I’ve been a big-time snacker for as long as I can remember, so convenience and paramount for me when it comes to picking up provisions at the grocery store. But if I can’t make it there on any given weekend (hey, the line outside of Trader Joe’s is no joke), I generally go for some form of caffeine and candy situation. A bandaid, if you will.
Lately, though, I’ve been committed to leveling up my snacking game. For instance, I’ve actually enjoyed replacing candies and fruit snacks with fresh or dried apples and a smidge of honey, or by munching on mixed berries. While I’m less partial to decadent desserts and pastries, sometimes the mood for baked goods strikes, which had me wondering if there was a healthier dupe to keep on hand. Enter: BelliWelli soft-baked snack bars.They’re gluten-free, probiotic-packed, low-FODMAP, and vegan—as well as specifically crafted for people who struggle with digestive issues.
As a veritable snack aficionado on a mission to forge more gut-friendly habits—not to mention an enthusiast for anything and everything related to the microbiome—I was intrigued to see for myself just how beneficial these bars could be. With that in mind, I ate one BelliWelli bar a day for a week straight to see how my cravings and digestion fared. I’ll leave you with my final BelliWelli review later on; but first, let’s cover how nutritious and GI-friendly these snacks truly are.
What makes BelliWeli a snack with belly benefits
Before we cover the good-for-you ingredients BelliWelli bars contain, it’s worth noting what they steer clear of. They omit dairy and gluten, both of which can trigger digestive issues for some. (Lactose intolerance affects as much as 70 percent of adults globally. In the United States, celiac disease affects about one percent of people, while non-celiac gluten sensitivity affects about 6 percent of people, according to a 2017 review in the World Journal of Gastroenterology.)
These bars are also free of sugar alcohols, which can exacerbate digestive distress in people with gut imbalances. “It is thought that sugar alcohols are poorly absorbed in the body and feed bacteria residing in the large intestines … [which can] create more gas and fermentation, thus promoting the imbalance that already exists,” Sarah Greenfield, RD, CSSD, previously told Well+Good.
With these potential red flags out of the way, which specific ingredients make BelliWelli bars a gut-friendly, healthy snack? To start, a single bar contains four grams of protein and three grams of fiber. (ICYMI, only seven percent of adults in the United States get enough fiber daily, despite its benefits for supporting regular BMs, cardiovascular health, and more.) “The bars also contain 500 million CFU probiotics—which is more than certain yogurts and kombuchas—so they keep your gut in check,” says Peyton Berookim, MD, MA, FACG, AGAF, a BelliWelli advisor and double-board certified gastroenterologist at the Gastroenterology Institute of Southern California.
“The bars also contain 500 million CFU probiotics—which is more than certain yogurts and kombuchas—so they keep your gut in check,” says Peyton Berookim, MD, MA, FACG, AGAF, double-board certified gastroenterologist
Dr. Berookim also notes the brand’s emphasis on employing high-quality ingredients. “Traditional bars usually contain preservatives to maintain shape, but BelliWelli lacks these artificial ingredients,” he says. As a note, the BelliWelli bars I sampled contained eight to nine grams of sugar—including six to seven grams of added sugar—the latter of which should be capped at 24 to 50 grams daily.)
Dr. Berookim calls out a few noteworthy ingredients that stand to support your gut and overall health, including:
- Cinnamon (which he deems as anti-inflammatory)
- Chia seeds (a rich source of plant protein, insoluble fiber, and omega-3s)
- Oats (a whole-grain soluble fiber)
- Acacia fiber (which he says is anti-inflammatory)
- Almond butter (another great source of plant protein)
Lastly, the GI doctor shares that these snacks are certified low FODMAP by Monash University. (FODMAPs include carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that can trigger digestive distress in the form of bloating, diarrhea, constipation, gas, and stomach pain.) All things considered, Dr. Berookim says the bars are much better tolerated than conventional treats for people who:
- Suffer from small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
- Experience bloat or any kind of digestive issues
- Have gluten or dairy sensitivities
“BelliWelli bars are a really great nutrient-dense alternative for anyone looking for a truly healthier and gut-friendly snack bar,” Dr. Berookim concludes.
My BelliWelli review
To start, let’s cover how these bars taste. At present, BelliWelli offers seven flavors. I sampled four of them—chocolate chip cookie, birthday cake, cinnamon swirl, and strawberry shortcake—during my week-long trial. I was surprised that each turned out to be tastier than I’d expected, and successfully hit the spot as far as my cravings were concerned. I’d say that they strike a happy medium between a conventional cookie and a protein bar, packing the satisfying sweetness of the former and lacking the typically chalky (or worse, cardboard-like) taste of the latter.
Now, for the million-dollar question: Did these bars yield discernible benefits for my digestion? On this point, I can’t say that they were complete game-changers, but I definitely think the results will vary from one person to the next. For instance, my digestion tends to be regular more often than not and I’m fortunate enough to say that I only experience stress IBS circumstantially (*knocks on wood*). I also consume and/or take probiotics daily—including Bacillus coagulans, the strain BelliWelli uses. (I did, however, pause taking probiotic supplements to better gauge my results from the bars alone.) And while I don’t track my fiber intake to a T, I’ve made a recent effort to make sure I have fiber-rich fruits and veggies daily, and always throw a hefty serving of chia seeds into my smoothies.
However, I do think that BelliWelli bars have the potential to move the needle for some people—namely those who are highly sensitive to gluten and/or dairy, lack fiber and/or probiotics in their diets, and experience ongoing digestive issues. Still, I was pleased to discover that these bars could actually be a decent dupe for cookies and similar sweet treats, all the while offering a balance of macros and probiotic perks. At the end of the day (literally and figuratively), I’ll gladly reach for one the next time I get a snack attack so I can continue the trend of satisfying my sweet tooth with nutritious fare.
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