My Quest for the Perfect Snack

Fresh fruitI thought I had it all figured out today. It was right there and it was so simple. Forever changed was going to be your snacking habits. But then something happened that left a trail of internet tabs all over my computer, one thought after another that came to mind that I had to research. What caused this chain reaction? Well… I read the ingredients.

Seemingly simple and understandable, they appeared friendly, organic and gluten-free, hooray! I could even pronounce everything. Isn’t that one of the rules? If a third-grader can’t pronounce it, then put it back on the shelf? I’m not sure what a third grader is capable of doing, I don’t find myself often in their company, but if I do this has all the makings of a good party trick! Anyway, seven seemingly simple ingredients, how in the world can you go wrong? But it did. It was the Organic Elderberry Syrup or the organic agave nectar. For me, anything with the word “nectar” in it just sounds awesome. I equate that to read “Ah, the sweet nectar of the gods.” It just has to be good for you! But I wanted to make sure because if I was going to suggest this snack as a healthy alternative to those “sugar-filled but they hide the sugar content so well” granola bars, I wanted to make sure I was being accurate for all my loyal readers. (Thanks mom for always reading this!)

The snack in question here is the organic, gluten-free, raw fruit and nut bar called Pure. How can you go wrong with a name like that, right? Advertisers are so smart! So the seven ingredients listed are all organic and they are, dates, cashews, cherries, rice protein concentrate, walnuts, almonds and agave nectar. I also researched that rice protein concentrate ingredient, it checks out. Whew! The reason I looked into the agave nectar was first, I didn’t recognize it and second, the sugar content in these bars is 17 grams. Now I know that seems startling to some, to others it may seem downright low (if so, call me, we need to talk!) but I brushed it off because I figured it was natural sugar. And here’s the thing, people always ask me if it’s ok to eat a lot of fruit because it’s so high in sugar and I always say, YES! Eat fruit, eat it for every snack, eat it for dessert. There are so many nutrients and vitamins in them that you are getting so much more than sugar. Which is natural. From Mother Nature. Not from people in lab coats. Eat them raw, or throw them in the microwave and add cinnamon on top. Fruit is good for you.

Anyway, back to that ingredient. Yes, it’s a natural ingredient from a plant that grows in Mexico. (The same plant that tequila comes from incidentally. Did I say “nectar of the gods”?) The question of, is it good for you, arises in how they prepare or manufacture the agave nectar when adding it to foods. I seriously read one article on how it’s good for you and is a natural sweetener, followed by another article that says it’s not a natural or raw food, but an added sweetener. There are many conflicting views but one similarity I see among many of these articles is that this agave nectar is 70-90% fructose. That’s slightly more than high fructose corn syrup! Total bummer. If you’re interesting in reading about it, this article is the most informative one I came across, The line that hit home with me was this… “Unlike man-made fructose, levulose (sugar that occurs in nature) contains enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and fruit pectin. Refined fructose is processed in the body through the liver, rather than digested in the intestine. Levulose is digested in the intestine.” I’m thinking digestion in the intestines is the way we want to go here, not in the liver.

So while this only helps to cloud the debate even more on what’s really a healthy snack, I’m guessing that my Pure bars that I love so much are not as healthy as I had hoped. Does this mean I’m tossing them in the garbage? I don’t know yet. But my search for the perfect snack continues and I will report back when I have found the perfect healthy and raw snack… that comes in a package. Or maybe we just do away with all the bars and stick to fresh fruit.

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About the Author: Anne Marie Constanzo