In today’s review, we are going to take a look at Primal Kitchen Bars, a protein bar brought to you by Primal Kitchen. Primal Kitchen was started by Mark Sisson, founder of one of the most popular paleo websites on the Internet – Marksdailyapple.com. Before we delve into the details of the Primal Kitchen Bar, you have to first understand the philosophy behind it.
- 1 The Primal Philosophy
- 2 Paleo Diet Criticisms
- 3 Primal Kitchen Bars Review
The Primal Philosophy
Mark Sisson calls his philosophy the Primal Blueprint’ and everything he talks about on his site as well as the products he sells through his Primal Kitchen brand fall within said philosophy. Like many primal and paleo-style health enthusiasts, the Primal philosophy basically asks the question “How did our caveman ancestors eat?” and tries to replicate that.
It advocates a high level of physical activity and exercise (high in comparison to our average sedentary lifestyles that is) as well as some specific eating concepts. Since that is what we are focused on today, here is a brief overview of those eating concepts.
The primal diet places a heavy emphasis on protein as the primary macronutrient. The primal diet recommends a very high proportion of protein compared to the current FDA guidelines. Mark recommends a minimum of 0.5g of protein per pound for a moderately active individual and up to 1g per pound for an active athlete. This is nothing controversial as most fitness-minded individuals already have a high protein diet.
Low Carbs and No Grains
One of the major premises of the primal diet is in modulating the body’s insulin response. By limiting the number of carbs in our daily diet and thus managing our blood glucose levels, we can also ensure that we maintain high insulin sensitivity. The primal diet calls for under 100g of carbs per day, which is can be considered low carb (although not ketogenic).
Ideally, all the carbs from a primal diet come exclusively from fruits and vegetables. No sugary drinks or desserts (obviously) but also no grains, which is one of the most controversial aspects of this diet. The reasoning behind this is that first, our caveman ancestors had yet to cultivate agriculture and hence did not eat grains.
Second is that grains contain both leptin, gluten, and phytates. Lectin may cause leptin resistance, which is a linked to obesity. Gluten is bad for those with celiac disease and phytates may hinder nutrient bio-availability.
Don’t Worry About Cholesterol or Saturated Fats
With a high protein and low carb diet, fats will have to make up a significant majority of daily calories in the primal diet. Fat becomes the major energy source in the primal diet as Mark believes that the human body prefers burning off fats compared to carbohydrates.
Paleo Diet Criticisms
As you might expect, there are just as many critics of the primal or paleo diet as there are proponents.
While we would mostly agree that followers of the paleo diet are on average much healthier and fitter than the average citizen, this is not really saying much. Because most of the primal diet followers get more physical exercise and eat less (or zero) processed foods, it seems obvious.
We won’t go into a detailed criticism of the paleo diet here as that would warrant an article of its own, but we recommend you look at the following article to see what the science really says about the paleo diet.
Scientific American: How to Really Eat Like a Hunter-Gatherer: Why the Paleo Diet Is Half-Baked
Criticisms about the paleo diet aside, we now move on to the meat of this article: Primal Kitchen Bars. You do not have to be a paleo diet follower to benefit from these bars, although they are definitely marketed toward paleo diet followers. Let’s see what goes into these bars and whether they are worth your money.
Primal Kitchen Bars Review
Here is the pertinent nutrition information for Primal Kitchen Bars, presented on a per serving (bar) basis.
|Serving Size||48g (1 bar)|
|Servings per Container||12|
|Carbohydrates||13g (6g dietary fiber)|
|Fat||16g (5g saturated fat)|
The following is the ingredients list for their Dark Chocolate flavor:
Pumpkin Seeds, Cashews, Grass-Fed Hydrolyzed Collagen, Hazelnuts, Prebiotic Fiber (from Cassava Root), Almonds, Coconut Flakes, Honey, Natural Flavors, Water, Unsweetened Chocolate, Coconut Oil, Organic Fair-Trade Cocoa Powder, Himalayan Pink Salt, Monk Fruit Extract, Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Macadamia Nuts, Cashews.
Each Primal Kitchen Bar follows a protein/carbohydrates/fats split of about 26/12/62. As you can see it is very high in fat with moderate amounts of proteins and is very low in carbs; all in accordance with the primal philosophy.
You should note that in the carbohydrates calculation, what counts is ‘net carbs’ which is total carbohydrates less fiber. In this case, each Primal Kitchen Bar only has a mere 7g of net carbs, which is a small amount.
Primal Kitchen Bar’s protein comes from various sources: pumpkin seeds, hydrolyzed collagen, hazelnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, and cashews. With the exception of the grass-fed hydrolyzed collagen, all of the seeds and nuts provide the fat content as well.
What is hydrolyzed collagen? This is collagen sourced from cows (meaning that this product is non-vegan). Collagen is the most abundant form of protein in the body and is the building block of tendons, ligaments, skin, muscles, and bone. You can think of it as the ‘glue’ that holds your body together. Interestingly, the name collagen itself is derived from the Greek word “kólla,” which means ‘glue’.
Collagen can be found in animals connective tissues, and this is what we get in the Primal Kitchen Bar. While collagen is a good source of protein, there is a debate of whether or not consuming collagen directly increases the level of collagen in your own body. Collagen supplementation has also been shown to increase both strength and muscle mass as well as improve symptoms of osteoarthritis plus improving skin elasticity.
Overall, we like the protein in Primal Kitchen Bars. While the benefits of collagen may be overstated, it will not have any negative effects. The other protein from seeds and nuts are also quality sources. However, we note that the overall amino acid profile of the protein in Primal Kitchen Bars is not as good as meat protein or whey protein.
This is because both hydrolyzed collagen and nut proteins are incomplete proteins. Notably, both of these sources are lacking in l-methionine, isoleucine, and tryptophan.
At 7g of net carbs per bar, this is definitely a low carb product. The carbs in this product are from the unsweetened chocolate, honey, monk fruit extract (a natural sweetener), and coconut flakes plus incidental sources from the seeds and nuts (most seeds and nuts contain small amounts of carbohydrates). The honey and chocolate is likely the main source of the sugar.
At such a low amount of carbohydrates, you don’t have to worry about your blood sugar levels after eating this product. True to the primal philosophy, carbohydrates are given a very low priority in the mix. Fiber content is very high at 6g per bar (about a quarter of your daily requirements) and is derived from the cassava root plus the seeds and nuts.
Finally, cassava root is noted as ‘prebiotic fiber’. What this means is that it is a fiber that can be used as a food source for beneficial gut bacteria i.e. probiotics. While Primal Kitchen Bars do not contain any probiotics of its own, we consider the prebiotic ingredients to be a nice bonus.
Overall, if you are looking for a low carb bar, Primal Kitchen Bars are right up your alley.
This is a high-fat product, no two ways about this. Over 60% of the total calories in a bar comes from fat, and the fat is derived mainly from the various nuts that comprise most of the ingredients. Nuts are well known to be a good source of healthy fats, namely Omega 3 and Omega 6 unsaturated fats, although they do contain a significant amount of saturated fats as well.
There are four types of nuts and one seed found in Primal Kitchen Bars. Here are some of their associated benefits.
- Almonds: Might be the most beneficial nut to eat. May help lower bad cholesterol levels and thus reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors. Can help with weight loss, inflammation, and even function as a prebiotic.
- Hazelnuts: A nutritious nut that can increase levels of good cholesterol and Vitamin E concentrations.
- Macadamia Nuts: Has a good amount of healthy unsaturated fats and may be able to lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Cashews: In addition to having a good nutrient profile, cashews may also help with boosting antioxidants.
- Pumpkin Seeds: A very beneficial source of good fatty acids, antioxidants, and magnesium. It may even help lower blood sugar levels.
Overall, Primal Kitchen Bars is a great source of heart-healthy fats with a host of benefits. The saturated fat content is indeed quite significant, but this is in line with the primal philosophy. That said, you should be aware that the American Heart Association strongly recommends lowering saturated fat intake.
Taste and Texture
So far, we haven’t found much to complain about in the Primal Kitchen Bar. But this is the area in which it is most lacking, and a significant percentage of customers agree. Primal Kitchen Bar is not a good tasting product.
It has a very chewy and sticky texture (even compared to your average protein bar) which many people found off-putting. Further, the bar itself is very hard to bite into; only once you’ve bitten into it do you get that chewy and sticky texture.
Primal Kitchen Bars are available in four flavors: Coconut Cashew, Dark Chocolate, Chocolate Hazelnut, and Macadamia Sea Salt. The best taste by consensus is the Coconut Cashew while the chocolate flavors are surprisingly the least liked.
You should know that many users are very adamant about how terrible these bars taste, with some users describing them as ‘rancid’ and ‘absolutely foul’. Even those who generally like the taste agree that the product’s taste and texture is its weakest point by far.
Value For Money
On a per serving basis, each bar will cost you about $3.00 (For the latest prices check here). There is a negligible difference in price whether you get it via Amazon or through Primal Kitchen’s official website.
At $3.00 per bar, this is not a cheap product but is actually quite comparable with other well-reviewed protein bars on the market today, albeit a little on the pricier end. The fact of the matter is that good protein bars aren’t cheap, and Primal Kitchen Bars are no exception.
Primal Kitchen Bars are a healthy, high protein, high fat, and low carb protein bar. With minimal processed ingredients, no grains or any artificial sweeteners, this bar is right up your alley if you are a believer in the paleo diet.
If you are someone who is worried about the number of fats you consume (contrary to the primal philosophy), then this product is definitely not for you. While it is rather pricey, it is not that far off from most of the other quality protein bars on the market today.
However, to enjoy the benefits of Primal Kitchen Bars, taste and texture are going to be a major hurdle that you have to overcome. The Primal Kitchen Bar is tough, chewy, and sticky all at the same time. Many people don’t enjoy the taste, and they have strong opinions on it, with some going as far as to describe it as ‘inedible’.
But we recognize that taste can be very subjective, and for the paleo-inclined people who like the taste or can get used to it over time, the Primal Kitchen Bar will be a great addition to their daily diet.
Quick Review Table
|High-quality source of healthy fats||Taste and texture may be too much for some|
|Contains collagen||Quite pricey|
|Minimally processed ingredients|
Health enthusiast, runner, protein nut. Owen likes to write about protein, particularly alternatve supplementation and supplement comparisons.