We’ve tasted and analyzed the best all natural protein bars to give you an in-depth review that cannot be beaten.

We’re also going to explain the things to look out for when in search of clean protein bars and why certain ingredients may be harmful to your health. In fact, one common protein bar sweetener has recently been proven to cause inflammation and support cancer when just a single daily serving is consumed.

While eating fresh, whole-foods every day would be great, this is often unrealistic. Most of us are on the go and have limited time making it absolutely essential to have whole food protein bars on hand.

Eating food without a barcode (AKA fresh and unprocessed food!) is great, but when you are sprinting through an airport or hiking all over the universe to work, class, or kids activities, its often not possible. This is when all natural protein bars are often the only option. Furthermore, when you’re trying to support workout recovery, keep on track with training, or trying to achieve healthy weight gain, having clean and convenient food options between meals or on the run is crucial.

So, here are the CLEANEST protein bars money can buy. If you are looking for natural and organic high-protein bars we have those at the bottom of this list as well.

Disclaimer: FWDfuel Sports Nutrition is a participant in the Fullscript, Amazon Services LLC, and other associates affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to their websites. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Participation in these programs comes at no extra cost to you and helps us keep our website afloat.  

The Cleanest Protein Bars on the Planet are…

#1 RAWR Organics Bars

Single RAWR Organics all natural protein bar in wrapper.
  • Bars are made FRESH to order
  • Paleo, vegan diet, and keto-friendly
  • 18-21g of protein, depending on which bar you choose
  • Simple, real, organic ingredients that taste great & fill you up

RAWR bars is hands down the the winner for making the best all natural protein bars.

Have you ever heard of protein bars made to order? Probably not, because they rarely exist.

Enter RAWR Organic Bars, which makes your protein bars after they receive your order!

Why does this matter?

Because the longer things sit on shelves before they reach your mouth, the more nutritional value they lose. Having your whole-food protein bars made fresh every time you purchase them is reason alone for being the top pick for the best clean protein bars on the planet.

Made with all organic ingredients, RAWR Organics bars take the top spot for 3 reasons: real ingredients, taste, and the best balance of macro’s to fill you up.

In every bar, you will find 8 super clean and simple core ingredients such as Himalayan Pink Sea Salt, cold-pressed coconut oil, ground flax seed, and more.

Box of RAWR Organics Plant Based high protein bars, the best all natural protein bar

These core ingredients are as pure as you will find on the market.While there are some bars that may have less sugar, few bars have better taste, more protein, a better macronutrient balance, and better whole-food, anti-inflammatory ingredients! Not in love with RAWR Organic Bars yet?

They donate 10% of net proceeds to feed hungry children in Africa and are in the process of developing a bar for hungry children that would be a meal replacement. Let the 🎤 drop, ‘nuf said!

Try 👉our favorite combo back pack with the birthday cake flavor.👈

Important note: Because these bars don’t have any fillers or preservatives, they’re best kept in the fridge. They stay fresh 1 month on the shelf, 6 months in the fridge, and 12 months in the freezer. We prefer to eat ours right out of the fridge because they hold together better when you eat them.

#2 rise Bar

If you want to stock up on clean and all natural protein bars, look no further than one with only 3 ingredients.

The rise bar Almond Honey with Whey Protein has just 3 ingredients and 20 grams of protein while their vegan bars with pea protein have 5 ingredients and 15 grams of protein.

rise Bar Almond Honey all natural protein bars

They use whey protein in our favorite bar, the honey almond which clocks in at 20g or protein. They use pea protein powder in some of their other bars like the lemon cashew which has 15 g protein.

We’re used to putting whey protein in our protein shakes, but we only find whey occasionally in a protein bar. We’re so glad they did because it gave us one of the highest protein bars on the market. If you’re having a hard time meeting your protein needs, the Honey Almond bar by Rise Bar with whey protein should be in your pantry.

Yes the sugar is added but it is from the earth. Honey is anti-fungal, has b-vitamins, and is metabolized different than syrups.

Keep in mind, this would not be the greatest bar to snack on all day every day for someone who lives a sedentary life. However, since our audience is predominately athletes, this is the perfect snack when you need a little protein pick me up and need to fight that sweet tooth.

And for our friends who have no trouble tolerating cow’s milk products:

#3 Kion Chocolate Crunch Protein Bar

Kion Chocolate Crunch Bar

Kion Chocolate Crunch, one of the healthiest protein bars
  • Almost completely organic / grass-fed ingredient sources
  • Uses sea salt, chia seeds, and vitamin E as natural preservatives
  • naturally sweetened with honey and chocolate 

The Kion Chocolate Crunch Protein Bar is one of the best natural protein bars because almost all ingredients are organic or grass-fed. That’s hard to do while still pricing the bar competitively. 

Started by the popular podcast host and fitness enthusiast Ben Greenfield, Kion touts itself as a clean and natural brand. They may have the testing and certifications to prove it.  

Kion’s supplements are produced in GMP-certified facilities (meaning their manufacturing facilities were audited and certified). They claim many of their products have third-party testing, but unlike many other brands, they don’t provide proof of the testing or the names of the companies doing the testing. We’ll take their word for it, but we want more transparency. Brands like Purity Coffee, which we reviewed in our best mold-free coffee post, provide the company’s name and a link to the report for their 3rd party testing. 

Regardless, the ingredients on this bar are clean, except the sesame seeds and cocoa butter; everything is organic. The reviews on this bar are mostly positive, with many people noting that it satisfied their hunger and enjoyed the taste.  

The fat to carb to protein ratio is excellent, with 13 grams of fat, 17 grams of carbohydrates, and 11 grams of protein. Note that 3 of the carbohydrates are from fiber. 

Ready to try one of the best all natural protein bars? Give the Kion Chocolate Crunch Protein Bar a try. 

#4 LYFfuel Daily Essentials Meal Replacement Bars

LYFEfuel bars, one of the cleanest protein bars on the market
  • High fiber content- 14g!
  • Healthy fats with MCT oil to keep your blood sugar stable and give mental focus

How about a protein bar that tastes like a brownie but includes superfoods, 11g of protein, 13 g fat a good source of fiber, and only 1g of added sugar? That’ll keep your blood sugar stable and hunger at bay!

Or how about enjoying the flavor of a chewy cookie with the perfect balance of lemon and ginger. Say hello to the Fudgy Brownie & Lemon Ginger bars by LYFEfuel.

Lyfe Fuel, which stands for Live Fuel Feel Better, is a company on a mission. They are making clean protein bars and have 3rd party testing to prove it. Combined with GMP-certified (Good Manufacturing Practice Certified) production facilities set them apart as few companies, even those making natural protein bars, have 3rd party testing or are produced in GMP-certified facilities. 

The Fudgy Brownie Daily Essentials Bar is a well-balanced bar that balances its 11g of protein with 14 g fiber-rich prebiotics and 13g of blood sugar-stabilizing fats. Its a good amount of protein but we do wish there was more.

The true stars of this bar are the cacao and maca, which are strong antioxidants, boost mood, and support natural energy and hormone balance.  

The Lemon Ginger Daily Essentials Bar is similarly well-balanced to give you stable energy with 13g of protein, 12g of fiber, and 13g of fat. This bar combines turmeric and ginger superfoods to reduce inflammation, enhance digestion, and boost the immune system. It also includes achyranthes aspera seeds which help reduce hunger and MCT oil for stable energy. Hard to imagine all these amazing foods in one delicious bar!

#5 R.E.D.E. Bar (Radiant Energy Deliciously Delivered)

R.E.D.D. Chocolate Vegan Protein Bars- One of the best organic protein bars
  • 1 Billion CFU of Probiotics, prebiotics, phytonutrients, and adaptogens all in one bar!
  • Only 2g of sugar + 10g of protein
  • Packed with “radiance-boosting superfoods”
  • Non-GMO Verified & Certified GF and Vegan

Plenty of bars these days are now using whole-food ingredients. Few are using as powerful of superfoods as R.E.D.D. is.

The R.E.D.D. Bar, Chocolate Vegan Protein Bar superfoods include an adpogentic mushroom blend (cordyceps, reishi, and chaga), maca root, chia, goji berries, acai, turmeric, annnndd quinoa. Try topping that!

Using mostly organic ingredients and a unique organic plant-based protein blend of pea protein, hemp protein, and pumpkin seed protein, this is definitely one of the best organic protein bars.

With 10g of protein, 15g of fiber, 11g of fat and amazing taste, it’s hard to find a bar that does a better job of combining taste, superfoods, adaptogens, and protein!

While we highlighted the R.E.D.D. Bar, Chocolate Vegan Protein Bar, R.E.D.D. also offers Peanut Butter, Mint Chocolate, Oatmeal, and Salted Carmel flavored all natural protein bars.

#6 GoMacro MacroBars

Box of GoMacro MacroBars

When you talk about the cleanest protein bar on the planet, it is hard to beat one with these certifications: USDA Organic, Certified GF, Non-GMO Project Verified, Kosher, Certified C.L.E.A.N., Certified R.A.W., and more.  Adding to their impressive resume is the fact that GoMacro was started by a mother-daughter team and uses 100% renewable energy to fuel their production facility.  

GoMacro MacroBars are made with 100% plant-based organic ingredients and free of gluten, dairy, and soy. 

Packing 10-11g of protein and 10-11g of fat per serving, these bars will keep your blood sugar stable and hunger at bay. Adding to the excitement is their introduction of new and exciting flavors such as Maple Sea Salt, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, Apple Cinnamon, and Mocha Chocolate Chip.  GoMacro has one of the larges varieties of protein bars of all brands. We recommend you try the GoMacro Variety Pack to figure out your favorite flavor.

And for those who are label reading fanatics, yes, we do see brown rice syrup on there but please keep in mind we are working with busy athletes who often need ample calories on the go! In the world of protein bars, it can sometimes be a difficult task to find something that has solid ingredients and an appropriate macronutrient balance alongside great taste. So, if you live an athletic lifestyle, having a small amount of rice syrup in the ingredients list will be fine.

#7 Epic Meat Bars

  • One of the top options for a low-sugar protein bar brands
  • Fuels muslce growth with all the amino acids
Epic All Natural Protein Bars with meat

If a granola bar had a baby with a pile of jerky, the end result would be a meat bar and no one beats the quality and taste of Epic All Natural Meat Bars!

What makes these bars so clean?  Epic Bars are Certified Gluten Free, Paleo friendly, Keto friendly, Whole-30 Approved, Non-GMO Project Verified, and sourced from pastured, grass-fed meats.  

What is the best benefit of having a meat bar? Getting all the essential amino acids!

There are a lot of protein sources on this list, but, if you had to pick one that is going to be the most bioavallable and easily absorbed to fuel muslce growth, it would be one sourced from animal protein.

With flavors like Sriracha Chicken, Baison Bacon Cranberry (My favorite), Turkey Almond-Cranberry, and Habanero-Cherry Beef, your tastebuds will be having such a party that you won’t even realize you just swallowed a bar of meat.

With 9-15g of high-quality protein, ZERO added sugar, and only a few clean ingredients in each bar, we keep Epic Meat Bars handy when a clean, whole-food meal is out of reach.  

#8 Wellcome Salted Caramel & Tart Cherry Adaptogenic Bars

Wellcome Tart Cherry Wellness Bar, one of the healthiest protein bars
  • Only bar with marine collagen protein- a more sustainable collagen than bovine
  • Includes 3g of MCT oil for stable energy
  • One bar focused on energy +n focus with reishi mushrooms & another on reducing stress with ashwagandha and l-theanine

The Wellcome Adaptogenic Bars are uniquely formulated with adaptogens, collagen, MCT, and good-gut-bug feeding fiber to make for a bar that provides steady energy.

Wellcome Salted Caramel Wellness Bar, one of the top natural protein bars

Being free of gluten, dairy, soy, egg, palm-oi, and refined sugar, as well as being Non-GMO Certified and with 13-14g of protein, this bar has just enough protein to be a worthy contender on any list discussing all natural protein bars.

The really big thing. that sets Wellcome Bars apart from best clean protein bars is their unique offering of one bar helping improve focus and another helping reduce stress.

By adding reishi mushrooms, the Wellcome Salted Caramel Adaptogenic Bars help with Energy & Immunity. At the other end of the spectrum, the Wellcome Tart Cherry Adaptogenic Bar can help you relax and unwind.

#9 RXBAR Bars Real Food Protein Bars

Rx Bar, one of the Best Protein Bars

RXBar is game changer.  Literally. Since they came out with their clean and power-packed bar many years ago, they have been copied by Naked Nutrition and Epic only to see those products fail.  Imitation is the best form of flattery right?

RXBAR’s are simple and pure with the exception to the “Natural Flavors” in the ingredients (which is why we dropped it several spots on our list compared to others). We believe it is unclear and leads to a lack of trust when a company uses the vague ingredient “Natural Flavors”.

RX bars typically contain just 5-7 ingredients which is usually some combination of egg whites, nuts, dates, and some flavoring. They usually have about 20-26 g sugar but this includes 0 grams of added sugar, and 12 g protein. Not to mention, the flavors and texture are on point!  

RXBAR has sought to compete with others by staying ahead of the game with a HUGE variety of creative flavors such as Chocolate Sea Sat, Blueberry, Maple Sea Salt, and much much more. So, if you want to check out the OG of simple and clean protein bars, be sure to give a variety pack of RXBARs Real Food Protein Bars a try. 

OH, one more thing! If you’re a nut-butter lover, be sure to try their Vanilla Almond Butter and Honey Cinnamon Peanut Butter!

#10 Wild Zora Meat and Veggie Bars

A box of Wild Zara Meat and Veggie bars, one of the cleanest protein bars available.
  • Great low-sugar protein bar
  • Uses animal protein which is ideal for for muscle growth
  • Small portions, eating 2 packages is often required for a snack

Most of us have heard or know already how important it is to incorporate a lot of plants and color in our diet.  Well, how do you do that with snacks on the go that still fill you up? Wild Zora is the answer. These are meat bars mixed with organic vegetables and fruit such as spinach, apricots, dates, rosemary, turmeric, basil, kale, cilantro, sage, thyme, and more depending on which variety you order.  

Started by a husband-wife team, when Zora Tabin struggled to find clean snacks for her kids, hence why these are one of the cleanest protein bars you will find and likely the ONLY ones available with real organic vegetables inside.     

Available in several varieties all with grass-fed or free-range meats such as Mediterranean Lamb Bars with Spinach, Rosemary & Turmeric and Curry Masala Turkey Bars with Spinach, Dates & Cardamom, Wild Zora Bars are well worth checking out.  All their bars are gluten/dairy/soy/dairy/nut free, Autoimmune Protocol Friendly, Paleo Certified, and Whole30 approved. Start with a variety pack of 7 different flavors to find your favorite.  

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View our coaching packages and schedule your call now to change your life and feel great every day.

RBAR Energy and All Natural Protein Bars

#11 RBar Energy and Protein Bars

Say hello to pure deliciousness in a bar made with 7 real-food natural ingredients or less. We love RBars because of their taste and dedication to purity. Those who love RX bars will enjoy RBars just as much, if not more. The big bonus here for some is that RBars do not contain egg as we see many athletes who need to be egg free for a variety of reasons.   

Another major bonus is that RBars are smaller in size compared to your typical protein bar. This makes them much easier to carry and also scarf down mid training session or work meeting. RBar’s energy bars are designed for a quick boost or pre-workout fuel and their protein bars are great for a post-workout snack or even an afternoon snack to carry you over until dinner. Our absolute favorite is the Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bar.

#12 Pro Bar Meal Bar

A single Pro Bar Superberry Meal Bar protein bar, one of the best protein bars for healthy weight gain.

If you’re looking for a protein bar that nearly replaces a meal (when whole-food is out of reach 😕), and has unbelievable taste, this is your top option.  With two ~200 calorie bars in each wrapper, the Pro Bar Meal Bar is the most calorie-packed bar on our list. However, other lower-calories bars may keep you full just as long since this has more sugar, which may impact blood sugar in a way that makes hunger come back sooner.   

The Pro Bar Meal Bar sets itself from other bars by being “blended, not baked”.  So, the consistency of the bar is really unique and enjoyable. Think of it like a sticky mix between cookie dough and trail mix.  

The Pro Bar Meal Bar uses organic, Non-GMO Project Certified Ingredients, and is Certified GF.  While these bars taste great, they come at a cost with more carbohydrates than most bars as and the addition of vegetable glycerin, a sugar alcohol. The glycerin and sugar alcohols are why they’re at the bottom of our list for the all natural protein bars.

The extra carbs and sugar come from a combination of dates, tapioca and brown rice syrup, as well as cane sugar. We also knock this bar down our list due to using canola oil and the vague ingredients of “Natural Flavors” as well as “Organic Flavor”. 

The Pro Bar Meal Bar is great for those who burn a lot of calories and really need something to fill them up when they can’t have a whole-food meal, or those who simply can’t stand the taste of most bars and need something that tasts satisfying. 

#13 Ready Clean Bar

  • Great taste and texture
  • Not really a “clean” bar 👎

The Ready Clean Bar made the list solely because it has “clean” in its name which might lead you to think this belongs with other clean protein bars. However, once you read the ingredients label, you will quickly learn this is not a healthy protein bar.

Close examination of this bar reveals the highly inflammatory ingredients all grouped together on the label- agave syrup, sugar, and sunflower oil. Mix these ingredients together and consume them on a regular basis and we’ll promise you will have increased joint stiffness and fatigue.

Please don’t be fooled by a bar that is labeled “clean”. Many companies are trying to pick your pocket including READY Clean. This is not a clean bar and you should not consume it.

High Protein Bars

While most people use the term “protein bar” very loosely, a true protein bar, or high protein bar for that matter means the bar contains proportionally more protein when compared to carbohydrate and fat. Here at team FWDfuel, we consider a high protein bar to include 15 g protein or more.

Keep reading to see our favorite examples of high-protein bars.

Infographic chart of the best high protein bars examining only natural protein bar brands

#1 RAWR Organics Bars

Box of RAWR Organics high protein bars, the best all natural protein bars and also one of the healthiest portein brs on the market.

Top organic plant-based protein bars

The king of the jungle returns to its rightful top spot on our list under our high-protein bars category due to offering several bars with 19-20g of protein and three flavors (Double Dark Chocolate + Mint, Mocha + Chip, and Decaf Mocha + Chip) with 21g or protein per bar with 5g of fiber and only 12 net g carbs. Good luck finding a better-tasting bar that offers that!

Modled to be a healthier version of a Girl Scout Thin Mint cookie, the Double Dark Chocolate + Mint is a great-tasting treat worthy of being named of the highest protein AND cleanest protein bars around.

If coffee is your thing, be sure to try their Mocha + Chip and Decaf Mocha + Chip which are made with organic, fair trade coffee that is freshly ground right before they make the bars which are all made on demand as orders are received. Additionally, the dark chocolate chips are free of cane sugar and are instead sweetened with organic coconut sugar. Because of their use of organic, fair trade coffee and high protein, we believe these flavors are the two best organic protein bars a coffee lover could buy.

If the mint or mocha flavors don’t tickle your fiddle, you may want to try some of their amazing flavors with just 19-20.5g of protein such as Dark Chocolate Raspberry, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate Almond Butter, Banana + Nut, Pumpkin + Pecan (our personal 😋 favorite), Cookie Dough, and more.

Not sure which flavor to try? Go for their “Super” Pack Sampler, which includes an assortment of all 10 of their flavors.

#2 rise Bar

Rise bars are one of the tastiest high-protein plant-based bars. Clocking in a protein content of 15-20g protein per bar, these little wonders contain ONLY 3-5 REAL ingredients making it a top pick for the best all natural protein bars in addition to RAWR bars.

rise Bar Almond Honey bar, one of the best protein bars for muscle recovery because it has 20 grams of protein.

They use whey protein in our favorite bar, the honey almond which clocks in at 20g or protein. They use pea protein powder in some of their other bars like the lemon cashew, which has 15 g protein.

We’re used to putting whey protein in our protein shakes, but we only find whey occasionally in a protein bar. We’re so glad they did because it gave us one of the highest protein bars on the market. If you’re having a hard time meeting your protein needs, the Honey Almond bar by Rise Bar with whey protein should be in your pantry.

Yes the sugar is added but it is from the earth. Honey is anti-fungal, has b vitamins, and is metabolized differently than syrups.

Remember, this would not be the greatest bar to snack on all day, every day, for someone who lives a sedentary life. However, since our audience is predominately athletes, this is the perfect snack when you need a little protein pick-me-up and need to fight that sweet tooth.

And for our friends who have no trouble tolerating cow’s milk products:

#3 Perfect Bar Original Refrigerated Protein Bar

Perfect Bar, one of the best all natural protein bars.
  • Great taste and sweetness considering it is low in added sugars and free of sugar alcohol.

The Perfect Bar is a well-balanced bar that contains 19-20g protein! Not only is this a whole food, high protein bar, but it also contains 20 organic superfoods such as dulse, celery, papaya, kelp and alfalfa to help bring a boost to your day.

Meeting your protein intake needs based on your macronutrient goals is not easy. In fact, we wrote an entire post on What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Protein While Working Out.

But, when you have the Perfect Bar, it gets a bit easier because they taste so good.

Vital Proteins Jennifer Aniston Cold Brew Coffee Flavored Protein and Collagen bars, one of the best all natural protein bars

#4 Vital Proteins and Jennifer Aniston Protein and Collagen Bar

Quite possibly one of our favorite high protein bars of all time, this magical bar contains 17g of protein and only 1g of sugar in addition to MCT oil for a brain boost. These are also fantastic if you are looking for more joint and skin support as it’s not always feasible to carry and mix powdered collagen into your food and beverage.

If this is one of our favorite protein bars of all time, why is it so low on the list?

Simple answer- its often out of stock!

Are Protein Bars Really “Clean”?

A majority of protein bars are not clean or natural in any way. In fact, “natural flavors” which. isfoun don many labels isn’t natural either!

Have you ever seen a “natural flavors” plan in nature? Nope. Fortunately, you won’t find them in our top pick RAWR Bars either.

A majority of protein bars include a number of preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and added sugars. We recommend being sure to read the label of your bar and choose one that is made from whole foods. If a majority of the ingredients on the label are not something you recognize, it is best to consider a different protein bar.

Similar to buying junk food versus organic whole foods, buying the best protein bars that are clean comes at a cost.

Many large companies add fillers and cheap ingredients to assure they’re generating adequate profit from the bars they sell. We can’t fault them for making sure their business is profitable, but there are great options on this list that allow you to have a clean bar, and support a small business such as the woman-owned business RAWR bars. Just be prepared to spend a bit more for a clean protein bar versus one that is full of junk.

So, lets take a closer look of what a clean protein bar looks like which came direct from our refrigerator…

Ingredient list from RAWR Organics Protein Bars- one of the best all natural protein bars.

So, are these all natural protein bars clean? Without a doubt. The 100% organic, whole foods bars from RAWR Bars are clean, but, they’re a rare bread. Rarely can you find a bar that is 100% organic or does have some type of syrup such as brown rice syrup.

At the end of the day the answer to are protein bars clean, the answer is no. 98% of protein bars contain inflammatory ingredients that are bad for your gut, blood sugar, and overall health. When looking for a clean protein bar, look at the label and try to find one that is mostly organic, you understand what most of the ingredients are, and it has a decent balance of fat, protein, and carbs.

How to Find a Clean Protein Bar Nutrition Label

First, before we dive into the good, I’d like to show you a brief example of the bad.  

I often ask my athletes and executives to bring me labels of what they are eating so we can review the products together. I make this request because it is all too common for an individual to tell me, “I found the best protein bar ever! It has ____ grams of protein and only____ grams of sugar!!”

And then when I finally see the product’s ingredient list, I do my best not to mini-barf in my mouth, knowing that they are ingesting inflammatory toxins and other junk day in and day out. 

We remind ourselves to stay calm and then prepare to politely open their eyes to all they have been ingesting.

Here is a label that was brought to us recently:

The worst part about this label is that it is one for a bar sold in just about every single grocery store in the U.S.

This company advertises most heavily to athletes looking to reach their daily protein goal, the busy executive, and the average Joe trying to curb cravings to achieve rapid weight loss.  Interestingly, this bar is touted as a great snack to energize you, yet most of its ingredients are incredibly inflammatory, which will run you down.

Our goal is certainly not to sit here and bash a company, but we do want you as our beloved FWDfuel readers to be an educated consumer. We want to help you feel better each day but more importantly, to help you to prevent further health complications as you age. This is done best by keeping a close eye on what you put in your mouth.   On a positive note, we are so glad this company was kind enough to let us know we may experience a laxative effect with excessive consumption.  

I could sit here all day and dissect the label but since my goal is to highlight the best quality bars, I will just touch upon the most prominent red flags to scan for when reading the labels for prospective protein bar brands.  

Infographic explaining what ingredients to avoid when looking for a healthy protein bar that is made with all natural ingredients.

Red Flag #1 Seed Oils

It is well established now that seed oils are inflammatory, disrupt the immune system, and do not belong in an all natural protein bar.

Common seed oils are:

  • Sunflower
  • Soybean
  • Corn
  • Peanut
  • Canola
  • Grapeseed

While there are many other inflammatory oils out there, these are the ones you will most commonly encounter in bars mislabeled as healthy protein bars. Whenever possible, try to consume foods that use or are cooked with coconut, avocado, olive, or tallo instead.

Red Flag #2: High Fructose Corn Syrup

Sad but true, the protein bar brands that taste the most like candy have that flavor profile for good reason- they are made with many of the same ingredients as your favorite candy!! 

The big mac daddy of them all? High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)! Honestly, we could create an entire post on the dangers of long-term consumption of HFCS, but here is a brief and totally simplified summary:

  • HFCS is derived from corn syrup and it contains a mixture of glucose and fructose.
  • HFCS is metabolized differently in the body compared to glucose. Our liver is the only organ that can metabolize small amounts of fructose, and when fructose consumption is high, our liver is burdened and turns the fructose into fat. [9]
  • HFCS is a MAJOR driver of inflammation and therefore, frequent consumption can lead to health issues such as obesity, fatty liver, insulin resistance, and diabetes.
  • Also, let’s not forget that it contains zero essential nutrients!! In other words, HFCS does absolutely nothing for your health.

A protein bar with high fructose corn syrup will never, ever, come close to being on our list of all natural protein bars even if the rest of the ingredients were organic.

Red Flag #3: Carrageenan

Carrageenan is a thickening agent derived from seaweed. The research is unclear with mainstream food scientists with supported by the big food companies claiming it as OK and then international experts not having their pockets padded by the food companies stating we need to proceed with extreme caution with this food additive.  

In examining the research, most studies performed on carrageenan used animals, others had small sample sizes, and no one has examined its effect on the microbiome environment or bacteria in the colon.  

So, here are a few facts about carrageenan:

  1. The International Agency for Research on Cancer which states that degraded carrageenan is “possibly carcinogenic in humans ”[1] 
  2. Research performed in 2017 by a group of scientists in Israel stated, “Carrageenan may reduce protein and peptide bioaccessibility, disrupt normal epithelial function, promote intestinal inflammation, and consequently compromise consumer health.”[2,3]
  3. The Center for Science in the Public Interest lists carrageenan in its list of Chemical Cuisine food additives under the category of “caution”, well below the other categories of “Safe” and “Cut Back”.[4]

While a few bites here and there would likely not cause a problem, carrageenan is a common additive found in everything from nut milks, to salad dressings, dairy products, snack bars and beyond, therefore, you must be extra careful as the amount consumed can add up in the blink of an eye. 

Even more, if you’re an athlete battling leaky gut or an endurance athlete susceptible to gut issues, you will want to steer clear to this performance-robbing, brain-fog-inducing, food additive. You will not find carrageenan in any of the all natural protein bars on our list.    

Red Flag #4: Sucralose

This artificial sweetener, commercially known as Splenda is not as “sweet” as we once thought. Sucralose is the chemical combination of sucrose and chlorine. Yes, that is correct, it is sucrose mixed with chlorine

Sucralose is made by replacing three components of the sugar molecule with chlorine.  So, each sucralose molecule consists of 3 atoms of chlorine.

 

Researchers have concluded that sucralose can greatly decrease the beneficial bacteria in our gut, thereby changing the composition of our microbiome and enzymes.[5,6]

The long-term repercussions of this may include but are not limited to poor blood sugar and body weight control, inflammatory bowel disease, and changes in mood and metabolism.  

Things are looking even worse with newer research too.

A 2023 Study showed that ingesting just a single sucralose (Splenda)-laden drink a day may be toxic enough to change how our genes are expressed causing increased inflammation, stress, and possibly cancer. [11]

Interested in learning more interesting facts about artificial sweeteners? Check out our post 9 Artificial Sweetener Side Effects: Facts You Need to Know

Red Flag #5: Maltitol

Unless your favorite pastime is experiencing bloating, gas, and diarrhea, I would not recommend consuming maltitol on a routine basis.

Yes, it does have a lower caloric value and glycemic index than table sugar BUT maltitol is a sugar alcohol that our bodies do not fully digest. As a result, many individuals experience digestive discomfort with repeated consumption (think laxative).[6.7.8] Although it is completely possible to consume maltitol in small amounts without experiencing digestive distress, that unfortunately is not a common occurrence.  

Red Flag #6: Processed Soy

  Last but not least, there is an overwhelming amount of processed soy in this product. Now, before all my plant-based peeps throw their hands in the air with disgust, please be mindful of the fact that organic, unprocessed soy can be an awesome addition to your diet. High-quality soy is extremely nutrient-dense. I am only referring to the processed, “filler” soy laced throughout this product.

Is there strong research stating that processed soy is an issue? Nope, but I have coached several thousands of individuals, and one major pattern I have noticed over the years is a reaction to processed soy.   

A Short Summary of Our Personal Favorites and How We View These Natural Protein Bars:

Where is the Best Place to Buy the Cleanest Protein Bars?

Are you struggling to find a place to get clean, anti-inflammatory smoothie ingredients all in one place and shipped right to your front door?

If so, try where we buy all our smoothie ingredients, Thrive Market. It is without a doubt, the best place to buy all your anti-inflammatory foods, spices, and snacks.

After all, who doesn’t love fairly-priced all-natural food delivered to your door within 3-5 days!?

We’ve been using Thrive Market for years now and have saved a ton of money by doing so. We love ordering specialized groceries like nut butter, toxin-free cleaning products and soap, clean protein bars and snacks, and even our children’s diapers (they’re the best we’ve found!).

Plus, if you do not order enough throughout the year to make your membership fee worthwhile, Thrive Market will actually credit you back what you did not use as a bonus for the following year.

Sign up using our link to 👉choose a FREE gift, up to $24 value, when you purchase a Thrive Market membership now!👈

OK, so there we have it. You now not only know the cleanest and tastiest protein bars, but also the best place to buy them!

Conclusion

If you are on the hunt for all natural protein bars because you sense that you may be experiencing food sensitivities, the best place to start is an elimination diet in order to help you detect which food(s) or ingredient (s) may be causing you to react.

As we continue on this health journey with you, we will keep our eyes peeled for the cleanest protein bars on the market.

Until then, we hope you enjoy the selection listed above! If you’re interested in more detailed nutrition information and help, consider booking a 👉free 15-minute strategy call👈 to map out a plan to take your health and nutrition to the next level!⚡️

Our coaching package allows you to work with one on one with our 3 expert sports dietitians. In addition to helping professional athletes reach peak 💪 performance, we work with people of all ages and activity levels to address things like fatigue, food sensitivities, gut issues, hormone imbalances, joint pain, and more. We’ve helped countless clients transform their lives. Could you be our next success story?❤️

What are your favorite protein bars? Have you had any bad experiences after eating a bar or felt sluggish and didn’t know why? Please post your questions and comments, we would love to hear from you!   

References: 

  1. IARCIARC Working Group!on the Evaluation of the Carcinogenic Risk of Chemicals to Humans. Carrageenan. ARC Monogr Eval Carcinog Risk Hum 31:79–94.!1983.
  2. David S, Shani Levi C, L Fahoum L, et al. Revisiting the carrageenan controversy: do we really understand the digestive fate and safety of carrageenan in our foods? Food Funct. 2018 Mar 1;9(3):1344-1352. doi: 10.1039/c7fo01721a. Epub 2018 Feb 22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29469913.
  3. Fahoum L, Moscovici A, David S, et al. Digestive fate of dietary carrageenan: Evidence of interference with digestive proteolysis and disruption of gut epithelial function. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2017 Mar;61(3). doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201600545. Epub 2017 Jan 25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27718308.
  4. The Center for Science in the Public Interest. Chemical Cuisine. Accessed December 7, 2019. Available at: https://cspinet.org/eating-healthy/chemical-cuisine#carrageenan.
  5. Suez J1, Korem T2, Zeevi D2, Zilberman-Schapira G3, Thaiss CA1, Maza O1, Israeli D4, Zmora N5, Gilad S6, Weinberger A7, Kuperman Y8, Harmelin A8, Kolodkin-Gal I9, Shapiro H1, Halpern Z10, Segal E7, Elinav E1. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature. 2014 Oct 9;514(7521):181-6. doi: 10.1038/nature13793. Epub 2014 Sep 17.
  6. Oku T1, Hongo R, Nakamura S. Gut Microbiome Response to Sucralose and Its Potential Role in Inducing Liver Inflammation in Mice. Front Physiol. 2017 Jul 24;8:487. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00487. eCollection 2017.
  7. Ruskoné-Fourmestraux A1, Attar A, Chassard D, Coffin B, Bornet F, Bouhnik YA digestive tolerance study of maltitol after occasional and regular consumption in healthy humans.Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003 Jan;57(1):26-30.
  8. Respondek F1, Hilpipre C1, Chauveau P2, Cazaubiel M2, Gendre D2, Maudet C2, Wagner A1.  Digestive tolerance and postprandial glycaemic and insulinaemic responses after consumption of dairy desserts containing maltitol and fructo-oligosaccharides in adults.Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014 May;68(5):575-80. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2014.30. Epub 2014 Mar 19.
  9. Oku T1, Hongo R, Nakamura S. Suppressive effect of cellulose on osmotic diarrhea caused by maltitol in healthy female subjects.J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2008 Aug;54(4):309-14.
  10. Faeh, D., et al., Effect of fructose overfeeding and fish oil administration on hepatic de novo lipogenesis and insulin sensitivity in healthy men,Diabetes 2005 Jul;54(7):1907-13. doi: 10.2337/diabetes.54.7.1907.
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37246822/