Protein powder supplements are everywhere, and choosing a high-quality one that is beneficial to your body can be confusing and mind-boggling. They are vastly different because of the sources of ingredients as well as manufacturers’ practices.
I personally love protein smoothies and shakes (I’m drinking one as I write) and I consume one almost every day. You can’t beat the convenience or the nutrition.
Why use protein powders?
Protein is essential in our diets and necessary to build, maintain and repair muscle. Meats contain complete proteins and plants contain incomplete proteins that have to be combined to make a complete protein. The problem with turning to meat exclusively for your protein is that meat is acidic. It’s very vital to our health to keep our internal environment as disease-fighting and health-producing alkaline as possible (think fruits and veggies).
Another problem with commercial meat is that it is filled with chemicals, antibiotics and hormones.
What kind of protein powder should I choose?
Let’s make this simple and break protein powders into two categories: animal-based (whey, casein or egg); and plant-based (soy, rice, sprouts and various grains).
Whey protein concentrate is superior to casein or egg. Casein is the protein responsible for most dairy allergies and intolerances. Whey is digested faster than both casein and egg.
The benefits of consuming whey are valid for muscle building, muscle recovery and weight management. Whey packs a protein punch. Just 3 ounces of high-quality whey is the equivalent of eating 1.5 pounds of chicken or 16 eggs.
The tricky part is picking a high-quality whey product. Whey protein isolate is heat processed, which strips the product of alkalinity – avoid it like a bad suit. Look for whole food, cold-processed whey concentrate made from organic-fed cows not treated with growth hormones or antibiotics.
Many whey proteins are exposed to acid processing. Heat and acid damages the protein and makes it insoluble in water. Insoluble powders are not ideal for a variety of reasons, so manufacturers add chemical flavors and detergents to restore flavor and solubility. Other undesirable ingredients include chemical surfactants, genetically modified soy lecithin, disguised MSG chemicals, and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose.
Even if you decide to go with a high-quality, organic whey concentrate, I want to give a big caution. If you are going to consume whey, it is critical to maintain a diet high in other plant-based foods. Whey is still derived from animal sources and therefore can be acid-forming in large quantities, the same as a diet with an overemphasis on meat and dairy. Maintaining an alkaline body is key to avoiding disease, and eating a diet full of plant-based foods is the only way to keep the body alkaline.
Plants have to be combined to make a complete protein (unlike animal protein). Most plant-based protein powders use various grains and sprouts combined. Again, purchase only organic, whole-food products from a reputable company.
I have to be honest, I’m not a fan of soy protein and especially don’t like soy protein isolate products. Over 90 percent of all soy grown in the U.S. is genetically modified (GMO). GMO foods have been shown to exhibit health risks including hormone and thyroid disruption and fertility problems. Organic soy is the only kind that should be consumed.
Is there anything else I need to consider when purchasing a protein powder?
ConsumerLab tested many popular protein powders and surprisingly found some with toxic levels (exceeds the USP limit) of heavy metals.
Dr. Robert Wright, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School who is conducting research on the health effects of exposure to toxic metals says, “Small amounts of exposure are inevitable, but a product that exceeds the USP limit is clearly doing something wrong.” Consumer Reports also investigated and published its findings.
If you need a healthy smoothie recipe, there is one on my website. I also add ice to make it a frosty treat.
As you can see, there is much to consider when purchasing a high quality protein product. Be careful and selective. You could actually be doing yourself more harm than good, if you consume an inferior product. There is a boatload of good products out there, and I will be happy to send you a copy of my favorite ones I’ve researched. Email me at [email protected].
When the right protein powder is selected, it can add health boosting nutrients to your daily regimen. I’m lifting my own protein smoothie up right now and wishing you, “Happy shakes and smoothies!”
"I am 25 years old. In the seven years since high school, I gained 50 pounds. Throughout those years, I tried Weight Watchers a few different times. I tried counting calories, and there were even times when I visited the gym regularly. I would lose a few pounds here and there but then gain it all back – plus some. I set up an appointment with Lindy and in 10 minutes she pretty much pinpointed why I was having such a hard time getting healthy. Her hunch was backed up by blood work and now eight weeks later, I have more energy, confidence, and lost 18 pounds! I am sure that I will continue to lose the weight and am on my way towards a healthy life for myself, my husband, and my future children! What an amazing feeling!! Thank you, Lindy!!! ... She really cares too!"
Disclaimer: As with any dietary supplement, consult your healthcare practitioner before using this product, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, anticipate surgery, take medication on a regular basis or are otherwise under medical supervision.
Lindy Ford, RD, LDN is a Registered Dietitian and Licensed Nutritionist who runs Lindy Ford Nutrition & Wellness, LLC, a private practice in Wilmington. She received her degree in Nutritional Science from the University of Maryland, College Park. She treats each patient according to their unique physiology so they can achieve long-term results. For more information, visit lindyfordwellness.com, call (443) 417-8352 or send an email to [email protected].
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