What's Wrong with Women's Food Bars?
by Joan Kent, PhD
Have you seen training bars / food bars / snack bars advertised "for women?" What do women's bars contain that men's bars don't? (Do they even have men's bars?)
Some women's bars contain nutrients that are apparently of benefit to women. Examples are calcium, vitamin D, iron, and folic acid. To keep this post brief, I'll mention just a little about each nutrient.
Calcium is controversial. We know it's important – the controversy centers on the source. Calcium from dairy foods has been shown to be effective but won't work for vegans or for women with lactose intolerance or casein sensitivities.
Dolomite calcium is considered safe for adults, although it can cause gastric problems: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or stomach irritation. It may also be contaminated with various heavy metals. (Okay. How safe does it sound to you?)
Some sources advocate calcium supplements. Others warn that supplements can increase heart attack risk and may be harmful for people with kidney disease, sarcoidosis, or parathyroid problems.
In any case, it's wise to consider all sources of calcium in your diet before adding more with a bar.
Vitamin D is a healthful nutrient. Its importance for women has recently been stressed for a variety of health issues. Doctors' dosage recommendations vary considerably. Consider all sources of vitamin D in your diet, including any bars you may eat.
Iron is involved in oxygen delivery. It's important for athletes and menstruating women. The benefits of antioxidants are well known, but iron is actually an oxidant – it may form free radicals that can seriously damage the body. Excess stored iron increases risk of atherosclerosis, heart disease, cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease. Iron can destroy the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, cause diabetes, and contribute to Alzheimer's. Again, keep in mind all sources of iron in your diet before adding bars.
Women's bars contain folic acid because folate is important before and during pregnancy. They're not the same. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate. It's so highly absorbable that excess intake can happen easily. High intake of folic acid can mask detection of vitamin B12 deficiency. This is more of a problem in the elderly, but it's something to consider.
Natural folate is found in spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, mustard greens, parsley, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, lentils, and both calf and chicken liver. Women's Bars contain folic acid, the synthetic stuff.
What Really Makes It a Women's Bar?
Beyond these nutrients – good and bad – the main thing that makes a Women's Bar seems to be the sugar content. Have you tasted any? Yikes, they're appallingly sweet. It might be a good idea to stay away for that reason alone.
What Should Be in Women's Bars?
If anyone asked me for a recipe for a women's bar, it would have lots of protein. Why? For one thing, women's brains have a higher rate of serotonin turnover than men's and need to keep making more. Serotonin is made from tryptophan, an amino acid. Remember 7th grade biology? Amino acids are the "building blocks of protein."
So eating more protein is important for women's brains – even for women who prefer carbs. Maybe especially for those women!
More protein and less sugar would make for a better-quality Women's Bar. One thing, though – the protein source. Most bars use soy, and that brings gigantic problems. But that's a subject for another post.
If you've been eating many food bars—women's bars or other kinds—and can't seem to get them out of your diet, it's not you! The sugar in them can make them addictive for anyone who's susceptible to it. I'm dedicated to helping you defeat sugar if you want to, stop your cravings, and create the health and weight loss you've been striving for – but can't reach. My new program Last Resort Nutrition® with Dr. Joan Kent starts soon. Just visit www.LastResortNutrition.com and grab your free Empowered Eating Consult today!