Protein Powders: Healthy Or Harmful?

Many Americans use protein powder as a supplement in their diet.  There are so many options on the market  and they are without a doubt one of the most widely available “health food products,” and consequently the most confusing.

Here is some helpful information from Hallie at Daily Bites Blog to help clear up the confusion!

Pros of Protein Powder

Weight Gain/Muscle Building
If you’re struggling to gain weight and want to put on a few pounds or build lean muscle, protein powders are a convenient way to add extra calories and “substance” to your diet. They’re especially helpful for busy people on the go (including athletes or super active teenagers) who need fast nutrition without much prep time.

Blood Sugar Balancing
For individuals with sensitive blood sugar that tends to drop/spike rapidly, shakes made with protein powder can help between meals to offer a boost of blood sugar-balancing protein in a convenient form.

Easily Portable
If you’re on the go, travel frequently, or work odd hours, protein shakes and bars can stand in for meals.

But what about the cons? Well get ready. Because to me the cons far outweigh the pros.

Cons of Protein Powder

Heavy Metals
“In 2010, Consumer Reports magazine sampled 15 protein powders and drinks and found that most of them had low to moderate ranges of the heavy metals arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury. When accumulated in the body, these heavy metals are toxic to major organs. The report found that with especially three of the popular brands, consumers who have three servings daily could be exposed to levels that exceed the maximum limits for heavy metal contaminants.” (Source)

A side of heavy metals with my protein shake?  No thank you.  
MSG  protein-powder
Heavy metals aren’t the only impurities to be worried about. During the processing of high protein foods like protein isolates, MSG is created. “Since it’s not an additional ingredient, but a consequence of the manufacturing process, MSG doesn’t need to be labeled on protein powders. Low temperature drying is an attempt to minimize the creation of monosodium glutamate, yet the end result is still a denatured protein and should be regarded with a wary eye.” (Source)
Common Allergens & Additives
It’s no secret that whey protein is one of most common varieties available. Whey can cause extreme digestive stress in many people (myself included), not to mention it’s usually coming from factory farmed cow’s milk…which is in no way close to nature! Even whey protein from grass-fed animals can be brutally hard on the digestive system. (I’ve personally tried this brand after hearing good things, but it gave me a steady chronic stomach ache for over 24 hours.)
Soy protein is a far cry from a healthful alternative. Most soy protein powders come from genetically modified crops. Along with whey, isolated soy protein is one of the most difficult ingredients to digest and also creates a very acidic response in the body. Some studies have even found traces of hexane—a byproduct of making gasoline—in soy-based products such as bars, powders, and burgers.
Other common offenders in protein powders include corn derivatives, sweeteners (including artificial ones which are a HUGE red flag!), synthetic vitamins and minerals (made in a lab as cheaply as possible), and gums like xanthan, guar, and locust bean. All of these additives might make protein powder a little easier on the palate, but they do a number on the digestive system. And what benefits do we get for our health? Zilch.
Over Processing
Simply put, powdered protein is denatured protein. I don’t care if it’s from a cow, a soybean, a hemp seed, or a grain of rice. Protein powder is a processed food and does not occur naturally in the plant world. Hexane, MSG, heavy metals, and artificial sweeteners aside, I think this fact alone should give us pause before throwing back the protein shakes.

Plant Based Protein May Be An Option 

So what about plant-based protein powders that contain a blend of different protein sources like brown rice, hemp seed, cranberry, or pea protein?  These are easier to digest and offer essential amino acids.

Be Careful

If you choose to consume protein powder, then please please please please choose the purest form possible. Do your research! Know exactly what you are getting in the product. If you’re unsure about the quality and don’t receive clear, scientifically backed up information from the company, send  your business elsewhere.

If you choose to consume protein powder, please be careful. Here are tips from Daily Bites:
  • Do not rely on it. In other words, don’t eat it every day or even every other day. Many people in the fitness industry eat several scoops of protein powder per day. That’s way too much and you’re just asking for a heavy metal overload.
  • Enjoy other sources of whole food protein. Yes, this means you’ll probably have to take a few extra steps to prepare your own food. Grabbing a protein bar or shake on the go is much easier, but the health trade-offs are far from worth it.
  • Eat REAL food. If you picture it growing or living in nature, eat it. If not, don’t.

 

Bottom Line

In our dash-and-dine society, the convenience of protein powder has been welcomed with open arms.

But our cultural obsession with and reliance on protein powders, bars, and pre-made shakes is risky business. There are serious downsides to protein powder that, far outweigh the few pros.

When it comes to our food and our health, eating as close to the earth is the most important thing we can do. If we want to live long and live well, we must place more emphasis on purity, quality, and nutrient-density than grab-and-go convenience.

Our health and vitality matter. We need to start acting like it.

 

Source: Daily Bites

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