“A high quality protein powder is essential to any healthy diet, especially if you’re active.” Or, so the claims say.
Is protein powder really “essential,” or is it more of a marketing gimmick?
If you talk to the powder companies, supplement stores, or athletes (particularly weight lifters), the consensus is that most of us are protein deficient. We need these powders in order to build muscle, increase energy, and to improve our overall health.
There are others, however, who question these claims. They aren’t really against protein itself; so much as they’re suspicious of the supplement makers and marketers. Some claim that there is plenty of protein to be had if we eat a diet full of fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and some lean fish and meats.
What’s my position, you ask? I’m sort of on the fence. I do believe that we can get an incredible amount of protein from green vegetables, green smoothies, and other food sources. But, I also believe there is some merit to protein powders.
That being said, I don’t condone or promote the use of all protein powders. Today, I want to share with you three important facts about protein powder so that you can make an informed decision the next time you find yourself facing shelves full of powders and supplements.
Fact #1: Not All Protein Powders Are Created Equal – Ingredients to Avoid
The first thing we must all keep in mind is that not all protein powders are created equal. Many of them contain artificial colors and ingredients, fillers, and GMO ingredients. Not good!
The next time you pick up a container of protein powder, check the label for these ingredients.
Dextrin or glucose – they raise blood sugar levels, which is one of the things that leads to diabetes and weight gain.
Artificial sweeteners – like aspartame, aspartamine, Equal, NutraSweet, sucralose, Splenda, and saccharin. These can contribute to addiction, weight gain, migraines, even depression.
Soy protein – this is typically a GMO product that contains phyto-estrogens that can cause thyroid and hormonal imbalances.
Fats, like vegetables oils. If you want to add some healthy fat to your protein powder, add some coconut oil or avocado. Many of the oils used in supplements end up being hydrogenated (causing a raise in cholesterol levels) and/or GMO.
Fillers, thickeners and gums, like xanthan gum. These are used to save the manufacturer some money and are not typically made from organic, non-GMO products.
Anything you’re allergic to. MindBodyGreen.com lists milk powders, milk solids, gluten, casein, caseinate, and whey protein concentrate as common allergens to be avoided.
Fact #2: Again, Not All Protein Powders Are Created Equal – Ingredients You Want
The goal when choosing a protein powder is to make sure it’s a whole foods-based powder. What I love about protein powders is that they are, in a way, like green smoothies – a fast, effective way to get vital nutrients. Look for organic superfoods on the label, like chia seeds, flax seeds, a variety of mushrooms, moringa, Goji berries, Acai berries, Spirulina, coconut oil, avocados, and cacao nibs.
If you’re comparing two organic, non-GMO protein powders and they cost the same, evaluate the label. If there are superfoods listed on one but not the other, invest your money wisely – go for the protein powder with the ultra-nutritious superfoods. You’ll definitely get more bang for your buck.
Fact #3: You Can Make Your Own Home-Made Protein Powder
According to LiveStrong.com, many manufactured protein powders contain harmful chemicals and even heavy metals. They listed arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury as common heavy metals found in at least fifteen powders that are on the market.
The great thing about home-made protein powders is that you get to control the ingredients. Not only do you get to choose your favorite flavors, you get to choose organic, non-GMO ingredients. You have the control and power to make the best protein powder ever.
I actually tried making my own. Here is the recipe I tried and it was a delicious add on to smoothies and salads.
1 part hemp seeds
1 part raw pumpkin seeds
1 part raw sunflower seeds
½ part flax meal
¼ part chia seeds
LiveStrong.com has a formula for making your own protein powder.
Choose your protein – some options include brown rice, chick pea, hemp, and pea powders.
Choose your flavor – chocolate, vanilla, berry, the options are endless. Yum!
My Top 2 Picks for Store-Bought Protein Powders
Like most people I know, you probably don’t always have the time to make your own home-made protein powder. That’s why it’s always a good idea to have some backup options. Here are my top picks for healthy protein powders.
1. Vega Sport
Formulated by Canadian triathlete Brendan Brazier, Vega Sport comes in chocolate and vanilla flavors. It is made out of chia seeds, pea protein, sprouted brown rice protein, and alfalfa. It’s a favorite of dietician McKel Hill over at NutritionStripped.com.
2. Nutiva Organic Hemp Protein, Vanilla, 16 Ounce
This protein powder is #1 according to FoodBabe.com. It is 100% organic, the sugars are all-natural fruit sugars, and it tastes great. The powder is made up of: Organic hemp protein, organic tapioca, organic guar gum, organic inulin (sunchoke), organic vanilla flavor.
3. Orgain Organic Plant Based Protein Powder, Sweet Vanilla Bean
This is an update (October 4th, 2017) from when I wrote this post. I am loving Orgain!!! For the price you really can't go wrong. Good, smooth flavor. So delicious and healthy. Great way to start the day. Fine on its own too in some almond milk with a little ice.
Protein Powder: A Wonderful Addition to Your Daily Greens, But Never a Substitution
It’s not hard to guess my favorite source of protein. That’s right: my daily greens! I feel that certain supplements have their place, as long as we all remember that there are some harmful ingredients to avoid and that no supplement can replace healthful, nutritional, natural foods.
By adding home-made protein powder, or organic and non-GMO powders to your diet, you can ensure you’re getting plenty of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Just remember: supplements are just that – a supplement to your already healthy diet. Remember this and you will have no problem choosing the right protein powder for your needs.
What are your top picks for protein powders? Do you notice a difference in your energy levels or in your workout performance? Let’s talk about it! Give me your take on protein powders (the pros and cons) and tell me your favorites. Let me know in the comments below or on my Facebook page.