Dr. Becky Maes - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Becky Maes

Are Fig Bars Bad For You?

Also Known As: Fig Newtons



Short answer

Fig bars can provide quick energy and fiber but often contain high sugar content, especially from added sweeteners, that may lead to health issues like blood sugar spikes, cravings, and long-term effects such as weight gain and heart disease. Whole grain options are healthier, reducing blood sugar spikes and providing essential nutrients. Pre-portioning and pairing with protein can help manage calorie intake. While figs offer nutritional benefits, other ingredients can diminish the bar's overall health value. It's important to select bars low in artificial additives and preservatives for a better health profile.



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Long answer

Sugar Content and Its Impact on Health in Fig Bars

Before we delve into the sugar content of fig bars and its potential impact on health, it's essential to differentiate between added sugars and those naturally occurring in fruits, such as figs. Fig bars often contain both types, as the fruit filling is concentrated with natural sugars and the dough part frequently includes added sugars for taste and preservation.

Most commercial fig bars on the market have a sugar content that ranges from 10 to 20 grams per serving, depending on the brand and size of the bar. This can constitute a significant portion of the recommended daily intake of sugar, which, according to the American Heart Association, should not exceed 25 grams for women and 36 grams for men.

Short-Term Health Impacts:

  • Blood Sugar Spikes: The high sugar content in fig bars can lead to quick spikes in blood sugar levels, which can be especially concerning for individuals with insulin resistance or diabetes.
  • Energy Levels: While a fig bar might provide a quick burst of energy due to its sugar content, this can be followed by a sharp decline, often referred to as a 'sugar crash'.
  • Cravings and Appetite: Sugary snacks like fig bars may increase cravings for more sweets, contributing to a desire to consume additional calories throughout the day.

Long-Term Health Impacts:

  • Weight Gain: Consistently high intake of sugars can lead to weight gain and increase the risk of obesity, as evidenced in a study published in the BMJ (2013), which found that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to weight gain in both children and adults.
  • Heart Health: Excessive sugar consumption has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. A study in JAMA Internal Medicine (2014) suggested that individuals with a high-sugar diet had a greater risk of dying from heart disease.
  • Dental Health: Snacks high in sugar can contribute to dental caries (cavities), supported by numerous studies including research in the Journal of Dental Research (2013).

To mitigate these risks, it's advisable to look for fig bars with lower sugar content or those made with natural sweeteners that have a lower glycemic index, like fruit juice concentrates or natural fruit purees. Also, considering portion sizes and balance within one's overall diet is crucial. Incorporating foods high in fiber and protein in meals can help stabilize blood sugar levels.

In conclusion, while fig bars can be a source of some nutritional value, their sugar content, especially from added sugars, is a point of consideration for overall health. Balance and moderation, combined with an understanding of one’s personal dietary needs and health goals, are key to enjoying fig bars as part of a healthy diet.

Whole Grains vs. Refined Flours in Fig Bars

Fig bars are a popular snack touted for containing fruit and often perceived as a healthier option. But the healthiness of fig bars isn't determined by the fruit component alone; the type of flour used in their dough plays a significant role. To understand the impact of whole grains versus refined flours in fig bars on our health, it's crucial to dig into the nutritional differences between these two types of flours.

Whole grain flours, as the name suggests, are made from the entire grain kernel, which includes the bran, germ, and endosperm. This means that whole grain flours are loaded with nutrients, including fiber, vitamins such as B vitamins, and trace minerals like iron, magnesium, and selenium. The presence of fiber is particularly noteworthy because it not only helps to keep our digestive system running smoothly but also contributes to maintaining steady blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.

  • Fiber Content: Whole grains contain more fiber than refined flours, beneficial for digestion and overall heart health.
  • Essential Nutrients: The presence of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in whole grains surpasses that of refined flours, which lose many of these during the refining process.
  • Glycemic Index (GI): Low-GI foods like whole grains contribute to more stable blood sugar levels, whereas high-GI foods made with refined flour can lead to blood sugar spikes.

On the other hand, refined flours are stripped of the bran and germ during processing, leaving mostly the starchy endosperm. This process not only removes the nutritional fiber but also many of the natural nutrients. While some refined flours are enriched with certain B vitamins and iron to replace what is lost, the fiber and other nutrients are not fully restored. The lack of dietary fiber leads to quicker digestion, potentially resulting in blood sugar spikes and a subsequent crash, which can contribute to feelings of hunger and, over time, may lead to weight gain and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

When assessing fig bars, it's valuable to look for options that use whole grain flours for a more nutritious snack. Some fig bar brands distinguish themselves by using 100% whole wheat flour or other whole grain flours, offering a healthier profile to the consumer. Moreover, whole grain fig bars tend to be more satiating, which can help control portion sizes and overall caloric intake.

Current dietary guidelines suggest that at least half of the grains we consume should be whole grains, which makes choosing whole grain fig bars a step in the right direction. To evaluate this, always check the ingredient list on the packaging of fig bars. The type of flour should be listed as one of the first few ingredients due to its predominance in the product. Look for words like "whole wheat flour" or "whole oat flour" as opposed to simply "wheat flour" or "enriched white flour," which indicates the use of refined flour.

Studies have consistently shown the benefits of whole grains in the diet. For example, a comprehensive review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition highlighted that higher whole-grain intake is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. By choosing fig bars made with whole grains, you are not just enjoying a delicious snack but also contributing positively to your long-term health.

  • Whole Wheat Flour
  • Whole Oat Flour
  • Brown Rice Flour
  • Buckwheat Flour

It's worth noting that some fig bars might also blend whole grain flours with refined flours, so it's essential to understand where these ingredients stand on the ingredient list. If the first ingredient is a whole grain flour, followed by refined flour, the product will likely contain more whole grains than refined grains. Remember, the order of ingredients is based on the amount included in the product, from highest to lowest.

In conclusion, the choice of flour in fig bars significantly affects their nutritional value. Opting for bars made with whole grain flours can provide a myriad of health benefits over those made with refined flours. When it comes to making a healthier choice for your snack time, whole grain fig bars stand out as the better option.

Preservatives and Artificial Additives Use in Fig Bars

Understanding the role of preservatives and artificial additives in fig bars is vital to assessing their impact on health. These substances are typically included to maintain freshness, enhance flavor, or improve the product's appearance. While they can extend shelf-life and make food more appealing, their health implications are a subject of much debate and research.

Common Preservatives in Fig Bars:

  • Calcium propionate: Often used to prevent mold growth, it's considered safe by the FDA, but some studies suggest it might lead to irritability, restlessness, or sleep disturbances in some individuals.
  • Sorbic acid: It is a natural preservative also considered safe, although allergic reactions can occur in sensitive people.
  • Benzoyl peroxide: Utilized for its bleaching effects on flour, this preservative has come under scrutiny for potential links to skin irritation and other health concerns, though it remains FDA-approved.

Artificial Additives and Their Potential Effects:

  • Artificial flavors: Although these can make the product taste better, concerns about their long-term health effects persist, with some research proposing a risk of behavioral issues in children.
  • Artificial colors: They make the fig bars more visually appealing but have been tied to hyperactivity in children and may cause allergic reactions in some individuals.
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS): A common sweetener linked to various health issues including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease when consumed in excessive amounts.

The imperative is to evaluate these additives' presence on a product-by-product basis, as not all fig bars contain the same ingredients. It's advisable to scrutinize product labels and opt for options with fewer synthetic preservatives and artificial additives. When consumed in moderation and as part of a balanced diet, fig bars with these substances do not pose significant health risks for most individuals. However, those with specific sensitivities or health concerns may need to choose products without these additives.

Referencing expert opinions, such as recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, can inform choices regarding the consumption of artificial additives, especially in children's diets. Meanwhile, ongoing studies, including those by the FDA and EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), continue to monitor the safety of these substances, ensuring that the regulatory guidelines are based on the most current scientific evidence.

Caloric Density and Portion Control Concerns

Fig bars are often marketed as a healthy snack alternative, but it's important to consider their caloric density when incorporating them into your diet. Caloric density refers to the number of calories in a given weight or volume of food. High caloric density means that a small amount of food has a large number of calories. As delicious and convenient as they are, fig bars can have a high caloric density because they contain concentrated fruit sugars and other ingredients like flour, oils, and sweeteners which increase the calorie count.

While figs themselves are a nutritious fruit high in fiber and minerals, the process of creating a fig bar involves additional ingredients that contribute to the total caloric content. A typical fig bar may contain between 70 to 100 calories per serving, with a serving often being one small bar. While this might seem reasonable at first glance, it's quite easy to consume multiple servings in one sitting without feeling satiated, leading to unintended overconsumption of calories.

This consumption pattern can be a concern for individuals monitoring their calorie intake for weight management or other health reasons. Hence, portion control becomes an essential factor when choosing to eat fig bars as a snack. Moreover, it is important to read labels to understand the serving size and to practice mindful eating to avoid excessive calorie intake.

Here are a few tips to help manage portion control with fig bars:

  • Always check the serving size on the packaging and stick to one serving.
  • If you find yourself overeating, try pre-portioning your snacks and storing them in separate containers or bags.
  • Pair a fig bar with a source of protein, like a handful of nuts or a serving of Greek yogurt, to increase satiety and reduce the likelihood of overeating.
  • Consider the context in which you're eating – if you're not truly hungry, reassess if you should be reaching for that fig bar.
  • Look for fig bars that use minimal added sugars and whole food ingredients to lower the caloric density per serving.

Being mindful of these factors can help integrate fig bars into a balanced diet without overindulging. Bear in mind that moderation is key, as with any food item that has the potential to be calorically dense. For those who enjoy fig bars, it's worth noting that when eaten in appropriate serving sizes, they can provide the sweet taste and convenience many look for in a snack, but they should be consumed judiciously to stay aligned with your dietary goals.

Nutritional Benefits from Figs in Fig Bars

Figs, the main ingredient in fig bars, are a unique fruit with a wealth of nutritional benefits. Here, we'll dive into the particulars of what makes figs a nutritious choice, especially when included as part of a balanced diet. Be mindful that while fig bars contain these nutritious components, they are often combined with additional ingredients that can impact their overall health profile.

Highlight of Key Nutrients in Figs:

  • Dietary Fiber: Figs are an excellent source of dietary fiber, which is crucial for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Fiber aids in bowel regularity and has a role in preventing constipation and reducing the risk of certain chronic diseases.
  • Vitamins: Figs provide a variety of vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin K, and several B vitamins. These are essential for maintaining a wide range of bodily functions, including immune response, skin health, and blood clotting.
  • Minerals: Figs boast a suite of minerals like potassium, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, iron, and calcium. These are known to contribute to bone density, muscle function, and overall cardiovascular health.
  • Antioxidants: Figs contain antioxidants such as flavonoids and polyphenols, which help combat oxidative stress and may have a role in reducing the risk of various diseases, such as certain cancers and heart disease.

While these nutrients suggest that figs are indeed a healthy snack option, it's also important to examine how they are incorporated into fig bars. For instance, a fig bar made primarily with whole, dried figs and minimal processing will offer more of these nutritional benefits than a heavily processed alternative with added sugars and preservatives.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that figs may contribute to improved dietary fiber intake and better nutrient adequacy in the typical Western diet—further underscoring their nutritional value.

In summary, the nutritional benefit of figs in fig bars can be significant, offering fiber, essential vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants. However, the overall health impact of consuming fig bars will largely depend on the other ingredients used in their production and the portion sizes in which they are consumed.

Comparative Analysis: Fig Bars vs. Other Snack Bars

When grazing through the snack aisle, one might wonder how fig bars stack up against other snack bars in terms of nutritional value. Here we dissect the various aspects that differentiate fig bars from their snack bar counterparts to help you make an informed decision for your snack-time nourishment.

Ingredient Profile

One of the primary considerations is the ingredient list. Typical fig bars contain whole wheat flour, dried figs, sugar, and oil, while other snack bars may have a range of ingredients from oats, nuts, and seeds, to chocolate chips and various sweeteners. It's worth noting that fig bars often boast a simpler ingredient list, which can be beneficial for those seeking whole food options. However, the simplicity of ingredients does not automatically translate to a healthier product.

Added Sweeteners

Sugar content is a significant concern in snack bars. Fig bars, while containing natural sugars from dried figs, often have added sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup or cane sugar. Comparatively, many snack bars on the market include sweeteners in various forms, which can impact blood sugar levels. Always check the label for the type and amount of sweeteners used.

Fiber Content

Figs are known for their fiber content, which aids in digestion and satiety. High fiber content is a plus for fig bars. However, other snack bars that contain oats, nuts, and seeds can also be high in fiber and offer the same benefits, sometimes with added nutritional bonuses like omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseeds or protein from nuts.

Caloric Density and Serving Size

A direct comparison of calories can be misleading without considering serving size. Fig bars are often denser and might be higher in calories compared to some lighter snack bars that include puffed rice or other air-filled ingredients. Always keep an eye on serving sizes to ensure portion control.

Nutrient Diversity

Variety is crucial for nutrient intake. Fig bars typically provide nutrients like potassium and calcium intrinsic to figs. However, snack bars with a diverse array of ingredients like nuts, seeds, and whole grains can offer a broader range of nutrients including magnesium, iron, and B vitamins. The inclusion of fortified ingredients can also be a game-changer for nutrient content.

Sodium Content

Snack bars can have varying levels of sodium. While fig bars generally have lower sodium content, making them a potentially better option for those monitoring their salt intake, it's always best to check the nutrition label, as formulations can differ.

Artificial Additives

Some snack bars contain artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, which a number of consumers prefer to avoid. Fig bars are often free from these artificial additives, but not always. Reading labels is key to avoid unwanted ingredients.

Ultimately, the decision on whether fig bars or other snack bars are the better option depends on individual dietary needs, preferences, and the specific products being compared. It is essential to read nutrition labels and ingredients lists carefully to make the best choice for your health goals.

Frequently asked questions

Fig bars are not typically a significant source of protein. They are more focused on providing energy through carbohydrates, both from natural sugars in the figs and added sweeteners. For a protein boost, it's better to combine a fig bar with a protein-rich food such as nuts, yogurt, or a cheese stick.

While figs themselves are a whole food, fig bars vary in how close they are to whole food status based on their ingredient lists. Bars made with whole, dried figs and minimal processing with fewer added sugars and preservatives are closer to being a whole food snack compared to heavily processed alternatives.

Not all fig bars contain artificial additives and preservatives. It varies by brand and product formulation. Some fig bars are made with more natural ingredients and fewer artificial additives. Always read the ingredient label to find fig bars that align with your preference for minimal synthetic ingredients.

To determine if a fig bar is high in whole grains, check the ingredients list for whole grain flours, such as whole wheat or whole oat flour, listed at the beginning. The presence of whole grains near the top of the list indicates a higher whole grain content, which is beneficial for health.

Ask a question about Fig Bars and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • blood sugar spikes
  • energy level fluctuations
  • increased cravings and appetite

Possible long-term side effects

  • weight gain
  • increased heart disease risk
  • dental health issues

Ingredients to be aware of


  • nutrient-rich
  • high in fiber
  • full of essential vitamins and minerals
  • antioxidant properties

Healthier alternatives

  • whole grain fig bars
  • fig bars with natural sweeteners
  • snack bars with a diverse array of whole food ingredients

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Nature's Bakery Fig Bars

  • Whole Wheat Nutrition
  • Real Fruit Filling
  • Vegan-Friendly
  • Non-GMO Verified
  • Convenient Twin Packs
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-11-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-11-2024

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