The name itself exudes healthiness. The product line has seen explosive growth in recent years, as Americans have become increasingly concerned with finding superior options to traditional snacks. But just how healthy are KIND bars, truly?
Let's dive into their nutrition and find out if you're really doing yourself a favor when you pick this popular snacking option.
*Note: this article focuses solely on standard KIND bars and does not include KIND kids bars, KIND protein bars, KIND healthy grains bars, etc.
What are the Nutrition Facts For KIND bars?
On the company's official website, KIND describes their KIND bars as consisting of "whole ingredients like nuts, mixed with fruits and spices bound together with honey."
Sounds solid, right? KIND bars certainly market themselves as a nutritious choice via their messaging and packaging. But you're only as healthy as your nutrition facts. Let's take a closer look at what you can expect to find inside your average KIND bar.
Most varieties of KIND bar contain:
- Between 170-200 calories
- Between 10-15 grams of fat
- Between 5-12 grams of total sugar
- Between 3-8 grams of added sugar
- Between 3-8 grams of protein
- Between 2-7 grams of fiber
As you can see, the exact amount of nutrients found within the bars can vary widely depending on the variety. We'll get more into that later, but let's first take a look at what type of fiber and protein content you can expect from KIND bars.
When it comes to nutrition bars, a high fiber and protein content is incredibly advantageous.
If sugar is the thing many Americans eat too much of, fiber could be the main thing they eat too little of. According to the National Institutes of Health, teens and adults should eat between 20 and 38 grams of fiber each day, and men need more fiber than women. But the average American eats only 10 to 15 grams of fiber daily.
Fiber helps break down foods for easier digestion, maintains good bowel health, lowers cholesterol levels and helps you feel fuller longer. High-fiber diets have been linked to positive outcomes such as a reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease. In the short term, snacking on a bar high in fiber keeps you fuller for longer and helps you avoid crashing. In the long term, it reduces your risk of many major diseases and supports good bowel health. If you're looking for a snack that can keep you fuller for longer, you'd be wise to opt for one of the KIND bar varieties high in fiber.
Protein is a critical nutrient for humans and athletes, in particular. High-quality protein provides the amino acids muscles need to repair and rebuild, allowing you to recover from exercise and get stronger over time. The body can also use protein as a source of energy. The protein found in KIND bars largely comes from the significant amount of nuts included in each recipe. As is the case with fiber, the amount of protein found in KIND bars varies significantly depending on variety. The more protein the variety you choose contains, the more protein-related benefits you'll reap.
Speaking of nuts, those same nuts are largely responsible for the significant amount of fat found in each bar. Almonds are frequently used as a main ingredient in KIND bars, while peanuts, cashews and pecans are other popular additions. These nuts are particularly high in monounsaturated fats, which qualify as a "healthy fat." Monounsaturated fats help reduce blood pressure and protect against heart disease. They can also help the body better absorb vitamins and more efficiently use protein. While too much monounsaturated fat can still bring about issues, consuming reasonable amounts—particularly in place of saturated fats—is associated with better health. The fact that much of the fat found in KIND bars is of the "healthy" variety is a definite plus.
One potential red flag evident in the nutrition of KIND bars is the added sugar content. We've previously outlined why added sugar is the most dangerous type of sugar.
"Added sugars contribute additional calories and zero nutrients to food," the American Heart Association states. "Over the past 30 years, Americans have steadily consumed more and more added sugars in their diets, which has contributed to the obesity epidemic." Diets high in added sugar have been linked to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay and even cancer. Foods high in added sugar are typically low in overall nutrients, making them little more than empty calories. Despite the fact the AHA recommends a limit of 24 grams per day for women and 36 grams per day for men, the average American consumes a staggering 88 grams of added sugar per day. While certain KIND bar varieties contain almost no added sugar, other varieties can contain as much as 8 grams. That's one-third the daily AHA limit for women and nearly a quarter the daily AHA limit for men, so it is certainly not a insignificant amount.
What are the Ingredients in KIND bars?
KIND has trademarked the phrase "Ingredients You Can See and Pronounce," and it adorns the wrapper of every bar. Generally speaking, the recipe for KIND bars adheres to this statement. The recipes largely consist of foods like nuts, dried fruit, honey, sea salt, rice flour and chia seeds.
However, many also contain things like chicory root fiber, soy lecithin, carob powder, glucose syrup, ascorbic acid and citric acid. I'm not so sure everyone is quite as familiar with those ingredients. While their inclusion might seem to run counter to the aforementioned trademark, research has found them to be generally safe and they're quite common in many pre-packaged foods. Carob powder is a common natural sweetener, for example, while ascorbic acid is a common additive used to preserve the color and flavor of food. Overall, the ingredients lists for KIND bars are shorter and more recognizable than your average nutrition bar.
Are KIND Bars Actually Healthy?
KIND bars are certainly healthier than traditional junk food options like chips, candy bars, cookies, etc. However, the exact extent of their nutrition largely depends upon which variety you choose.
For example, the Almond & Coconut KIND bar is a far cry from the nutrition of the Madagascar Vanilla Almond KIND bar. The former contains just 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein, yet 8 grams of added sugar. It's certainly better than a candy bar, but it's hard to say it's a great choice when so many people already struggle to control their added sugar intake. Meanwhile, the Madagascar Vanilla Almond KIND bar contains a similar number of calories yet 6 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein and just 2 grams of added sugar. That's a strong snack choice anyway you slice it.
Both are undoubtedly a better choice than a handful of Oreos, but the latter is in a class of its own when it comes to its overall nutrition. One great feature that can help you find the perfect KIND bar for your needs is the "filter" function on the company's website. From there, you can mix and match benefits to find the right variety for you. For example, if you check the "good source of fiber" and "5g sugar or less" boxes, you'll be able to see 10 different varieties of KIND bar which fit those parameters. A little research goes a long way when it comes to optimizing your nutrition.
KIND bars can absolutely have a place in a healthy diet. But just how healthy of a choice you want them to ultimately depend on the variety you choose to snack on.
Photo Credit: ermingut/iStock, KIND official Facebook page, Amanda Cases/Getty Images