In recent weeks, there has been some coverage in the media around toxins in protein powder products.
The “Clean Label Project,” a non-profit organization in the United States, recently published findings on protein powders in the US market.
This organization, which is focused on health and transparency in consumer product labeling with respect to environmental contaminants, uses state of the art laboratory testing to determine contaminant levels in various consumer products. They use a 5-star system to rate the level of contamination: 5 stars means clean, 1 star…not so much.
Protein Powder Findings
Vegan protein powders had higher levels of contamination of heavy metals and other toxins then animal based ones. The most shocking finding was that the heavy metal contamination was just as high, or sometimes higher in organic vegan powders.
The best performers? Whey protein powders. This is an option that many of our patients might avoid because whey comes from milk, but many people with a dairy intolerance will do just fine with an isolated whey protein powder. Another upside is that it helps us make glutathione, a powerful anti-oxidant and detoxifier in our bodies.
Why Use Protein Powders at All?
This is a very good question, and many nutritionally-focused practitioners do not recommend them, instead wanting people to focus on eating whole food sources of protein. This is advice that is hard to argue with. Whole foods not only have protein, but fiber and other vitamins and minerals, making them more nutritionally whole.
When a protein powder does make sense is when people are not taking the time to eat properly. For example, many of our patients don’t eat a full and wholesome breakfast, instead grabbing a muffin from the café. This sets up a day of sugar cravings, mid-afternoon fatigue and that inevitable weight gain around the middle. Starting the day with a smoothie augmented with a healthy protein powder helps many of our patients get on a better eating track, and on the path to better overall health.
Retail Protein Powders vs. Professional Protein Powders
Many of the products tested by Clean Label are retail brands that can be bought off the shelf in health food stores, pharmacies and grocery stores. Often these brands compete on price, so they are always looking for the most cost-effective way to make their products. Sometimes, those efforts to cut costs lead to lower quality.
With professional lines–supplement lines that do not sell their products through retail stores, but through health professional–the product testing requirements are different. These companies have to ensure that heavy metal testing is done on their products by a third party. As a result, their sourcing for constituents to make the products is more stringent. That makes the products more expensive, but of higher quality and lower contamination.
Protein Powders We Love
Here are a couple of powders we recommend:
Vegan powders are harder because of contamination, but for those who will only go plant-based, the best we can find is Garden of Life – Raw Protein. It’s organic, and gets a 3-star rating on Clean Label. For a vegan powder, that’s the best you can get.