What is the best clean protein powder?

Written by Jack Schrupp and reviewed by Ella McGonagle, M.S. Nutrition

drink wholesome is the best clean protein powder. It is additive-free, dairy-free, and made with real foods, not protein isolates – 99% of supplements fail to meet at least one of these criteria. This makes it perfect for people with gut issues and sensitive stomachs, as well as for people just looking to boost their protein intake without the processing and added junk. Order samples to see if our clean protein powder is right for you. 

“If you have a sensitive gut, you need simple ingredients.”

-Brittany Carpenter, MS, RDN/LDN

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drink wholesome is the best clean protein powder.

What is protein powder? 

Which type of protein powder is best? 

Which type of protein powder is the cleanest? 

Why drink wholesome?

What is protein powder?  


Protein powder is a concentrated form of protein, in powder form. Common types include whey protein, egg white protein, and pea protein. It can be used to make protein shakes, blended into smoothies, and added to oatmeal, yogurt, and other recipes. Although people use protein powder to achieve different wellness goals, they all use it for the same basic reason, to increase their protein intake. 

It is important for you to understand that protein powder is just food. It alone will not make you stronger. It alone will not make you lose weight. Do not expect it to do anything for you that normal food cannot. It can certainly help you achieve your fitness goals – like gaining muscle and losing weight – but only when paired with thoughtful exercise and nutrition.  

What is clean protein powder?


The term “clean eating” has many different meanings, but it is generally understood as eating foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. If you are trying to eat clean, you should try to make your meals from scratch, and prioritize fresh ingredients. It therefore goes without saying that you should also avoid processed foods made with artificial ingredients, added sugar, and additives (more about this later).

Protein powder is not certainly not the most natural way to get your dietary protein, but its convenience is hard to beat. The only way to determine whether or not a protein powder is “clean” or not is to read the ingredients. A clean protein powder is made with 100% real foods, foods that are either minimally processed, or not processed at all. Examples of real foods include almonds, eggs, and oats. Ingredients like sunflower lecithin and xanthan gum, on the other hand, are not real foods.  

The vast majority of protein powders are NOT clean because they contain food additives, heavily-processed ingredients added to protein powder to improve characteristics like shelf life and texture. Food additives generally fall into one of the following categories: flavors, colors, preservatives, anti-caking and gelling agents, emulsifiers, stabilizers, or thickeners. 

Which type of protein powder is the cleanest? 


There are many different types of protein powder, and no one type is necessarily cleaner than another. In other words, pea, egg white, and whey protein are all compatible with clean eating. Some brands of protein powder are cleaner than others, however, and to understand the differences, you must take a close look at the ingredient list. 

Why drink wholesome


drink wholesome is additive-free.

We make clean protein powder because we do not use food additives. Most protein powders, on the other hand, are full of food additives. Although not necessarily bad for you in small quantities, additives can add up quickly (especially if you drink a protein shake every day) and cause gastrointestinal (GI) side effects like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, and stomach pain. This is because food additives are hard to digest, and sit in your gut for longer than food should, which gives your gut bacteria more time to eat. As they eat, these bacteria produce gas, which causes bloating and stomach pain. Gas also slows colonic transit (the amount of time it takes food to travel through the colon), and can lead to constipation. In the long term, food additives can disrupt regulatory pathways in the intestine, which can result in the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and systemic inflammatory disorders.

vegan vanilla protein powder serving suggestion
vanilla protein powder lifestyle image 1

When buying clean protein powder, one ingredient to avoid in particular is artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are among the most harmful food additives in the long term as they alter the composition of your gut microbiota (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food). This can lead to serious, chronic GI problems, widespread inflammation, and permanent damage to the gut microbiome. Some sweeteners, especially sugar alcohols like xylitol, are also poorly absorbed by the gut (meaning they feed those hungry gut bacteria), and cause diarrhea because they draw water into your intestine. Now you finally have something to blame for those post-protein shake trips to the bathroom!

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

acacia gum, acesulfame potassium, artificial flavors, aspartame, carrageenan, cellulose gum, dextrin, dextrose, erythritol, gellan gum, guar gum, gum arabic, inulin, locust bean gum, “natural” flavors, maltodextrin, rice syrup solids, soy lecithin, silica, sucralose, sunflower lecithin, xanthan gum, xylitol

When it comes to identifying food additives, go with your gut. 😉 As a rule of thumb, they are the ingredients that you cannot pronounce. Food additives are not the only thing to look out for when buying protein powder, however. There are several other ingredients that can upset your stomach.

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.

*This is the actual ingredient list of one of the best-selling protein powders in the United States.

drink wholesome is made with real foods.

Another reason why we make clean protein powder is that we do not use protein isolates. Most protein powders, on the contrary, are made with protein concentrates and/or isolates, foods stripped of everything but the protein. They are listed on the ingredient list as “pea protein” and “whey protein” as opposed to “peas” and “whey.” I will not go into the details, but protein concentrates and isolates undergo heavy mechanical and chemical processing before becoming protein powder. Sometimes, manufacturers use chemical solvents like hexane to isolate (separate) the protein from the food. This means that what you end up putting into your body looks nothing like real food.

If you think about it, your gut was designed to digest naturally occurring foods, not laboratory formulated imitations, so if you feed it anything but real food, it might get upset. The long term implications of eating processed foods are still not well understood, but more and more research is finding that it can alter the composition of your gut microbiota, and lead to permanent damage to the gut microbiome. It is therefore in your best interest to avoid protein powders made with protein concentrates and isolates. 

vegan chocolate protein powder lifestyle image 1
chocolate protein powder serving suggestion

Instead of protein concentrates or isolates, we make the cleanest protein powder with egg whites and almonds. Egg whites are simply pasteurized and dried before becoming protein powder. Almonds are just roasted, pressed, and ground. Minimally-processed ingredients like these are an easy to digest, gut-friendly alternative to protein concentrates and isolates. Unless you have a sensitivity or allergy to eggs, egg white protein is the best protein for your gut. Egg whites are low in fiber, low-FODMAP, naturally alkaline, and have the highest protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) of any whole food. Our customers have experienced fewer digestive issues with egg white protein than with any other type of protein. If you cannot eat eggs, try our almond protein powder. Unlike protein concentrates or isolates, almonds contain lots of healthy fats, fiber, and other nutrients like calcium and vitamin E. We prefer almonds to other minimally-processed plant protein sources because they are more gut-friendly. Research suggests that almonds possess prebiotic properties and can improve the diversity and composition of the gut microbiome.

★★★★★

easy to digest

“I’ve had Crohn’s disease for 20+ years and it’s always been hard to find a protein powder my stomach can handle. I’ve had no problem digesting drink wholesome AND it tastes great. I highly recommend this protein powder if you have IBS or Crohn’s.” – Jesse

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drink wholesome is the cleanest protein powder.

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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.