Are Atkins Low-Carb Bars Healthy? A Critical Look
I've gotten several e-mails asking me about the low-carb bars made by the Atkins company.
These include Atkins Advantage Bars and Atkins Endulge Bars.
These products are marketed as low-carb friendly meal replacements.
Before I get into this post, I'd like to point out that the late Dr. Atkins really had nothing to do with this stuff.
He died in the year 2003 and the company that markets these products is now owned by some giant corporation.
I'm a big believer in low-carb diets. I honestly believe that they are a potential cure for some of the world's biggest health problems.
However, I don't think that the "low-carb" aspect is the only reason these diets work so well.
One of the key reasons these diets are so effective, is that they encourage people to eat real, unprocessed foods instead of the processed foods they were eating before.
Unfortunately, the Atkins bars are not "real" foods. They are highly processed products made in factories.
Even though these bars are technically "low-carb" - I don't think you should be consuming them. Let me explain why...
You can learn a lot about a food product by looking at the ingredients list.
The best foods are those that don't even need an ingredients list. That means that they are unprocessed, whole foods.
Take a look at the ingredients list for an Atkins Advantage bar:
Does that look like food to you?
It is obvious that there is very little actual food in there. This product is made solely from highly refined ingredients and artificial chemicals.
A few important things can be learned from this ingredients list:
- Artificial flavor. This is listed twice and implies that there are many additional artificial chemicals in there.
- Soy. There are several soy-derived products in there, which may cause a number of problems.
- Vitamins and minerals. Be aware that the "nutrients" in there are NOT present naturally in the bars. They are synthetic, factory-made nutrients that are added to them.
- Sugar alcohols. Atkins bars are sweetened with maltitol, a sugar alcohol that has minor effects on blood sugar and can cause digestive issues (6).
- Artificial sweeteners. Although controversial, there is some evidence that artificial sweetener use can contribute to weight gain and other problems (7).
Really... these bars aren't food. They are highly processed products with a massive range of artificial chemicals, some of which are potentially harmful.
Processed low-carb products often have labels saying that they contain a certain amount of "net carbs."
These products usually contain a significant amount of carbohydrate, but a large part of these carbs are indigestible.
This includes fiber and certain sugar alcohols.
However... it's important to keep in mind that food manufacturers often deceive people with their labeling.
The "net carb" claim is NOT regulated by the FDA or any regulatory agency and cannot be trusted.
There are many cases of so-called "low carb" products being able to raise blood sugar just as much as their regular counterparts.
No actual study has ever been done on the health effects of the Atkins bars, but I did look at several chat forums and many people report having digestive issues and stalled weight loss after consuming them.
These bars might be fine as an occasional treat, or something to keep in your glove compartment in case you're out on the road and can't find a healthy low-carb meal anywhere.
You could probably eat them every now and then without "breaking" your low-carb diet and knocking yourself out of ketosis.
However, it would be much better to spend your calorie budget on real, unprocessed foods... foods that aren't made in factories and actually contain natural ingredients, like meat and veggies.
At the end of the day, low-carb junk food is still junk food. Period.