REVIEW: Nature Valley Protein Bar

February 19, 2024
REVIEW: Nature Valley Protein Bar

In my quest to find the best protein bar on the market, today I’m breaking down Nature Valley Peanut, Almond & Dark Chocolate Protein Chewy Bars. (Why is their name so long 😂)

Who is Nature Valley!?

According to their website:

Nature Valley was established in 1973 with the introduction of granola cereal. There was just one problem: it wasn’t designed to be eaten outside. So we got to work creating the world’s first-ever granola bar.

I didn’t know Nature Valley created the first-ever granola bar. That’s the type of company I’d want to buy from — pioneers in health foods. But a little bit of Googling revealed the ugly truth. According to MIT, Stanley Mason created the first granola bar.

Not Nature Valley.

Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say they created the first commercially available granola bar. That’s still pretty good.

Except that’s not true either.

Heartland Natural Cereal created the first mass market granola bar in 1972.

And here I thought with a name like Nature Valley, they’d be an honest health food company. They’re already lying to my face. 

My disappointment is immeasurable and my day is ruined.

Nature Valley Ingredients

Nature Valley says their bars are “made with no artificial flavors, no artificial colors, and no high fructose corn syrup. At Nature Valley, we believe that what you put in is what you get out.” 

But is that really the case?

This review is going to break down Nature Valley’s ingredients, showing you whether Natural Valley actually does what they say they do. Some of the ingredients might surprise you, because they surprised me.

Let’s ignore the Nutrition Facts for a moment and just focus on the long list of ingredients on the image above. 

I immediately see soy protein, sugar, and vegetable oils. The cheapest sources of protein, sugar, and fat. They didn’t even bother to hide sugar under terms like corn syrup, dextrose, or molasses. Oh wait… they use corn syrup too 😅

But maybe that’s a good thing — they didn’t try to trick us like other companies do.

If only there were a better way to create protein bars that aren’t just candy bars in disguise. (Foreshadowing)

So, let’s break these ingredients down into an easy to read list.

  1. Roasted Peanuts 
  2. Almonds 
  3. Soy Protein Isolate 
  4. Chicory Root Extract 
  5. Sugar 
  6. Corn Syrup 
  7. Vegetable Oils (palm, palm kernel, canola)
  8. Roasted Sunflower Seeds (sunflower seeds, sunflower oil)
  9. Toasted Coconut
  10. Whey Protein Concentrate
  11. Fructose
  12. Cocoa
  13. Vegetable Glycerin
  14. Rice Starch
  15. Corn Starch
  16. Salt
  17. Soy Lecithin
  18. Dextrose
  19. Natural Flavor
  20. Baking Soda

As might already know, the FDA requires food manufacturers to list their ingredients in order by weight.

Which means that the Nature Valley Peanut, Almond & Dark Chocolate Protein Chewy Bars is filled with peanuts and almonds. Yay! 


What about the rest of the ingredients? 

Too Much Soy?

Ingredient number 3, after peanuts and almonds, is soy protein isolate.

Soy protein — as we’ve covered in an earlier review — might be one of the worst sources of protein in food manufacturing. Not because of the protein itself, but because it is very difficult to source high quality soy. Some reasons you should steer away are:

The Problem With Soy:

  • Soy is high in phytic acid which inhibits nutrient absorption.
  • Trypson-inhibitors that interfere with the absorption of soy.
  • Goytagens - anti-nutrient that interferes with iodine absorption
  • Contains high levels of phytoestrogens.
  • Contamination with pesticide residues. Majority is grown on large farms using glyphosate. 94% of soy is GMO which is heavily sprayed with round-up ready glyphosate. Soy can also be contaminated with aluminum due to the tanks it is processed in.

Shouldn’t Nature Valley be able to get all their protein from peanuts and almonds? Instead of adding in cheap soy protein?

Peanuts are 25% protein and almonds are 20% protein, which means you can’t get 10 grams of protein in your 40 gram bar. So, you need to add in some protein powder.

I can only make an estimate about the protein, because companies don’t tell you how much of the protein is from food (nuts in this case) vs powders. So, probably 4-5 grams come from soy protein and a small amount from whey protein concentrate…another ultra-processed commodity that is of low quality.

Too Much Sugar?

Did you notice the ingredient numbers 4, 5, 6, and 11 from above?

I’ll give you a hint: 

It’s sugar, sugar, and sugar!

Fasten your seatbelt and get ready to jump on the glucose rollercoaster fueled by chicory root extract, sugar, corn syrup, and fructose. This sweet combination is a surefire way to elevate your glucose levels to new heights and come crashing down. 

Unless you're planning for a sugary marathon, it won't make sense to you why Nature Valley is using so much sugar. Especially if you're on a weight-loss journey with exercise and calorie control — opting for snacks that are low in carbs and rich in protein makes much more sense.

But wait!

On their product page they said, “made with no artificial flavors, no artificial colors, and no high fructose corn syrup.” They literally use corn syrup AND fructose!!!

You might ask, are corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup the same?

No. They're not.

Both products are made from the starch in corn, but corn syrup is made up of 100 percent glucose, while some of the glucose in high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has been enzymatically converted to fructose. High-fructose corn syrup is used in a lot of commercially manufactured foods and soft drinks because it’s a more cost-effective ingredient to produce than sucrose aka traditional sugar.

This is probably some of the most downright form of label manipulation that I’ve seen yet…and we’ve written a LOT of these reviews now.

They literally use corn syrup and fructose as separate ingredients and have the audacity to claim that they don’t use high fructose corn syrup!

Whatever the case it’s still bad for you. I don’t care if it’s separated into two separate ingredients or just one… it’s the same thing and it’s very, very problematic.

Problematic Palm Oil

Every time I write a review, there’s 90% chance that I’ll have to write about palm oil.

And this bar from Nature Valley is no different.

Palm oil is the cheapest oil you can buy — which is why almost all packaged food has palm oil as the fat source. It’s also really hard to source high quality sustainable palm oil. You know, the palm oil grown with deforestation or labor abuse.

The cleanest (and healthiest) brands avoid this ingredient altogether, opting for cleaner options like MCT coconut oil (preferably organic) or at least using a sustainable palm oil. But Nature Valley doesn’t seem to care that much about your health or that of the planet because they use the cheapest source that does the most damage to the environment.

Since palm oil is mostly saturated fat, it’s safe to assume the 4g of saturated fat in the label comes from palm oil.

Overall, they can do much better in the fat department.

After all, Nature Valley was the leading granola bar brand in the United States in 2023 with sales valued at 667 million U.S. dollars. The least they could do is put some of that money toward environmental stewardship by sourcing better quality, more sustainable ingredients

Other Ingredients

Glycerin: Glycerin is something you typically find in skincare. But the food industry also uses glycerin to keep packaged food moist. It’s a sugar alcohol like maltitol, so too much glycerin can cause gut problems.

Rice Starch: Rice starch is used to add creaminess to packaged food. It also adds a little bit of sweetness, it is a carbohydrate after all. So, it’s basically there for taste and texture.

Corn Starch: It’s usually used to thicken soups. So, I’m not sure what it’s doing inside this protein bar. Probably as a binder for structure.

Dextrose: Dextrose is just glucose from corn or wheat. So, it’s technically just more sugar as if the chicory root extract, sugar, corn syrup weren’t enough.

Final Verdict

Nature Valley Peanut, Almond & Dark Chocolate Protein Chewy Bars is packed with cheap ingredients. I find myself repeating this statement so many times. It's not even funny anymore.

Soy protein and palm oil are the cheapest sources of protein and fat on the market. But at least they don’t use many synthetic/artificial ingredients. Plus I think they have too much sugar for a protein bar.

And it’s exactly for these reasons I can’t recommend it to you. 

But if you’re looking for a clean protein bar with real ingredients that are actually healthy and deliver high quality nutrition, see below.

Tejesh Reddy

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