Nom Bars: Are They Healthy? Or Vegan? Your Questions Answered

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(ad-gifted*) I get a lot of post, often containing samples of various goodies PRs want to publicise. Most of the time I have no idea what a parcel is going to contain – it might be make-up, it’s normally supplements, occasionally it’s food. However, after a nasty experience with a bottle of Kombucha and a radiator, I now know that I must open the post fairly quickly each day in case there is something perishable in it. So, before I went on holiday, my conversation with The Boyfriend went like this. ‘Can you open any parcels that come for me in case there’s anything that needs to go in the fridge?’ Him: ‘Okay’.

Helen heads off to the airport.

My conversation with him a few days later while I was on holiday went something like these.

Him: ‘You got these things called Nom bars. They’re really nice. Oh, and a chocolate paintbrush – I’ve left you the handle.’

Me: ‘Erm, I said, open my post, not EAT my post.’

Him: ‘But there were no treats in the house and I was hungry and couldn’t be bothered to go to the shop. The Nom bars looked all oaty and nice.’

Me: ‘How many of them did you eat?’

Him: ‘Just one, I left you the other two.’

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This was still almost true when I returned home – by this point, the chocolate paintbrush was nowhere to be seen but there were two small oaty squares in the fridge.

He hadn’t been able to resist trying the other flavours and had cut them each in half.

So, there you have it Nom bars are approved by The Boyfriend who describes them as ‘coconutty’ but what did I think of the tiny portions that I was left to sample…..?

Well, let’s take a step back first and tell you what they are – and how they do on our regular question – are they healthy?

What is a Nom Bar?

Nom describes itself as ‘not a snack bar but a way to put good nutritious food into your body’ as such they are made up of totally natural, organic, ingredients, use coconut oil for binding and are wheat and dairy-free.

In terms of taste, yes, they are really, really nice – although because they contain a lot of coconut oil I did find them a little bit slimy.

Of the two flavours I got to try – Banana and Cocoa and Raspberry, the latter scored highest for me.

In terms of their nutritional value. They rack up 249 calories for a 52g bar – quite hefty I admit but as I said there’s a lot of coconut oil.

They also contain 16.6g of sugar. Some of this will come from fruit so we don’t worry about that, but some of it will also come from the agave nectar they use.

Agave is often touted as a healthier alternative to many other sweeteners, but currently, there’s a big debate raging about agave and whether it’s as healthy as we once thought.

Yes, it does have a lower GI than refined sugar and so will stop energy crashes, but it can also contain high levels of fructose a substance that when it’s heavily processed (as it can be in agave nectar) is being linked to gaining fat around the middle and other health nasties.

If you want to read more about this, have a look at this post by Dr Andrew Weil on the debate.

Now, I was intrigued by this – my feeling about Nom from their packaging was that they really care about what’s in their product and they aren’t just health-washing their claims, so, I fired off an email to the team asking them what they thought about the agave issue.

The short reply was this:

Thank you so much for taking the time to get back to me about the bars. I’m so glad they’ve been at hit at your house. Sorry it has taken me a few days to reply. I’ve been expecting these questions to arise at some point (I can’t believe you’re the first person who has raised the ‘Agave issue’) so I wanted to take some time to draft an educated response about our ingredients, which is based on facts. Before you read on, I completely understand where you are coming from and your concerns…

We chose to go with Agave nectar because I myself am insulin resistant and I am extremely committed to a Low GI diet. On a personal level, Agave and coconut palm sugar are the only alternatives to ‘refined sugars’ that I eat (sparingly) and don’t cause me any adverse effects. As a company, we are committed to providing high quality, organic GMO free foods, and Agave Nectar is a natural product which helps us do this.

You’re absolutely right when you say that because Agave Nectar is so sweet in taste, we use less of it in our products. We are not suggesting that people eat ten nom bars a day, but the ingredients we use in the bars, including coconut oil, cacao nibs and oat bran, mean that the bars are incredibly nutritionally beneficial- so this should also be factored in when noting the negative press about Agave.’

However, I’ve also pasted the long reply below for people who want to see the whole thing explained fully because I think they’ve made their case pretty well (and it seems they use an agave that’s minimally processed anyway) however, I know a lot of you are reading this on iPhones and frankly, just want to know if the bars are nice and, in fact, nom-my or not.

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So, what’s my verdict?

Well, Nom are very tasty, and because they aren’t too heavy, very moreish.

They do contain a lot of ingredients you want in your diet: oats, coconut oil (it’s good for immunity and a heap of other things) and in some flavours cacoa which is packed with antioxidants – and, they have answered the agave issue pretty well I think so, here’s where I stand.  

If you’re someone who wants to eat organic and as naturally as you can and who doesn’t worry about your weight then enjoy them with impunity.

If you’re like me, however, prone to putting on pounds around your middle, the high-calorie count still means I’d say maybe keep them as an occasional treat for when sugar cravings hit but you don’t want to descend into chocolate-dom.

After all, they really are rather tasty so it would be a shame to miss out on them completely. 

If you’re worried about the agave issue, then have a look at the reply from Nom here – it gives a lot to think about, and a lot of questions other companies using it might want to address. 

The use of Agave Nectar in nom foods products

We use premium quality, organic, low temperature pressed Agave in our products. As a slow-release fructose sugar, Agave avoids high spikes in blood sugar levels when it is consumed and has a low Glycaemic Index. As you’ll be aware, there are varying views on Agave which can be found on the internet. The below is our reaction to these opinions, based on the specific ingredients we use and nutritional research.

The critically important point here is that all brands of Agave nectar are different. My defence of Agave Nectar is only in regards to organic low temperature treated Agave Nectar. Brands can and will differ predicated upon the following: (1) geography or soil the plant comes from, (2) the variation of the plant, and (3) how it is processed. How the nectar is processed has a direct effect on its taste, colour, and nutritional value. It’s therefore important that Agave is not overheated, or boiled so that it maintains its nutritional value (mineral content) and preserves enzymes. The perceived high fructose levels of certain types of Agave are the result of high processing (over boiling).

Even though Agave Nectar generally contains a high amount of calories, because it is sweeter than sugar and honey in taste, we don’t use a lot of it. We can use less and still achieve our objective of sweetness. The use of Agave in our products also means that they can be enjoyed by Vegans, who don’t eat honey.

What we have found in the studies we have seen, is that fructose is only problematic in excess, but causes no difficulties, for most people, in moderation. Nom bars are a treat, to be eaten as part of a healthy diet, and not a staple food item. As with anything in life, we advise people to consume Agave, and any other sugars, appropriately. We agree with many of the agave critics when they say that it is a problem that some people assume that the low glycemic index of agave syrup gives them the green light to consume it in large quantities. It is important to keep in mind that many foods can cause health problems when eaten in excess.

The fact still remains that nom bars, with their high levels of antioxidants, high levels of lauric acid and being all-natural, free from refined sugars and dairy, still remain an incredibly nutritionally beneficial ‘snack’ compared to most.

A few more questions you might ask…

Are Nom Bars Gluten-Free?

Yes, a bit of a refresh to the ingredients has seen them swap to gluten-free Jumbo oats.

Are Nom Bars Vegan?

Yes. They are also made from organic ingredients.

Is it True You Can Make Banoffee Pie From Them?

Okay, so this might not have been one of the first questions to jump into your head when you were googling nom Bars – but when I saw the recipe I decided it was something the world needed to know about. So, yes, yes, you can make a Banoffee Pie using Nom bars as the base – you’ll find the recipe here!  

You can thank me for that later.

Disclosure: What does ad – gifted mean? In the last few years, long after I originally wrote this post, the laws have changed for bloggers who receive products and, we have to label certain posts as ads.

Where this happens on this blog, I’ve decided to clearly explain the relationship between me and the company at the time the post was written. 

In the case of posts marked ad-gifted, the product was sent on spec, usually because of my day job as a journalist. No money changed hands, no deal was made to run a review of them here or in any other publication and the company had no say in what was said when I decided to do so. Whatever I have said is totally independent.

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