What is the best low sugar protein powder?
Written by Jack Schrupp and reviewed by Ella McGonagle, M.S. Nutrition
drink wholesome makes the best low sugar 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 protein powder is right for you.
“It has ingredients you can actually pronounce and is freaking delicious.”
drink wholesome is the best low sugar protein powder.
What is the deal with sugar?
With so many fad diets and sources of nutrition advice, it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction, especially when it comes to sugar. First of all, sugar is not necessarily bad for you. The naturally occurring sugars in fruits and vegetables, for example, are part of a healthy diet. Added sugars, on the other hand, are a different story.
In 2016, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) revised the Nutrition Facts label to include both “Total Sugars” and “Added Sugars.” Added Sugars are sugars introduced to food during processing. Total Sugars are added sugars as well as naturally occurring sugars like those in fruits.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that no more than 10 percent of your daily caloric intake come from Added Sugars. This is because eating too many Added Sugars can raise your risk for chronic disease such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
What is low-sugar?
According to the FDA, “sugar-free” means that one serving of food contains less than 0.5 grams of sugar, both natural and added. The term “low-sugar,” on the other hand, is not defined by the FDA. Food manufacturers therefore cannot legally make “low sugar” or “reduced sugar” nutrient content claims (NCCs) on their packaging. This includes NCCs that imply low sugar like “lightly sweetened” and “slightly sweet.” Manufacturers who make claims like these could be accused of false advertising.
Kellogg, for example, recently settled a class action lawsuit over the use of the claim “lightly sweetened” on some of their cereals. Plaintiffs argued the claim in question implied that the cereals were low in sugar, when they fact contained 18-40% added sugar. We therefore cannot legally say that our protein powders are low sugar. That said, if you look at our Nutrition Facts, it should be obvious that drink wholesome is a great option for someone looking to limit or reduce their sugar intake.
The FDA’s Daily Value for Added Sugars is 50 grams based on a 2,000 calorie diet. One serving of our protein powder contains at most 2 grams of Total Sugar, and with the exception of our vanilla protein powder, 0 grams of Added Sugar. Although there is no Daily Value for Total Sugar, 2 grams of Total Sugar is significantly lower than the FDA’s recommendation for added sugars. This makes using drink wholesome a great way to boost your protein intake without eating lot of sugar.
Just because a protein powder has little to no sugar does not make it good for you, however. Sugar content is one indication of how healthy a food is, but there are many other indicators that are just as, if not more, important. Among them are the ingredients. There are many sugar-free protein powders that are not good for you because they are made with bad ingredients. Here are a few of the ingredients to avoid when buying protein powder.
Why not artificial sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners are chemicals added to foods and beverages to make them sweet, and appear on the ingredient list of most sugar-free protein powders. The two most popular artificial sweeteners are sucralose and acesulfame potassium. They are so popular because of their intense sweetness; a pinch of artificial sweetener can be used to achieve the same amount of sweetness as several tablespoons of sugar. This allows protein powder companies to reduce both the caloric and sugar content of their products.
Although artificial sweeteners offer sweetness with virtually zero calories or sugar, they are not good for you. Several studies suggest that artificial sweeteners increase cravings toward sugary and sweet foods, which can lead to binging and feelings of withdrawal. Other studies have associated artificial sweeteners with a higher risk of glucose intolerance, which is a precursor for pre-diabetes and diabetes. Research also suggests that artificial sweeteners are bad for your gut. In the short term, artificial sweeteners are poorly digested and feed your gut bacteria, which produce gas that causes bloating, cramps, and nausea. In the long term, artificial sweeteners alter the composition of your gut microbiota (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food). This can lead to serious GI problems and widespread inflammation. Finally, some artificial sweeteners can cause diarrhea because they draw water into your gut. Now you have something to blame for those post-protein shake trips to the bathroom!
Another reason to avoid artificial sweeteners is the bad aftertaste. Artificial sweeteners are often way too sweet, and have a bitter aftertaste because they activate bitter taste receptors. This bitterness, which many say reminds them of licking aluminum foil, can linger in your mouth for hours.
Why not stevia?
Some sugar-free protein powders are sweetened with stevia, an inexpensive zero calorie sweetener derived from the stevia rebaudiana plant. Stevia is over 100 times sweeter than table sugar, and is considered by many to be a natural alternative to artificial sweeteners. Few people know, however, that stevia is extracted from the stevia rebaudiana plant using chemicals like ethanol and methyl alcohol. This, one could argue, makes it barely more natural than the artificial sweeteners that it seeks to replace. In fact, a recent class action lawsuit filed in California reached a $6.1 million settlement because it was ruled that the company in question falsely labeled and advertised its stevia sweeteners as natural. Stevia also has a bitter aftertaste because it too activates bitter taste receptors.
Why monk fruit?
We sweetened some of our protein powders with monk fruit. Monk fruit – also known as luo han guo – is a melon-like fruit native to Southeast Asia. Monk fruit sweetener is created by removing the seeds and skin of the fruit, crushing the fruit, and collecting the juice, which is then dried into a concentrated powder. As far as sugar-free sweeteners go, monk fruit is the most natural and best tasting; it actually tastes like sugar.
Given that monk fruit sweetener has only been commercially available for about a decade, its impact on, and association with, chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes has not been well documented. That said, it has been safely used in Asian cuisine for centuries and has no known side effects, even when consumed in large quantities. Moreover, small randomized trials have shown that monk fruit sweetener does not negatively impact blood sugar or insulin levels. For this reason, as well as those outlined above, we believe that monk fruit is the best available sweetener for our protein powders. In case you were wondering, most protein powder companies do not use monk fruit because it is expensive.
What is the best protein powder with low sugar?
The best low sugar protein powder is either unsweetened, or sweetened with monk fruit. Both artificial sweeteners and stevia are not healthy alternatives to stevia. Basically, you are better off ingesting a few grams of sugar than something that was formulated in a laboratory.
Why drink wholesome?
Our unflavored protein powder is sugar-free, additive-free, dairy-free, and made with real foods, not protein isolates – 99% of supplements fail to meet at least one of these criteria. It is a great way to boost your protein intake without adding any sugar, or added junk to your diet. It also makes a great addition to smoothies, oatmeal, and other high protein recipes.
If you do not mind eating a few grams (no more than 3) of naturally occurring sugar, try our flavored protein powders. They are sweetened with monk fruit.
“I have ulcerative colitis and this is the only protein powder that doesn’t upset my stomach. The flavor is neutral and you can barely notice it in smoothies.” -Mia
drink wholesome is the best protein powder with low sugar