Is there a vegan protein powder without heavy metals?

Looking for a vegan protein powder without heavy metals? There is no such thing. All plants contain heavy metals, so do not let trace amounts deter you from eating plant protein.

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All vegan protein powders contain heavy metals.

What are heavy metals? 

Why are there heavy metals in plants? 

Do I need to worry about heavy metals in protein powder? 

Why drink wholesome? 

What are heavy metals? 

In recent years, there has been increasing global public health concern about environmental contamination by heavy metals. Soils polluted with heavy metals are becoming more and more common due to an increase in geologic and anthropogenic activities. There has also been increasing concern about the levels of heavy metals found in protein powders, specifically vegan protein powders. Is this concern legitimate? 

Heavy metals are naturally occurring elements with a relatively high density compared to water. They are all around us – in the ground we walk on, in the water we drink, and in the food we eat. Some heavy metals are good for us; we need trace amounts of copper and iron to stay healthy, for example. Other heavy metals – such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury – are toxic and can cause health problems, even at lower levels of exposure. They are also classified as human carcinogens by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. 

Why are there heavy metals in plants? 

Heavy metals are in ALL plants because they are natural constituents of the Earth’s crust. They are not added to protein powders, they are absorbed from the soil by the plant itself. If a protein powder is made with plant-baed ingredients, it is almost certain going to contain heavy metals.

Do I need to worry about heavy metals in protein powder? 

A non-profit called the Clean Label Project claims that most protein powders contain lead and that vegan protein powders contain, on average, twice the amount of lead per serving as protein powders made from animal products. They also claim that plant-based protein powders contain mercury, cadmium, and arsenic, in some cases at levels above regulatory thresholds. Although these findings are informative, they are not necessarily concerning. 

Simply because there are detectable amounts of heavy metals in protein powder does not render it unsafe to consume, nor does it discount the benefits it offers as part of a balanced diet. To put matters into perspective, according to a study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, we consume more metals from common foods like kale, apples, avocados than we consume from plant-based supplements. In other words, if you are eating a healthy serving of any of these foods, you are probably ingesting more heavy metals than you would from a serving of vegan powder. 

The heavy metal scare created by the Clean Label Project is misleading. We should take these findings seriously, especially given the popularity of vegetarian and vegan diets, but they should not deter us from using plant-based protein powders. Heavy metals are in all the plants we eat, and we should not just stop eating fruits and vegetables because they contain heavy metals. Instead of worrying about heavy metals in vegan protein powder, you should focus your attention on the ingredient list. Bad ingredients will do far more harm than the trace amounts of heavy metals in protein powders. Keep reading to learn more. 

Why drink wholesome

drink wholesome is additive-free.

One of the reasons why we make the best vegan protein powder is that we do not use food additives. Most protein powders, on the other hand, 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.

Food additives are hard to digest, and 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, causing bloating and stomach pain. 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 can disrupt regulatory pathways in the intestine and trigger the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and systemic inflammatory disorders.

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When buying protein powder for sensitive stomachs, one additive to avoid in particular is artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are among the most harmful food additives in the long term as they alter the composition of your gut microbiota. 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 poorly absorbed by the gut, meaning they feed your hungry gut bacteria. They can also cause diarrhea because they draw water into your intestines. 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, additives are ingredients that you cannot pronounce. Food additives are not the only thing to avoid when buying protein powder, however. There are several other ingredients that can upset your stomach.

the alternative:

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 dairy-free.

Another reason why we make the best plant-based protein powder is that we do not use dairy-based proteins. Many protein powders are made with whey and casein, which are byproducts of cheese and yogurt production, and known to cause digestive issues. This is especially true 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. 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 and cause side effects. 

drink wholesome is made with real foods.

A final reason why we make the best vegan protein powder is that we do not use protein isolates. Most protein powders, on the contrary, are made with protein concentrates and/or isolates, foods stripped of everything but the protein. They appear 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.

If you think about it, your gut was designed to digest naturally occurring foods, not laboratory formulated imitations, so if you feed it anything but real food, it might get upset. The long term implications of eating processed foods are still not well understood, but more and more research is finding that it can alter the composition of your gut microbiota, and lead to permanent damage to your gut microbiome.

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Instead of using protein concentrates or isolates, we make the best plant-based protein powder with whole almonds. Almonds are just roasted, pressed, and ground becoming protein powder. Whole foods like these are an easy to digest, gut-friendly alternative to protein concentrates and isolates. This is in part because whole foods contain a variety of enzymes and other digestive aids that help to break down the food, making it easier for the body to absorb the nutrients. Protein isolates and concentrates, on the other hand, have been stripped of these digestive aids, making them harder for the body to digest and absorb.

Moreover, minimally-processed plant-based foods like almonds are rich in fiber, which helps promote healthy digestion and regular bowel movements. 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.


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“This is the first protein powder that has EVER not upset my stomach and it still tastes SO GOOD!!!” -Emily

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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.