Not all protein bars are made equal.
Amazed by the SPORTEC in Tokyo last year where more than 50,000 attended the fitness events and trade show, I made sure not to miss the July 2019 event.
I even brought a contingent of 22 with me. While there are lots of fitness innovations that I can report about, I will just start on a sweet and filling note.
Meet the dynamic trio I met for two years straight, Christopher Pfannenschwarz-Gehrig of Seitenbacher, Thorsten Nowak of OatSnack and Mario Nakamura of Fit Trade and Marketing LLC. Christopher told me that he joined Seitenbacher in 2007, 27 years after it was established.
He met his wife Sarah in the company. I asked him how he finds the fitness industry and he readily quipped, "It'svery dynamic and people are honest.
Sports people are getting more interested about the products they take, what they're made of and where they're come from, not only what percentage of protein is in it." Seitenbacher is a leader and pioneer of organic, natural, gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian products in Germany.
This family-run company is known for their bestselling organic muesli cereals and products that contain whole dried berries and nuts, which give the muesli a rich and satisfying flavor. They also have a large range of nutritious, gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian products, including candies, hot snacks, energy bars and bodybuilding shakes.
He added that Seitenbacher is a complete manufacturer of only all-natural products. When I asked him what makes their bars special, he answered: "They're all-natural, clean food, GMO-free, Gluten-free, raw-quality, not baked, protein bars with dietary fiber.
The milk we use is from free-range cows." The biggest market of Seitenbacher is Germany (where it is made) and the US.
In Asia, the brand is strong in Japan, Taiwan, China and Indonesia. If you have tasted this and you are a fan, Christopher excitedly shared that it will soon be available in the Philippines.
Thorsten Nowak is the founder and owner of Energy OatSnack, which was established in Germany in 1995. He told me that what excites him most about the fitness industry is the fact that more and more people are getting active and doing sport. "Fitness is becoming normal," he noted.
Thorsten excitedly told me that his bars are handmade, natural, vegan and comes in 15 different tastes. "The ingredients come not from the lab, but from the power of nature.
Juicy oat flakes are the base of these energy bars, which are prepared with cherries, berries, nuts, coconut flakes and yogurt depending on the flavor," he added. My favorite is the yogurt-strawberry but there are lots to choose from such as banana-chocolate, peanut-caramel, yogurt, yogurt-lemon, latte macchiato, vanilla, apple-cinnamon, Brazil nut, chocolate, currant and cherry-coco.
The brand is popular in Germany and Europe. In Asia, they are currently focused only in Japan since 2015. Mario Nakamura, COO of FIT, has been joining SPORTEC since 2015. He said that it is quite noticeable that while new in Asia, the market for energy snacks and protein bars steadily grows every year.
"People are getting more and more interested and particular about what they eat," he said. Since he is a distributor and retailer, I asked him what he looks for in the brands he chose to represent (Seitenbacher and Energy OatSnack included).
He quipped that he focuses on three things "quality, history and philosophy." Granola bars, protein bars and energy snacks are easy to eat and quick to grab but are they really good for you? Good bars are made with grains, high in fiber, with protein-rich nuts and fruits, while the bad ones are loaded with sugar and contain little protein powder.
Time magazine featured an article on granola bars and shared tips on finding a truly healthy bar. Read the label.
Andy Bellatti, a registered dietitian and strategic director of Dietitians for Professional Integrity, enumerated what to look for. "Look for bars that feature simple foods.
If the primary ingredients are nuts, berries and fruits rather than complicated ingredients with names you can't pronounce, you've likely found a bar with a good ratio of fiber, protein and healthy fats." Check the sugar content and where it is coming from.
It is best if the sweetness is coming from whole foods like dates rather than sugar, high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. Check the amount of fat and the source.
Erin Palinski-Wade, a registered dietitan and author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet, shared "some granola bars are high in fat, but that doesn't mean you have to avoid them. Just watch out for bars that contain more than 20-percent daily value of saturated fat.
" Plant-based sources of fats such as nuts and seeds can provide health benefits and make the bar more satisfying." Choose a satisfying bar.
Palinski-Wade tells her clients to employ the "rule of five." A good mix, according to her, is a bar that contains at least five grams of fiber, five grams of protein, and five grams of unsaturated fat.
In a recent article about best protein bars in Women's Health magazine, they echoed the same guidelines in choosing the best of the best. "With any packaged foods, the two things I look at are ingredient list and nutritional panel," Jessica Perez, RD told Women's Health.
"For example, sugar and high-fructose corn syrup or any other sugar derivative shouldn't show up as the primary ingredient on the list." They also warned about the unpleasant side effects of sugar alcohols in protein bars.
"These can cause major gastrointestinal distress," said Abby Langer, RD. Sugar alcohols are listed on the nutrition panel as "erythritol, maltitol, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, isomalt and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates.
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