What is the best low sodium protein powder?
What is sodium?
Though the words “salt” and “sodium” are often used interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing. Salt (also known by its chemical name, sodium chloride) is a naturally occurring compound. Sodium, on the other hand, is a mineral, and one of the constituents of salt. It helps your body maintain fluid and blood volume, and plays an important role in muscle and nerve function. That said, the amount of sodium needed by the body is relatively small, and most Americans consume far too much. Although sodium is naturally occurring in many foods, most of the sodium that Americans eat comes from packaged, processed, store-bought, and restaurant foods. Americans eat, on average, about 3,400mg of sodium per day, or 5+ teaspoons of salt, which is about 20 times as much as the body needs.
Why low sodium?
Consuming too much sodium can raise your blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Consuming too much sodium can also cause fluid retention, which can lead to swelling and other uncomfortable side effects. Essentially, depending on who you are, reducing the amount of sodium in your diet may very well improve your overall health. When limiting sodium intake, aim to consume less than 2,000 milligrams of sodium per day, which is roughly the equivalent of one teaspoon of salt. For reference, a Big Mac from McDonald’s contains 1100mg of sodium, or over half of your daily sodium intake.
Which protein supplements are low sodium?
Some types of protein supplements are low sodium, others are not. Our egg white protein powders, for example, are not low sodium because the main ingredient is egg whites, which naturally contain a moderate amount of sodium. One serving of our peanut butter flavor contains 220mg of sodium, or roughly 10% of the recommended daily value (DV). Although 220mg of sodium is a healthy amount for most people, it may be too much for someone looking to reduce his or her sodium intake. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA, 5% DV or less of sodium per serving is considered low, and 20% DV or more of sodium per serving is considered high.
For this reason, I recommend our almond-based protein powders if you are on a low sodium diet. They contain 0mg of sodium per serving. The average whey protein powder, in contrast, contains 50mg+ of sodium per serving, and the average pea protein powder contains over 200mg. To be fair, there are many other low sodium protein supplements out there, but not all of them are created equal.
There are two types of protein shakes: ready-to-drink (store-bought) protein shakes, and protein shakes made with protein powder. In order to make a low sodium protein shake with protein powder, you have to mix the powder with milk or water. This requires a blender or a shaker bottle, and a little extra time and effort. Some people prefer ready-to-drink protein shakes because they are more convenient, but if they knew what they were drinking, they would probably vomit.
Ready-to-drink protein shakes are full of emulsifiers, stabilizers, and thickeners. Ingredients like these improve characteristics like shelf stability, but are hard to digest and can cause uncomfortable side effects (more about this soon). This is why I recommend that you make your own low sodium protein shake with protein powder. That said, not all protein powders are created equal, and many contain the same additives found in ready-to-drink protein shakes! Keep reading to learn why you should avoid food additives.
Avoid food additives.
Most protein powders 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, generally speaking, hard to digest. They 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. Artificial sweeteners are among the most harmful 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 low sodium protein drinks, however. There are several other ingredients that can upset your stomach.
egg whites, coconut, cocoa, monk fruit
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.
Dairy-based proteins like whey and casein, which are byproducts of cheese and yogurt production, are known to cause digestive issues, especially for people with lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Over one in three Americans are lactose intolerant, and the prevalence of IBS is somewhere between 10 and 15 percent in the United States. It follows that you may be lactose intolerant or have IBS and not even know it. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a poorly understood condition, and it is unclear why dairy triggers symptoms. Lactose intolerance, on the other hand, is clearly understood. People with lactose intolerance are unable to fully digest lactose, the sugar in dairy. As you just learned, partially digested food feeds the bacteria in your gut, which produce gas.
Avoid protein concentrates and isolates.
Finding an additive-free, dairy-free protein powder is hard. Finding an additive-free, dairy-free protein powder made with real foods is next to impossible. Why? Most protein powders are made with protein concentrates and 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. The problem with ingredients that look nothing like real food is that they are hard to digest. (Your gut always prefers the real thing, not some heavily-processed imitation.)
Instead of protein concentrates or isolates, we use 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.
“I just finished my first bag and ordered 2 more! I Iove this stuff! I have IBS and every protein powder hurts my stomach…except drink wholesome!”
Why drink wholesome?
Our protein powders are additive-free, dairy-free, and made with real foods, not protein isolates – 99% of supplements fail to meet at least one of these criteria. They are 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.
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.