I have to tell you right away, Trader Joe’s “This “Blueberry” Walks into a Bar…” cereal bars are relatively not a bad product. There are no artificial colors (typically Blue 1 and Red 40) added to deceive you and no hydrogenated oils which always deliver residual trans-fat which may increase your risks of heart disease. Boring part of the statements is that the cereal bars are “made with organic grains” but in the same time they are stuffed with vitamins B group as any other highly processed junk product. Indeed, the bars are made of 39 ingredients! Let’s take a closer look at some of them.
Common sense suggests that blueberries must be the leading ingredient here. Not really. Not so much of blueberry walks into the bar.
- Organic evaporated cane juice – nothing but sugar
- Concentrated fruit juice – more sugar
- Apple powder – some fiber
- Tapioca starch – carbohydrate for texture
- Pectin and locust bean gum – texture
- Glycerin – moisturizer, texture
- Blueberries – very little
When blueberries are one of 7 ingredients of filling I suspect that the only reason why they are added is just to make enticing claims on the label.
Among other ingredients you will see many “organic” creatures:
- Organic invert cane juice – just a form of sugar
- Organic wheat gluten – if you avoid gluten, it doesn’t matter if it is organic
- Organic expeller pressed canola oil – oil prepared without use of chemical solvents (like hexane)
- Organic honey – I don’t know what “organic” means here; honey if not adulterated is just a natural honey harvested by bees in the process you can’t (or do not want to) control
Carrageenan is the only food additive to avoid based on fears that carrageenan can be a human carcinogen. Wikipedia: “Carrageenan has undergone many long-term dietary studies under defined regulatory conditions en route to its current global regulatory status. While some indicate that carrageenan safely passes through rat GI tracts without adverse effect when it is a dietary ingredient, other animal dietary studies have observed colitis-like disease and tumor promotion.” As a professional chemist I should say that every unit of carrageenan chemical structure contains one or more sulfuric acid ester moieties which are very strange for living cell chemistry. Sulfuric acid esters such as Dimethyl sulfate are very powerful alkylating agents. When allowed into the human body the ability to randomly alkylate (to cause structural damage) proteins and DNA makes alkylating agents carcinogenic, mutagenic, and highly poisonous. Dimethyl sulfate is considered even as a potential chemical weapon. I would better avoid products containing carrageenan.
I am not impressed by what I see in the list of the “nutritional blend” – same vitamins B group see everywhere. Too much of anything can be harmful – vitamins are NOT an exception.
Sodium selenate is a highly toxic chemical (at least 3 – 4 times the toxicity of potassium or sodium cyanide!) which they add as a source of dietary selenium. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements selenium is only a trace element that is naturally present in many foods – seafood, meats, breads, grains, eggs and, its content is especially high in Brazil nuts. Most Americans consume adequate amounts of selenium. According to an analysis of data from the 2009–2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the average daily selenium intake in Americans aged 2 years and older from foods is 108.5 mcg (microgram: 108.5 million parts of 1 gram) when Recommended Daily Intake for adults is 55 mcg.
OIbviously, food manufacturers must be extremely careful when formulating their products with sodium selenate. One mistake in formulation of animal food supplement took lives of 21 horses in 2009. According to the FDA selenium content should not exceed 5 ppm in animal food. Furthermore sodium selenite is cheap but not an efficient form of dietary selenium as selenomethionine amino acid is. The human body absorbs more than 90% of selenomethionine but only about 50% of selenium from selenite or selenate.
- Fooducate rating approach gives to the Trader Joe’s “This “Blueberry” Walks into a Bar…” cereal bars moderate grade Yellow C accompanied by three “red flag” warnings: 4 tsp of sugar; highly processed; whole grains. This time I have found no discrepancy and agree with the results
- DyeDiet Calculator results based strictly on the analysis of all the 39 ingredients indicate (you have to type keywords ‘this’ or ‘cereal’ or “trader’ and select from drop-down menu to see the results) that the cereal bar is of low Health Risk = 0.11 and moderate to good Nutritional Value = 2.0 and so the product is recommended in moderation.
Bottom line. On the good side is that I have eaten a pack of the Trader Joe’s “This “Blueberry” Walks into a Bar…” cereal bars in a matter of three days (two bars a day) and I am still alive. I should say it was not too bad except perhaps that it tasted too luscious to me. Not a big surprise for a cereal bar with 4 teaspoon of sugar! It is also good that they use annatto and turmeric as natural colors. But I completely agree with Fooducate – the cereal bars are highly processed product. Do you want to see the final verdict? Here it is: the Trader Joe’s “This “Blueberry” Walks into a Bar…” cereal bars are low health risk sugary junk food which you may consider eating as a treat in moderation (like 2 bars a day) but do not expect any health benefits – there are none. Finally, based on all the above analysis, there is very little of real blueberries in this cereal bar. Now the final informed decision is yours!