Choosing a Healthy Protein Powder

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“I’ve been treating eating disorders (ED’s) and obesity for nearly 25 years and have always had good outcomes. My rate of success improved dramatically, however, when I discovered the critical role that processed food plays in causing as well as in preventing recovery from Anorexia, Bulimia, Bulimarexia, (a combination of the two) Binge Eating Disorder (BED,) Emotional Eating and Obesity. To this end, I find it of great importance to provide both my patients and readers with relevant nutrition information to aid in their recovery. You can view all my Nutrition, Fitness, and Health articles here.” 

Currently, Americans spend over $2.7 billion dollars on sports nutrition products. One of the most popular products? Protein powder. The majority of stores have an overwhelming amount of various brands of protein powders, even gas stations are selling pre-mixed protein shakes in their beverage coolers! With so many brands on the grocery store shelf, how can we be sure we are picking the healthiest protein powder?

Look for a protein powder that is ‘undenatured’ or ‘cold processed’. The majority of protein powders in stores are subjected to extreme heat when they are being processed. Protein powders contain glutamic acid, which is normally healthy. Glutamic acid becomes a problem when it is exposed to heat. When protein powder is manufactured, it is exposed to extreme heat, which converts glutamic acid into free glutamic acid, also known as monosodium glutamate (MSG). You can read more about the dangers of MSG here (link to MSG article).

Always avoid soy protein powder. Soy is one of the most genetically modified crops in the US. They contain phytoestrogens, goitrogens, phytates, and trypsin inhibitors; you can read about all of these here. Soy protein is typically made from the sludge that is left over from deriving soy oil from the soy bean. Food Renegade describes it well in her article “The Dangers of Soy” when she says “Soy foods aren’t real food. They aren’t traditional. They aren’t old. They’re industrial waste products dressed up in pretty clothes and marketed to an ignorant public.” Instead of soy protein, I typically use whey protein.

Next, look at the ingredients label. Be sure the powder doesn’t contain any neurotoxins or other additives such as high fructose corn syrup. Additionally, most protein powders contain hidden sources of MSG. How do companies get away with not listing MSG on the ingredients label? Thanks to the FDA, it’s quite easy. If an ingredient is less than 99% pure glutamate, than it doesn’t need to be listed as MSG on the label! Here’s a list of hidden sources of MSG that ALWAYS contain MSG:

Glutamic acid,  Glutamate
Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
Monopotassium glutamate
Calcium glutamate
Monoammonium glutamate
Magnesium glutamate
Natrium glutamate
Yeast extract
Anything “hydrolyzed”
Any “hydrolyzed protein”
Calcium caseinate,  Sodium caseinate
Yeast food, Yeast nutrient
Autolyzed yeast
Gelatin
Textured protein
Soy protein, soy protein concentrate
Soy protein isolate
Whey protein, whey protein concentrate
Whey protein isolate
Anything “…protein”
Vetsin
Ajinomoto

I tend to avoid protein powders that contain a long list of ingredients, especially if many of the ingredients are impossible to pronounce. As with all foods, as a general rule, if I can’t pronounce it, I don’t eat it. Here’s a good example of one of the most popular heat-processed protein powders on the market:

Micellar Alpha And Beta Caseins And Caseinates, Rich In Alpha-Lactalbumin, Whey Isolates, Whey Peptides, L-Glutamine, Taurine, Lactoferrin), Lean Lipids(TM) (Trans Fat Free Lipid Complex Consisting of Canola Oil, Sunflower And/Or Safflower Oil, MCT’s, L-Carnitine), Fructose, Cocoa Powder, Maltodextrin, CytiVite I(TM) (Vitamin And Mineral Premix Consisting Of Vitamin A Acetate, Ascorbic Acid, Folate, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Niacinamide, Pyridoxine HCL, Cyanocobalamin, Biotin, Pantothenic Acid, Di-Calcium Phosphate, Potassium Iodine, Potassium Chloride, Ferrous Fumarate, Magnesium Oxide, Copper Gluconate, Zinc Oxide, Chromium Nicotinate), Natural And Artificial Flavors, Acesulfame Potassium, Sucralose, Soy Lecithin.

Next, look for protein powder that is made from hormone-free grassfed milk. Grassfed milk contains five times more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), the perfect ratio of essential fatty acids, and contains more beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin D than grain-fed milk. You also want to make sure the protein is a “concentrate” and not an “isolate”. Isolates are proteins stripped away from their nutritional cofactors.

After all these criteria, it may seem that almost every protein powder on the shelf is eliminated, right? I have found one protein powder that is delicious and meets all of the above criteria called, One World Whey. There are a few other cold-processed, grassfed protein powders available such as Upgraded Whey Protein Powder, Mercola Pure Power Protein, and Miracle Whey, but I haven’t personally tried these brands.

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Medical Advice Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship.

© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. This information is intellectual property of Dr J Renae Norton. Reproduction and distribution for educational purposes is permissible. Please credit ‘© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. http://edpro.wpengine.com’