What is the best whole foods protein powder?
Written by Jack Schrupp and reviewed by Ella McGonagle, M.S. Nutrition
drink wholesome is the best whole foods 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 whole foods protein powder.
What are whole foods?
Whole foods are unprocessed or minimally processed foods that are consumed in their natural state, or with minimal modifications. They are typically fresh, nutrient-dense, and free from additives, preservatives, and artificial ingredients. Whole foods include a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and proteins. They are generally considered to be healthier that processed foods, which are often stripped of their nutrients, and contain added sugars and sodium, unhealthy fats, and artificial additives. Incorporating whole foods into your diet can support overall health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and promote a health gut.
What is the best whole food protein powder?
Most protein powders are not made with whole foods. In fact, most protein powders do not contain a single whole food ingredient. As packaged foods go, the average protein powder is one of the most processed and artificial; not even the protein comes from a whole food. This is in part because most dietary proteins do not naturally contain enough protein to be used a protein powder without first removing the fats and carbohydrates.
Moreover, most dietary proteins do not dissolve well until they have been stripped of everything but the protein. For this reason, 99% of protein powders are made with protein concentrates and/or isolates, not whole foods. Not even the protein powder made and sold by Whole Foods Market is made with whole foods.
If you want a whole food protein powder, that is, a protein powder made with whole foods, you have to read the ingredient list. Anything that you cannot find in nature is not a whole food. “Peas” and “whey” are whole foods, “pea protein” and “whey protein” are not whole foods; they are derivatives of whole foods that have undergone heavy processing to become protein powder. The only whole food protein sources that I have seen used to make protein powder are eggs and nuts. Every other protein source (peas, whey, soy, hemp, casein, rice, collagen) must be processed, extensively, before it can be used to make protein shakes.
Additionally, you must avoid protein powders made with emulsifiers, stabilizers, thickeners, sweeteners, and flavors. This, unfortunately, includes vast majority of protein powders. Keep reading to learn more about ingredients like these.
Why drink wholesome?
drink wholesome is additive-free.
One of the main reasons why we make the best whole foods protein powder is that we do not use food additives. In stark contrast, the majority of protein powders are full of additives.
Food additives, although they enhance characteristics such as flavor, texture, and shelf life, can also bring about unpleasant side effects and inflict long-term harm to the digestive system. Essentially, because they look nothing like whole foods, additives are not easily digested. They consequently linger within the digestive tract for longer than food normally would, providing ample time for your gut bacteria to eat. As they eat, bacteria generate gas, which can lead to bloating and abdominal discomfort. Moreover, gas slows down colonic transit (the amount of time it takes food to move through the colon), potentially leading to constipation.
Over time, the cumulative impact of food additives (especially if consumed daily in the form of a protein shake) can disrupt regulatory pathways in the gut. This can contribute to the onset of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other systemic inflammatory disorders.
When it comes to purchasing protein powder, one particular additive to steer clear of is artificial sweeteners. These additives, over time, can prove to be highly detrimental to your gut as they significantly alter the composition of your gut microbiota. This has the potential to result in severe and chronic gastrointestinal issues, as well as widespread inflammation and lasting damage to the delicate balance of the gut microbiome.
Certain sweeteners, especially sugar alcohols such as xylitol, are not well absorbed by the digestive system. Consequently, they become a source of food for your voracious gut bacteria. These sweeteners also have the propensity 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 whole foods.
Another reason why we make the best whole foods protein powder is that we use whole food protein sources, not protein concentrates or isolates. Conversely, the vast majority of protein powders are made with protein concentrates and/or isolates, which are essentially stripped-down versions of whole foods.
Without diving into too much detail, it is worth noting that protein concentrates and isolates undergo extensive mechanical and chemical processing before they take the form of protein powder. In some cases, manufacturers use carcinogenic chemical solvents like hexane to extract (separate) the protein from the whole food. Consequently, what you eat ends up looking nothing like a whole food.
Consider this: your digestive system has evolved to process whole foods, not laboratory-engineered imitations. Therefore, introducing anything other than whole food to your gut can lead to side effects. Although the long-term consequences of consuming processed foods such as protein isolates are still not fully understood, mounting research suggests that they can disrupt the balance of your gut microbiota and inflict permanent damage upon your gut microbiome.
It is important to recognize that your gut does more than digest food. It acts as a shield against pathogens, aids in educating your immune system, and exerts direct or indirect influence over many physiological functions. Hence, it comes as no surprise that an imbalanced gut microbiome has been linked to the development of various chronic diseases. As a precautionary measure, it is your best interest to steer clear of protein powders made with protein concentrates and isolates.
Instead of using protein concentrates or isolates, we take pride in making protein powder with whole foods like egg whites and almonds. The processing is minimal: egg whites are simply pasteurized and dried; almonds are just roasted, pressed to reduce oil content, and ground. These whole foods serve as easily digestible and gut-friendly alternatives to protein concentrates and isolates.
Whole foods contain enzymes and other digestive aids that facilitate the breakdown of nutrients, enabling the body to absorb them more effectively. In contrast, protein isolates and concentrates have been stripped of these digestive aids, making them more challenging for the body to digest and assimilate. Additionally, 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 the 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. Our customers have reported fewer digestive issues when consuming egg white protein powder in comparison to other protein powder varieties.
For those who are unable to consume eggs, our vegan almond protein powder is a compelling alternative. Almonds have been selected over other plant protein sources due to their remarkable gut-friendly properties. Research suggests that almonds possess prebiotic characteristics, which can enhance the diversity and composition of the gut microbiome, contributing to improved gut health.
drink wholesome is dairy-free.
A final reason why we make the best whole foods protein powder is our deliberate avoidance of dairy-based proteins. Many protein powders are made with whey and casein protein, both of which are byproducts of the production of cheese and yogurt and notorious for triggering digestive problems, especially for individuals with lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
People with lactose intolerance and IBS cannot fully digest lactose, the sugar present in dairy products. As previously mentioned, when food is only partially digested, it feeds the hungry bacteria residing in the gut, which release gas and cause 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 whole foods vegan protein powder.