Almost everyone has a tub of protein powder in their house. Marketed and commonly seen as a healthful addition to your diet, protein powders are surely nothing to be worried about, right? Unfortunately, many protein powders contain ingredients that you don’t want to be putting into your body.
Let’s take a deep dive into the various ingredients that you want to avoid in a protein powder:
1. Soy Protein Concentrate or Isolate.
Over 90% of the soy produced in this country is GMO and contaminated with Roundup herbicide. If that’s not bad enough, there’s another reason why you should avoid it: soy protein powder is a highly processed form of soy. Isolating soy to just its protein state produces toxic compounds such as nitrates (a carcinogen) and a toxin called lysinoalanine. Soy also contains an abundance of phytic acid which binds to vital minerals and prevents their absorption. Instead of soy, opt for other forms of plant-based protein such as pea or hemp.
2. Artificial Flavours.
Artificial flavours are chemical mixtures made with synthetic (not natural) ingredients in a lab. They’re produced by fractional distillation and chemical manipulation of various chemicals like crude oil or coal tar. Artificial vanilla flavour can be made from wood pulp! That’s certainly not something you want to be putting into your body.
3. Natural Flavours.
Natural Flavour is essentially the exact same thing as Artificial Flavour. The only difference is that it’s derived from substances found in nature (plants, animals, etc). Natural Flavours typically contain preservatives, emulsifiers, solvents and other “incidental additives” which can make up 80% or so of the formulation. None of these additions are required to be disclosed on the ingredient list. This is a big one to look out for because many of those protein powders that are believed to be the healthiest or cleanest options contain ‘Natural Flavour’. Stay tuned for Part 2 to find out the next three ingredients to watch out for.
4. Refined Sugar.
Refined sugar is addictive & associated with endless health consequences including weight gain, insulin resistance, oxidative stress, accelerated ageing & weakened immunity. It’s added to protein powders in many different forms such as corn syrup, fructose, glucose, maltodextrin & dextrose. Whilst many bodybuilders and athletes swear by certain refined sugars to give them a hit of energy before a workout & replenish their glycogen stores after a workout, there are far healthier and less health-damaging ways to achieve these aims. You don’t need sugar to make a protein drink taste sweet. Real food does the trick too!
5. Artificial Sweeteners.
Although they have no calories, artificial sweeteners have been shown to contribute to weight gain by increasing appetite & encouraging sugar cravings. Artificial sweeteners have also been linked to cancer, blood sugar dysregulation & disruption of the gut microbiome. Examples of artificial sweeteners include aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose & neotame.
6. Sugar Alcohols.
Whilst sugar alcohols (e.g. xylitol, erythritol) are not associated with as many negative effects as artificial sweeteners, they will still stimulate your appetite & increase sugar cravings, potentially leading to weight gain. Sugar alcohols are also commonly associated with digestive complaints such as diarrhoea, stomach pain & bloating. Rather than using refined sugar, artificial sweeteners or natural sweeteners to sweeten your protein shake, opt instead for using whole foods such as fruit.
7. Synthetic Vitamins.
Vitamins are healthy, right? Unfortunately, the vitamins used in protein powders and other fortified foods are lab-created and often made from a variety of sources like coal tar, petroleum or GMOs. These vitamins differ from their natural counterparts and aren’t believed to be absorbed by your body as well as naturally produced vitamins or those that you get from whole food. Want vitamins in your shake? Blend in some leafy greens and berries. Real food is always best.
Most protein powders are packaged in plastic tubs that contain toxins like bisphenol A (BPA) which can leach into the food. This was evidenced in recent tests that found BPA in 55% of protein powders. BPA is linked to birth defects, cancers, hormonal disruption and neurological disorders. What kind of packaging does your protein powder have?
Many protein powders on the market are not CERTIFIED organic. That means they likely contain GMO ingredients and most definitely are tainted with synthetic pesticides that are potentially toxic with long-term exposure. Pesticides used on conventional farms are strongly linked to many diseases and health issues such as cancer, obesity, insulin resistance, neurological diseases, mental health disorders, behavioural disorders, endocrine disruption and infertility. The only way to avoid the detrimental effects that these toxins can have on your health is to make sure you choose a certified organic protein powder.