies use this additive to bulk up product and add fiber.  I always opt for natural fiber, which is abundant in vegetables, nuts and seeds.

High Oleic Safflower Oil – This is a highly processed oil that has taken the place of hydrogenated oil (trans fats) to keep food shelf-stable and preserve flavor since all the negative attention about trans fats.  Here’s a study documenting how high oleic safflower oil, compared to high linoleic safflower oil and coconut oil caused an increase in tumors in rats.  My guess is 10 years from now these high oleic oils may be on the list of “bad” ingredients.

Natural Flavor – Why is it listed twice?  Well, see it above.

Maltodextrin – This is a food additive produced from starch (usually of corn in US, but can be wheat) by partial hydrolysis and is usually found as a white hygroscopic spray-dried powder. Maltodextrin is easily digestible, being absorbed as rapidly as glucose, and might be either moderately sweet or almost flavorless making it perfect for processed food manufacturers.  This has a high glycemic index of 95 (sugar is 70).

So what should you do if you want a high protein snack on-the-go?  Here are some suggestions:

Pumpkin Seeds – these will provide you with the same amount of protein (18g) as the IsaLean Bar does (both are 60g), and much more natural nutritive values.  Not to mention, lower carb and sugar than the IsaLean bar.  And they’re delicious!

Almonds – not quite as much protein (13g compared to 18g in 60g serving size), but full of healthy fats and vitamins/minerals.  You can spice almonds up on your own by roasting using your favorite seasonings and spice.  Just watch out for overloading on the salt – 1/4 tsp contains a whopping 590mg of sodium!

And I’m going to give the Mind Your Muffin almond cave bite (paleo, gluten-free, vegan) a plug here as it is a great option for on-the-go snack/sweet treat filled with organic, all-natural fiber and protein!  Only 4g of carbs and no sugar (and of course nothing artificial or highly processed).   Simple healthful ingredients to give your body what it needs and nothing it doesn’t.  You never have to be without the perfect snack with our cave bite subscriptions where the bites will be delivered right to your door every month!  So perfect!

There are many many protein bars out there.  If you do one thing, read the ingredients and look for red flags.  Do your best to stay away from them.

If you have any protein bars or snack foods you would like me to take a look at for you, please ask!  I’m very busy running my healthy baked goods company, but will definitely give it a look for you.

Keep up your awareness,

Gina

 

 

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Quality of our food

If you pay attention to labels on foods, you notice many labels some you probably are not familiar with.  How are we supposed to keep up with all the labeling rules and regulations and what each means?  And of course rules our government makes constantly change, so how to then keep up with changes?  There is a lot of homework involved in understanding what you are eating that no schooling prepares you for.

Lately there has been some talk about GMOs and I have been happy to see this mainly because the majority of the American public is unfamiliar with GMOs.  Genetically Modified Organisms are currently being discussed because proposition 37 will be voted on this coming November in California.  This proposition will determine if food manufacturers will need to divulge via labeling if there food products are made using GMOs.  Wait one minute there.  So you are telling me that we are being sold genetically modified foods and are completely unaware of this currently?  Yes, indeed my friends.  So the majority of the American public go to their local grocery store and purchase fresh (natural) corn.  Or I should say the American public go to their local grocery store and BELIEVE they purchase fresh (natural) corn.  Unless this is organic corn, most likely this is GMO corn.  Then you may think, “Well, how bad could genetically modified corn be?  It’s still made from corn”. Let’s start by looking at what exactly GMO means.  The definition of GMO biotech giant Monsanto uses on its own website is “Plants or animals that have had their genetic makeup altered to exhibit traits that are not naturally theirs. In general, genes are taken (copied) from one organism that shows a desired trait and transferred into the genetic code of another organism.”  What I take away from this screams unnatural.  This has the potential to unleash new food allergies due to crossbreeding.

Many scientists around the globe are very against GMOs and have voiced their concerns through the Open Letter from World Scientists to All Governments Concerning GMOs.  They’re concerns are as follows:

  • The scientists are extremely concerned about the hazards of GMOs to biodiversity, food safety, human and animal health, and demand a moratorium on environmental releases in accordance with the precautionary principle.
  • They are opposed to GM crops that will intensify corporate monopoly, exacerbate inequality and prevent the essential shift to sustainable agriculture that can provide food security and health around the world.
  • They call for a ban on patents of life-forms and living processes which threaten food security, sanction biopiracy of indigenous knowledge and genetic resources and violate basic human rights and dignity.
  • They want more support on research and development of non-corporate, sustainable agriculture that can benefit family farmers all over the world.

Check out http://www.i-sis.org.uk/list.php for more information.

If GM foods were something that was truly nothing, meaning of no potential health threat to a population, I ask why is GM food labeling required in 40 developed and developing countries, including Russia and China?  Also if these were not a big deal, why are the large companies producing GM foods spending billions to campaign against the labeling of GMOs via Proposition 37?  It doesn’t take a food scientist to figure this out.

So what can you do to assure safety in your food?  First, know the facts.  According to the latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 88 percent of corn and 94 percent of soybeans grown in America are genetically modified.  In addition to corn and soy, biotech companies have successfully gained patents for genetically modified sugar beets to make sugar, and alfalfa (hay) to feed to livestock.  Nearly all of these wind up on your dinner plate in the form of processed foods or in the meat and dairy products made from animals fed genetically modified grain.  Understand that ingredients made from genetically modified crops, or GMOs, such as corn, soy, canola, and even cotton exist in approximately 70 percent of the processed foods on store shelves, including nearly all foods advertised as “natural”.

There are free apps that will give you up-to-date information about GMOs and brands that do not use GMOs.  Take caution when grocery shopping and ESPECIALLY when eating out.  Any fast food in America and I believe you are asking for trouble.  Do your research before going.  Do not be afraid to ask about GMOs, organics and MSG (yes, MSG!) in your food.  MSG is everywhere and under many different names, but that is a topic for another day.

Take care of yourself and fight for your right to know what you eat!

RealFoodLady

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