The law of supply and demand helps explain a lot about the world. This isn’t an economics site, and I don’t want to go into the finer points of this law. If you want economics, go to mises.org. That said, entrepreneurs take risks trying to satisfy the demands of consumers. If entrepreneurs get it wrong, and there isn’t any demand or enough demand for their goods, they go out of business. In contrast, if there is increasing demand for a certain good, then all other things being equal, more entrepreneurs will enter that market to supply that good with the goal of making profit.
Which dovetails nicely to the exploding supply of keto and paleo bars. They are everywhere: the supermarket, Amazon, you name it. But my experience has been, without exception, that none of them are particularly keto or even paleo. Too many carbs and too much sugar. Hell, some of the really bad ones are not much better than a chocolate bar? A lot of bars are also touting “net carbs” or “impact carbs.” This is simply a way for companies to subtract carbs that are actually in the bar. It’s a scam. Fibre will be subtracted, as will alcohol derived sweeteners, as will stevia. These will sometimes come under the heading polyols. A little bit of research demonstrates that these terms and these claims are wholly made up by the food producers themselves. As I showed just the other day, Truvia (a stevia/erythritol hybrid) spiked my blood considerably. A bit more research revealed people struggling to lose weight even though they were smashing keto bars. Big surprise. If a diabetic like myself is going to see a sugar spike with stevia or polyols or erythritol or whatever, isn’t a non-diabetic going to have an insulin spike? Isn’t this what we’re trying to avoid when following the paleo/keto lifestyle?
What gives with this explosion in the supply of keto bars? I think a lot of disreputable people are jumping on the paleo-keto bandwagon hoping to make a fast buck. Other companies are trying to bring treats to market that people will buy. I don’t think that there is anything necessarily underhanded here, but companies are juggling various balls: sell something people will buy, make it tasty, make it last on the shelf, make a profit. Put all these together and even companies with the best intentions have great difficulty producing a true keto bar.
So what do you end up with? Something with quite a bit of fat, some protein, moderate to high carbs and artificial sweeteners. The really terrible ones are also full of crap too.
These are the ingredients from the Crunchy Keto Bar made by the Good Good company in Iceland. This was the first product to come up on Amazon:
Milk chocolate with fibres and sweeteners 25,7% (cocoa butter, inulin, oligofructose, cocoa mass, whole milk powder, skimmed milk powder, sweetener (erythritol, steviol glycosides), emulsifier (soy lecithin), flavours), caramel flavoured layer 21,4% (bulking agent (polydextrose), soy oil, milk protein, stabiliser (xylitol), salt, flavours, emulsifier (soy lecithin)), milk protein, isomalto-oligosaccharide*, peanuts 8,0%, stabiliser (sorbitol syrup), humectant (glycerol), hydrolysed wheat gluten, soy crisps (soy protein, tapioca starch, salt), flavours (contains milk), sea salt, emulsifier (soy lecithin), sweetener (steviol glycosides).
Is anyone out there going to argue that this is paleo or keto with a straight face?
Let’s go with the next one. Ketone Bars from Ketosource:
Pure Cocoa Mass, Natural Sweetener (Erythritol), Cashew Butter, Pure C8 MCT Powder (Caprylic Acid Triglycerides, Acacia Fiber), Natural Sweetener (Xylitol), Chicory Root Fiber, Pure C8 MCT Oil (Caprylic Acid Triglycerides), Egg White Powder, Himalayan Salt, Sunflower Lecithin and Natural Flavorings.
So these are not as bad as the Crunchy Keto Bars, but again is this really keto? There are 17g of carbs per bar, but only 2g of so-called “impact carbs.” We’ve already discussed erythritol elsewhere. They are even being misleading about xylitol being a natural sweetener. It is naturally occurring, in small amounts, in various plants and fruits. However, the xylitol that goes into these products is heavily processed. From Wikipedia:
Industrial production starts with lignocellulosic biomass from which xylan is extracted; raw biomass materials include hardwoods, softwoods, and agricultural waste from processing maize, wheat, or rice. The xylan polymers can be hydrolyzed into xylose, which is catalytically hydrogenated into xylitol. The conversion changes the sugar (xylose, an aldehyde) into the primary alcohol, xylitol. Impurities are then removed. The processing is often done using standard industrial methods; industrial fermentation involving bacteria, fungi, or yeast, especially Candida tropicalis, are common, but are not as efficient.
Here’s the next one on the list at Amazon by the company Grenade. This is the Grenade Carb Killa Caramel Chaos:
Milk Protein [Calcium Caseinate(Milk), Milk Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Isolate (Milk)],Milk Chocolate with Sweetener (18%) (with sweetener: Maltitol, Cocoa Butter, Whole Milk Powder, Cocoa Mass, Emulsifier: Soy Lecithin, Flavourings), Bulking Agent: Polydextrose, Gelatine Hydrolysate, Humectant: Glycerol, Soy Protein, Cocoa Butter, Soy Oil, Palm Fat, Sweeteners: Xylitol, Sucralose, Skimmed Milk Powder, Fat Reduced Cocoa, Flavourings, Tapioca Starch, Salt, Emulsifier: SoyLecithin. Allergy Advice: For allergens see ingredients in Bold. Also may contain Wheat, Gluten, Egg, Nuts, Peanuts and Sesame Seeds.
I would probably be better off eating a Mars Bar than the Caramel Chaos Bar!
Let’s look at my final example. This is from the original paleo guru (for me anyways) Mark Sisson. He has a whole line of protein bars. This is one I took at random: Coconut Lime Protein Bar. Ingredients:
Almond Butter, Coconut Oil, Soluble Tapioca Fiber, Eggs, Egg Whites, Flaxseed, Honey, Organic Coconut Flour, Coconut, Almond Meal, Water, Sunflower Lecithin, Sea Salt, Organic Lime Oil, Organic Monk Fruit Extract, Organic Rosemary Extract
Well this looks kind of promising. There aren’t any industrial additives. Sunflower lecithin may raise eyebrows, but this seems to be okay health-wise. Still, it looks like a significant amount of sweet things have been put in: honey and monk fruit extract.
This bar claims only 2g of sugar on the wrapper, but when you look at the nutritional breakdown, it’s really 10 grams of carbs in total from a 38 gram bar. It wouldn’t take many of these to come out of ketosis I imagine. They are out of the question for a diabetic like me.
It looks like a lot of these bars are worse than a typical chocolate bar.
If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.
Many are full of more highly processed additives than some of the really horrible crap out there.
Even the “good” ones are not really good. There are too many carbs in these bars for a keto diet.
Would even the “good” bars be a gateway to really horrible things like processed sweets, chips, etc.? I know myself. Even if my pancreas was functioning properly, these bars would lead me on the path to perdition. I’d love the sweetness of Mark Sisson’s bars and probably move back to proper milk chocolate. I personally need a clean break from all of these things.
There are alternatives out there. Really good dark chocolate is one. There are also tons of homemade paleo treat recipes out there. Of course, one would have to avoid the stevia and other sweeteners if they are in the recipe.
Always read the labels on these things.