What is the best protein powder without heavy metals?

Looking for the best protein powder without heavy metals? I hate to break it to you, but no such thing exists. Keep reading to learn why.

Written by Jack Schrupp & endorsed by Baylee Reller, RDN

All protein powders contain heavy metals.

What are heavy metals? 

In recent years, there has been increasing global public health concern about environmental contamination by heavy metals. Soils polluted with heavy metals are becoming more and more common due to an increase in geologic and anthropogenic activities. There has also been increasing concern about the levels of heavy metals found in protein powders, specifically vegan protein powders. The thought is that heavy metals absorbed by plants are concentrated in protein powders made from these plants. Is this concern legitimate? 

Heavy metals are naturally occurring elements with a relatively high density compared to water. They are all around us – in the ground we walk on, in the water we drink, and in the food we eat.

Some heavy metals are good for us. For example, we need trace amounts of copper and iron to stay healthy, Other heavy metals – such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury – are toxic and classified as human carcinogens by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. 


Why are there heavy metals in food? 

Heavy metals are natural constituents of the Earth’s soil, air, and water. They are absorbed by plants – even organically grown, non-GMO crops contain heavy metals. Some plants do absorb more heavy metals than others, and different plants are prone to absorbing different heavy metals, but if you eat plants, you eat heavy metals. This is unavoidable. Just because plants contain heavy metals, however, does not mean that they are not safe to eat. Most of the time, plants contain heavy metals at levels so low that they do not pose a threat to human health.

Moreover, when animals drink water or eat plants, heavy metals begin to build up in them too. Meat, fish, eggs, dairy, etc. all contain trace amounts of heavy metals, usually at levels safe for human consumption. Only certain animals, like tuna, contain enough heavy metals that they should be eaten in moderation.

So, if you use protein powder that is made from ingredients grown or raised on planet Earth, you are consuming heavy metals. There is no way around it, and no such thing as a protein powder without heavy metals. 


Do I need to worry about heavy metals in protein powder? 

In 2018, a group called the Clean Label Project published an article warning consumers about the dangers of heavy metals in protein powders. It made claims like “Approximately 75% had measurable levels of lead” and “plant-based protein powders contained mercury, cadmium and arsenic,” and went viral. Seemingly overnight, people everywhere were throwing out protein powders and panicking about their health, which is absurd. 

As you just learned, heavy metals are in ALL FOODS and there is NO SUCH THING as protein powder without heavy metals. The fact that protein powders contain detectable amounts of heavy metals is not groundbreaking news, nor is it something anyone should worry about. It is perfectly normal, and to be expected. To put matters into perspective, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there are more heavy metals in common foods like kale, apples, avocados than there are vegan protein supplements. 

The reason why the Clean Label Project published the article in question was not to protect consumers, but to promote the certification services it offers. You can pay this group thousands of dollars to put a label on your product certifying that it does not contain dangerous levels of heavy metals. Or, you can ignore the fear mongering, and eat a balanced diet like humans have been doing for thousands of years. The choice is yours.

Instead of hopelessly looking for the best vegan protein powder without heavy metals, you should focus your attention on the ingredient list. Ingredients like emulsifiers, thickeners, flavors, and sugar substitutes will do far more harm than the trace amounts of heavy metals in protein powders. Keep reading to learn more.

Why drink wholesome

drink wholesome is additive-free.

We do not make protein powder without heavy metals (no one does), but we do steer clear of food additives. Most additives are far worse for you than heavy metals, and can cause serious gut health problems.

Here is a list of the most common food additives in protein powders:

acacia fiber, acacia gum, acesulfame potassium, artificial flavors, ascorbic acid, aspartame, calcium carbonate, carrageenan, cellulose gum, dextrin, dicalcium phosphate, dipotassium phosphate, erythritol, gellan gum, guar gum, gum arabic, inulin, locust bean gum, maltodextrin, mono- and diglycerides, ‘natural’ flavors, rice bran extract, rice dextrin, rice hulls, rosemary extract, silica, silicon dioxide, sodium alginate, sodium bicarbonate, soluble corn fiber, soy lecithin, sucralose, sunflower lecithin, tocopherols, tricalcium phosphate, xanthan gum, xylitol, zinc oxide

Additives like emulsifiers, thickeners, flavors, and sugar substitutes are hard to break down because they are not real food. This means they spend extra time in your gut, feeding your hungry gut bacteria.

This not only causes gastrointestinal (GI) side effects like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, flatulence, and stomach pain, but it also alters the composition and function of your gut microbiome – the collection of microorganisms living in your digestive tract.

An altered gut microbiome is a leading cause of inflammation and linked to the onset and progression of several chronic diseases. Forget heavy metals, food additives are the real enemy!

the alternative:

Protein Matrix Comprised of (Whey Protein Concentrate,  Whey Protein Isolate, Calcium Caseinate, Micellar Casein, Milk Protein Isolate, Egg Albumen, Glutamine Peptides), Polydextrose, Sunflower Creamer (Sunflower Oil, Corn Syrup Solids,  Sodium Caseinate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Dipotassium Phosphate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Soy Lecithin, Tocopherols), Natural and Artificial Flavor, MCT Powder (Medium Chain Triglycerides, Nonfat Dry Milk, Disodium Phosphate, Silicon Dioxide), Lecithin, Cellulose Gum, Salt, Yellow 5, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, Papain, Bromelain

drink wholesome is dairy-free.

Another reason why we make the best protein powder is that we do not use whey and casein. These dairy-based proteins contain lactose, a sugar that most adults cannot fully digest, and therefore cause a lot of digestive problems.

drink wholesome is made with real foods.

A final reason why we make the best protein powder is that we do not use protein concentrates or isolates. Nearly every other protein supplement is made from one or both of these protein sources, which look nothing like real food.

If you really want the best protein powder without heavy metals, avoiding protein powders made with protein concentrates or isolates is the way to go. Through heavy processing and stripping away everything but the protein, manufacturers may concentrate the amount of heavy metals in your protein powder. Sticking to whole foods, as humans have always done, is a far safer option.

Instead of using protein concentrates or isolates, we make the best protein powder with egg whites and almonds. Whole food protein sources like these do contain trace amounts of heavy metals, but are perfectly safe to eat every day. Here is the heavy metal profile of our egg white protein powder, and that of our vegan almond protein powder.

In conclusion, we make protein powders with a short list of simple ingredients so that people like you can boost their protein intake without compromising their health.

simple and delicious

“I have problems digesting whey / lactose products…always bloated with horrible other symptoms…I tried ALL vegan protein powders and just about every whey isolate powder available…NONE helped…I also have issues with sugar alcohols…I love this product and I LOVE supporting small businesses…thank you for creating a wonderful product that blends and taste good ( truly a bonus )!” – Tammy

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This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. drink wholesome is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.