What is the best non artificial protein powder?
When most people think of artificial ingredients in protein powder, they think of artificial sweeteners like sucralose. Although sweeteners are the most common artificial ingredients in protein powder, they are not the only ones. Keep reading to learn more about the ingredients in your protein powder.
What are artificial ingredients?
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), artificial ingredients cannot be found in nature and must be synthetically produced. This definition seems straightforward, but is complicated by the fact that many artificial ingredients are molecularly identical to natural ingredients. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), for example, may be derived from an orange or produced in a laboratory, and there is no way of knowing just by looking at the ingredient list. Natural ingredients, on the other hand, can be found in nature or derived from natural sources according to the FDA. Although seemingly straightforward, this definition gets blurry too. Let us use soy lecithin, a common ingredient in protein powder, as an example of why this is so.
The FDA considers soy lecithin to be a natural ingredient because it comes from soybeans, but if you know anything about lecithin, you know that it looks nothing (physically or chemically) like a soybean. To make soy lecithin, soybean oil is extracted from raw soybeans using a chemical solvent (usually hexane). The solvent is then boiled off, leaving behind lecithins (a mixture of fats). Next, the lecithins are hydrated to form a sludge, which is then subjected to a process called desliming (yes, that is a technical term), in which the lecithins are placed in a centrifuge. During desliming, the lecithins are often treated with hydrogen peroxide to make them light in color. The last step this process is drying, at which time calcium may be added to make the final product more viscous.
Now that you know how soy lecithin is made, how can you possibly say that both soybeans and soy lecithin are natural? It makes no sense. One looks like a plant, and the other looks like a science experiment.
Another great example of the ambiguity of FDA language is the term ‘natural flavor.’ A natural flavor is more or less a catch-all term for everything that a manufacturer would rather not spell out on the ingredient list. While food manufacturers are required to disclose their ingredients, natural flavor manufacturers are not. They can add solvents, preservatives, emulsifiers, carriers, and other additives to a flavor that qualifies as ‘natural’ under current regulations. The FDA should therefore reconsider what it defines as natural because the current language is way too ambiguous, allowing for deceptive manufacturing practices.
Here is the FDA definition of ‘natural flavor’:
The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.
Is it just me, or does this definition ^ scream UNNATURAL! As you might imagine, many flavors, although technically ‘natural’ by FDA standards, are far removed from anything that you can find in nature. This might be somewhat presumptuous of me, but I am going to say that most of the ingredients in your average protein powder are artificial. Take a look at the two ingredient lists below:
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.
We can all agree that Artificial Flavor, Yellow 5, and Sucralose are artificial, but what about corn syrup solids? The FDA would say that it comes from corn, so it is natural, but this seems like a stretch to me. Corn syrup is made by mixing refined corn starch with a weak solution of hydrochloric acid and heating it under pressure. This process, called hydrolysis, breaks down the starch molecules into sugar. The final product is therefore something that looks nothing like corn.
Sucralose, on the other hand, is made by taking table sugar and replacing three hydrogen-oxygen groups with chlorine atoms. Is this process radically different than that of making corn syrup? In both cases we start with a simple carbohydrate, and convert it into something new. Sucralose and corn syrup are certainly different, but are they so different that one product should be classified as natural and the other artificial? Where do we draw the line?
If I had it my way, I would draw the line at the farm. If you cannot find an ingredient in nature, it is artificial, or man-made. Corn syrup is therefore artificial, and so are most of the ingredients in the ingredient list ^ above. If you want a truly natural protein powder, pick one made with real foods like egg whites and almonds.
Here is a list of common protein powder ingredients that I would NOT classify as natural:
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
I would like to add protein concentrates and isolates to this list of unnatural ingredients. Protein concentrates and isolates – foods stripped of everything but the protein – are in most protein powders. They are listed on the ingredient list as “pea protein,” for example, as opposed to “peas.”
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 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 like these is that they tend to be hard to digest, and therefore sit in your gut for longer than they should. This gives your gut bacteria more time to ferment (eat), and as they eat, these bacteria produce gas, which causes bloating, cramps, and nausea.
In the short term, gas also slows colonic transit (the amount of time it takes food to travel through the colon), which can lead to constipation. In the long term, food additives disrupt regulatory pathways in the intestine and trigger the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and systemic inflammatory disorders. This alone should be a good reason to avoid heavily-processed ingredients, regardless of whether or not they are technically natural.
“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!”
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 easy to digest and a stomach and 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 people with sensitive stomachs. Egg whites are low in fiber, low-FODMAP, 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 can improve the diversity and composition of the gut microbiome. Research also suggests that almonds possess prebiotic properties, meaning they stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.
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.