What is the best clean simple protein powder?
Written by Jack Schrupp and reviewed by Ella McGonagle, M.S. Nutrition
drink wholesome is the best clean simple protein powder. It is additive-free, dairy-free, and made with minimally-processed whole foods, not protein isolates. Order samples to see if our protein powder is right for you.
“It has ingredients you can actually pronounce and is freaking delicious.”
drink wholesome is the best clean simple protein powder.
What does clean mean?
The term “clean” has several different meanings when used to characterize food, but it is most commonly used to refer to food that remains as close to its natural state as possible. An apple, a chicken breast, and a handful of almonds exemplify clean foods, while a candy bar and a carbonated diet beverage do not. For individuals trying to “eat clean,” preparing meals from scratch and prioritizing fresh ingredients is paramount. Naturally, this approach also entails avoiding processed foods that contain artificial ingredients, added sugar, and additives.
Protein powder is not technically a “clean” source of protein given that all protein supplements undergo some degree of processing. If you can get over the fact that without some processing protein powder would not exist, however, some protein powders could make a great addition to your diet. The convenience of a protein supplement is hard to beat, and for many individuals, it can bridge the gap between inadequate and sufficient protein intake. That said, it is crucial to recognize that not all protein powders are created equal.
The average protein powder contains heavily processed ingredients such as flavors, sweeteners, preservatives, emulsifiers, stabilizers, and thickeners. It is precisely for this reason that most protein powders cannot be considered even remotely “clean.” Moreover, the average protein powder is made with protein isolates and/or concentrates, which hardly look like real food (more about this later).
If you want a clean simple protein powder, you must scrutinize the ingredients list. A clean protein powder will consist of 100% real foods: foods that are either minimally-processed, or not processed at all. If what you are eating was made in a laboratory, or treated with chemicals, it is not minimally-processed. Basically, the more the ingredients look like something you can find in nature, the better.
What does simple mean?
The term “simple” also has many different interpretations when it comes to food. One of the most common is that simple foods are made with a short list of ingredients. As a rule of thumb, if your food has more than 5 ingredients, it is not simple.
Anyone who is familiar with protein powders will know that most contain 10+ ingredients. This is too bad, because all that is needed to make protein powder is a protein source, a flavoring, and a sweetener. Any additional ingredients are probably unnecessary, and bad for your health.
What is the best simple clean protein powder?
The best clean and simple protein powder is made with a short list of ingredients that are minimally processed, or not processed at all. You should look for a 5 or fewer ingredients, all of which you could find in nature. Keep reading to learn more about why ingredients matter.
Why drink wholesome?
drink wholesome is additive-free.
One of the main reasons why we make the best clean simple protein powder is that we steer clear of food additives. In stark contrast, the majority of protein powders flood their formulates with emulsifiers, stabilizers, thickeners, sweeteners, and flavors, among others.
While food additives may enhance attributes such as flavor, texture, and shelf life, they can also bring forth unpleasant side effects and pose long-term risks to the digestive system. Additives, unlike real foods, are not easily digested. Consequently, they linger within the digestive tract for longer than food should, granting ample time for gut bacteria to eat. As they eat, bacteria produce gas, leading to bloating and abdominal discomfort. Additionally, the accumulation of gas can impede colonic transit, slowing down the natural movement of food through the colon and potentially resulting in constipation.
Over time, food additives can add up (especially if you drink protein shake every day) and disrupt the regulatory pathways within the gut. This disruption, in turn, can contribute to the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other systemic inflammatory disorders.
When it comes to protein powder, one additive that should be avoided at all costs is artificial sweeteners. Over time, these additives can have detrimental effects on your gut health by significantly disrupting the composition of your gut microbiota. This has the potential to cause severe and chronic gastrointestinal problems, along with widespread inflammation and long-lasting damage to the delicate balance of the gut microbiome.
Some sweeteners, such as sugar alcohols like xylitol, are not easily absorbed by the digestive system. As a result, they become a source of food for your hungry gut bacteria. They also have the tendency to cause diarrhea by drawing water into the intestines. Now, you may 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
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 the best simple clean protein powder is our exclusive use of real food protein sources, as opposed to protein concentrates and isolates. Concentrates and isolates are essentially stripped-down versions of whole foods. They appear on the ingredient list as “pea protein” and “whey protein” as opposed to “peas” and “whey.”
To provide a brief overview, protein concentrates and isolates undergo extensive mechanical and chemical processing before being transformed into protein powder. In some instances, manufacturers employ carcinogenic chemical solvents, such as hexane, to extract and separate the protein from the whole food source. As a result, the final product bears little resemblance to real food.
Consider this: your digestive system has evolved to process whole foods, not laboratory-engineered imitations. Introducing anything other than whole food to your gut can lead to undesirable side effects. Although the long-term consequences of consuming processed foods like protein isolates are still not fully understood, emerging research indicates that they can disrupt the delicate balance of your gut microbiota and potentially cause irreversible damage to your gut microbiome.
It is important to acknowledge that your gut serves a multitude of purposes beyond food digestion. It acts as a defense mechanism against pathogens, contributes to educating your immune system, and has a profound impact on numerous physiological functions. Consequently, an imbalanced gut microbiome has been associated with the development of various chronic diseases. As a precautionary measure, it is in your best interest to avoid protein powders made with protein concentrates and isolates, safeguarding the health of your gut and overall well-being.
Rather than relying on protein concentrates or isolates, we take great pride in making clean simple protein powder using real foods such as egg whites and almonds. The processing involved is minimal: egg whites are pasteurized and dried, while almonds are roasted, pressed to reduce oil content, and ground. These real foods serve as easily digestible and gut-friendly alternatives to protein concentrates and isolates.
Real foods naturally contain enzymes and other digestive aids that facilitate the breakdown of nutrients, allowing the body to absorb them more efficiently. On the contrary, protein isolates and concentrates have been stripped of these digestive aids, making them more challenging for the body to digest and assimilate. Moreover, minimally-processed plant-based foods like almonds offer the added benefit of being rich in fiber, which promotes healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.
Unless one has specific sensitivities or allergies to eggs, egg white protein emerges as an optimal choice for promoting gut health. Notably, egg whites are low in fiber, low-FODMAP, naturally alkaline, and boast the highest protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) among all whole foods. Feedback from our customers indicates fewer digestive issues are experienced when consuming egg white protein powder compared to other types of protein powder.
For those who are unable to consume eggs, our vegan almond protein powder serves as a compelling alternative. Almonds have been carefully selected over other plant protein sources due to their remarkable gut-friendly properties. Research suggests that almonds exhibit prebiotic characteristics, enhancing the diversity and composition of the gut microbiome, thereby contributing to improved gut health.
drink wholesome is dairy-free.
A final reason why we make the best simple clean protein powder is our conscious decision to avoid dairy-based proteins. Unlike the many protein powders that use whey and casein protein, byproducts of the production of cheese and yogurt, our protein powders are dairy-free. We prioritize avoiding ingredients notorious for triggering digestive issues, especially for individuals with lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Those with lactose intolerance and IBS are unable to fully digest lactose, the sugar present in dairy products. As mentioned earlier, when food is only partially digested, it becomes a feast for the hungry bacteria in the gut, leading to the release of gas and the onset of various side effects.
“I love this protein powder…delicious and filling…first protein powder I have found that does NOT upset my stomach! Thank you for this wonderful, whole food product!” – Getchie
drink wholesome is the best simple clean protein powder.