Friday, July 4, 2014

Review: SOLO Bars

 "Energy that sustains"  
"Low Glycemic & Gluten Free"
"Energy & Nutrition Bars"

Have you heard of  SOLO bars yet?  If not, watch for it, they are about to make a big move onto a grocery store shelf near you, very soon.  A few weeks ago I received a sample kit from SOLO, who asked me to review their 5 different flavours of energy bars.   Here goes:

"Another energy bar?" you say!  

Well, the folks at SOLO have come up with something very unique and it definitely sets them apart from the rest. They have created a bar that is 'clinically validated' to have a Low GI.

GI.  Glycemic Index.  You've heard the term before.  But what does it really mean?

The glycemic index is a scientific system of classifying foods according to how quickly they are digested and absorbed into the body. It was invented by scientists at the Canadian University of Toronto many years ago.  The GI rates foods based on how quickly their carbohydrates are converted to glucose (sugar) and released into the body.   Foods with a higher GI value are released faster and have a greater impact on blood glucose levels. Pure glucose receives a GI value of 100 and pretzels come in at 83, for example.   Foods with a lower GI value are released slower and have a more gradual impact on blood glucose levels. Foods like peanut butter and yogurt receive lower GI values of 14 and 33 respectively.  Foods that are higher in protein, fat and fibre tend to have lower GI values and therefor release glucose into the bloodstream at a slower rate.

"So what?" you say!

Low GI foods provide a slower release of sugar into the system which is believed to provide more sustained energy and increased satiety (feeling of fullness).  You know when you eat those pretzels you're going to be hungry again in 30 minutes right?  How about when you are running, biking or paddling hard?  You know when you eat that gel you are going to need another one in 30 minutes right?  Super energy spike and then crash.

In addition to the 'slow release' energy benefits for athletes and the general public, SOLO bars fit within the recommendations for a very specific population... people living with diabetes.  The SOLO bars are being marketed directly to this group. According to SOLO, their GI Bars address the 'Key Recommendations' of the Canadian Diabetes Association Clinical Practice Guildelines Expert Committee:
  • "Replacing high-glycemic index carbohydrates with low-glycemic index carbohydrates in mixed meals has a clinically significant effect on glycemic control in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes."
That is the BIG angle that SOLO bars are taking to stand apart from the rest of the energy bars on the market.  They have been clinically validated to have a GI of 23-30 (low).  And they weren't just tested anywhere.  SOLO bars have been validated by the actual inventors of the Glycemic Index at the University of Toronto and used in multiple clinical studies. 

So...I asked a friend with type 1 diabetes, who is also a runner, to help me with my research;).   He woke up, ate one bar and went for a 6 km run.  When he returned, he tested his blood sugar and reported a reading of 7.  This was the magic number that he said he would have hoped for after exercise.  He noted that his post run blood sugar reading would normally be higher, up to 8 or 9, after having a banana beforehand.  His testimonial was very positive: "SOLD." he said.  "Where can I get them?" 

"What's IN them?"  you ask!

Good question!  The other side angle SOLO bars have going for them is their ingredients list.  Many energy bars AND diabetic snacks contain a nasty long list of wild and crazy chemically altered, indigestible ingredients that you cannot likely pronounce.  Now, nearly anything living in a shiney package on a store shelf has been added to or subtracted from in some way.  But on the scale of nasty-packaged-non-foods, the SOLO bar is at the VERY good end of the spectrum compared to the majority of energy bars on the market today.  Sure, it isn't just nuts and fruit like my number 1 choice, Lara Bars.  But it has many of the other bars beat for what IS and ISN'T on the ingredients list.  Specifically:
  •  190-200 calories per bar
  • 24-27 grams of carbohydrates
  • 7-8 grams of fat
  • 10-13 g protein- that's higher than most 'energy bars' but mid range for 'protein bars' IMO. They use a whey protein source.  Highly usable by the body- but yes, processed, protein source. 
  • 3-4 g fibre- small but significant enough to effect GI
  • No artificial sweeteners- I like that!
  • No high fructose corn syrup-I like that too!
  • No sugar alcohols- good!
  • No Trans Fats - phew!
  • No artificial preservatives- yes! 
  • In addition the SOLO bars are GLUTEN FREE- key for many living with celiac disease.

"OK OK! But how do they taste?!" you want to know!

Depending on who you are, what your taste buds are into and what other energy bars you are used to eating you will likely rate them as ... Pretty YUM.  

Chocolate Charger was the big winner.  I'd say YUM actually.  It was chocolate on the inside and chocolate on the outside and all that chocolate hid any non-food flavours I might have otherwise detected.  The Dark Chocolate Mandarin was a close second...there is a trend here.  The texture was lovely- light and chewy.  Different texture and flavour coating on the outside and a firm but soft centre.  Not too heavy- lighter for the caloric count,  of approximately 190 calories, than I anticipated.

The Peanut Butter and fruity flavors of Lemon Lift and Pineapple Coconut were tasty...but we got off to a bad start.  I ate these on a hot day.  Their 'coatings' had melted into a liquid pool within the wrapper.  It wasn't a good first date for us.  Never order messy food on a first date.  The solid, chewy centre of the bar was not nearly as appealing once it's 'coating' had melted away and I can't say I enjoyed eating these bars because they were messy and not as tasty.  Reminded me of the old protein bars...and I was hoping to move on from that old relationship.  I will have to try these flavours again, on a cold day;)

The moral of the SOLO bar review is this:
  • Good choice.  I will definitely pick this bar if I need something in a shiney package and there aren't any Lara Bars around;). 
  • Note: I do not know the GI of a Lara Bar...but guess they would be close with the mix of nuts (fats/protein/fibre) and dates that are the main ingredients.  That in itself might be enough of a reason for persons with type 1 and type 2 diabetes to actually choose the SOLO bar over another bar, including Lara Bars, even though they may have a more natural ingredients list.
  • Awesome choice for diabetics and those who NEED to know the GI of the foods they are eating so they can regulate the effect on their blood sugar.
  • Bad choice for hot days in the car or workouts in the sun! They melt.  Be warned.

Have you tried the SOLO bars?  Let me know what you think!

1 comment:

Kim said...

Great review Sarah! Thanks!