Don’t Fake Yourself Out with Artificial Additives in your Protein Powder
When you are trying to eat healthy but struggle with meal prep time in a busy day, plant-based protein powders are a great way to get necessary protein in a quick, convenient form. Simply toss the powder into your blender, along with some almond milk or coconut yogurt for a nutritious shake or smoothie bowl.
However, protein powder’s convenience can make it all too easy to overlook some artificial ingredients that find their way into your protein powder and make your seemingly healthy meal or snack less than optimal. These ingredients can detract from the benefits of your all-natural protein powder and make it anything but all-natural.
Here are some things to check for to ensure your plant-based protein powder is giving you the most nutrition for your dollar, while leaving out unnecessary or potentially harmful ingredients.
It makes sense not to eat sugar outright, as well as avoid chemically-produced artificial sweeteners like aspartame or saccharin. However, the market’s barrage of seemingly “natural” artificial sugars gives the impression that these substitute sweeteners are good for you, or at the very least, harmless. Sugar alcohols such as xylitol or sorbitol have been known to cause bloating, gas or diarrhea. The American Diabetes Association states that when sugar alcohols are taken in excess, diabetics, especially Type I diabetics, have found that their blood sugars will rise. Even stevia, which derives from a South American herb but whose final product can be highly refined, has been known to trigger allergies in those allergic to ragweed. Check out Elevate Nutrition for an all-natural, no sugar protein powder.
Gums such as guar gum and xanthan gum are used as thickeners, which helps stabilize and emulsify the finished protein shake while helping to contribute to a sense of fullness. High amounts of guar gum have been linked to constipation and bowel obstructions, while xanthan gum has been known to have a laxative effect.
Artificial flavors and colors.
It is hard to believe, but even artificial flavors and colors can find their way into seemingly “healthy” protein powders. Certain color dyes have been linked to hyperactivity, anxiety, migraines and cancer. Artificial flavors can cause any number of allergic reactions depending on their source, as well as thyroid or behavior disorders.
Thankfully, the work-around to the issues is to start with an unflavored plant-based protein powder. Yes, you will give up the convenience of a pre-flavored, pre-sweetened product, but you can add any number of natural, clean items into your all-natural protein powder smoothie that will have minimal side effects, plus have the added bonus of creating a better-tasting finished product.
The following are a list of possibilities for your protein drink:
- Add a touch of sweetness with maple syrup or sugar, coconut sugar, bananas or dates. If you wish to use stevia, use a less processed version or one that does not contain fillers. (Truvia, a familiar choice on the market, contains only 1% stevia.)
- Chia and/or flax seeds can thicken smoothie drinks and bowls, as well as provide a good source of omega-3 oils, protein and fiber.
- Vegetable powders offer extra nutrition, and their colors and flavors are created naturally. Of course, check the labels to verify.