Is Stevia Natural? Here’s the Bitter Truth

A few years ago, I discovered a seemingly miraculous “all-natural” sweetener called Truvia. It seemed too good to be “true” (pun intended): mild taste, didn’t cause cancer, derived from plants, and none of the fat-promoting calories of regular sugar. I wanted to know: what the heck is stevia? Is stevia natural and safe? And what are the best and worst types of stevia?

Turns out powder from the real stevia plant is a far cry from the “stevia” found in nearly every food product on store shelves.

If you eat food that contains stevia on-the-regular, you’re going to want to pay close attention as we cover a very brief history of stevia along with its health benefits and the best and worst types of stevia.

What is Stevia?

The Stevia rebaudiana plant hails from South America (Paraguay), where its leaves have been used for centuries to sweeten beverages and make tea.

is stevia natural

Is Stevia Safe?

There are over 400 studies that showcase stevia’s ability to lower blood sugar, promote weight loss, prevent cavities, and maybe even help prevent certain types of cancer.

But there aren’t a whole lot of studies on its long-term health effects. One study showed when rats were fed high dosages of stevia, it reduced their sperm production. This led the FDA to reject the stevia plant for use as a food ingredient in the 1990s.

However, several highly-processed, chemically-extracted compounds from the stevia plant were approved and granted FDA “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) status: rebaudioside A in 2008, stevioside and rebiana extracts in 2009, and purified stevioside in 2011.

It’s yet another puzzling example of the U.S. food system at work.

What Types of Stevia Are Healthy and Natural and Which Aren’t?

If you prefer to eat real food instead of chemically-altered versions of real food, it’s probably a good idea NOT to listen to government agencies influenced by “Big Food” lobbying groups. Use this simple list (ranked from best to worst) when buying products with stevia instead.

BEST

Organic Whole Leaf Stevia (or “Green Leaf Stevia” or “Ground Stevia Leaf Powder”) – Whole leaf stevia powder is simply dried, ground leaves from the actual stevia plant … and that’s it. This is the least processed of all types of stevia and the type that has been used for centuries as a natural sweetener and health remedy. It definitely has an earthier, slightly bitter taste because it’s in its natural state, but you only need a tiny little pinch to sweeten your favorite recipes.

MEDIOCRE

Stevia Extract (or “Stevia,” “Stevia Leaf Extract” or “Organic Stevia”) – Many brands (particularly those marketed as “healthy” and “natural”) use stevia extract. Don’t fall prey to the hype though—this type of stevia still goes through rigorous processing (and often bleaching) to extract certain compounds from the stevia plant. Plus, most food processors add an excipient (filler) that’s usually derived from a genetically modified product (i.e., maltodextrin, a processed starch made from GMO corn).

WORST

Truvia, PureVia, Stevia in the Raw – These are the types of stevia to avoid because of the extensive processing and added GMO ingredients.

Truvia, for example, goes through a patented 42-step processing method.

All commercial brands of “stevia” use chemical solvents, GMO derivatives, and/or other processed sweeteners. I wouldn’t touch the stuff. Eat Local Grown has a nice breakdown of several chemically-derived forms of stevia to watch out for.

Avoid these types of processed, GMO-laden "stevia"
Avoid these types of processed, GMO-laden “stevia”

The Bottom Line: Is Stevia Natural?

organic whole leaf stevia powder
This is what real, all natural stevia powder is supposed to look like!

Organic, whole stevia leaf powder in its natural state is a healthy, green, all-natural sweetener.

But the stevia most food companies use is a chemically-altered, bleached, stripped down version that’s likely to contain GMO fillers. Any time you see “stevia”, “stevia extract”, or even “organic stevia” on a food’s ingredients list, you’re getting a processed, inferior sweetener that’s NOT real food.

Dr. Josh Axe has a nice breakdown of the best and worst types of stevia for your health.

My advice:

Stick with organic whole leaf stevia leaf powder in moderation.

That is the only type of stevia that is 100% natural, safe, and healthy! And you only need a teeny tiny bit of it.

P.S. We only use organic, green, real food stevia powder in Pure Food Protein. Learn more about why each of our ingredients are safe, clean, and healthier than any other protein powder on the market and grab a sample bag for just $5 (including shipping) for a limited time.

Before You Ever Set Another New Year’s Resolution, Do This

For the past two years I have done something to start each year that has completely changed my life.

It’s far different and far more impactful from the boring old goals and resolutions.

Here’s what you’ll need before you start:

  • A pen and piece of paper (or a computer)
  • 30 minutes of quiet, uninterrupted time

Next, do this:

  1. Visualize where you want to be one year from today. Don’t know how to visualize? Here’s an awesome video from Marie Forleo and Danielle LaPorte. Or check out this article from Jack Canfield.
  2. Write a letter to yourself as if all the things you visualize for yourself have already happened (I included an example of a letter I wrote to myself at the bottom of this post).

When you’re writing, focus on the things in your life that matter most: family, career, health. Really try and visualize and feel what it would be like to have those things happen.

In the book Switch, Dan and Chip Heath say that creating a clearly painted picture of where you want to be (they call it a “destination postcard”) combined with the right habits is the key to achieving big goals.

This letter to yourself will serve as your destination postcard. And once you develop that clear picture of where you see yourself going, then it’s time to create some goals to help you get there (I wrote about the new science of goal setting on Entrepreneur a while back … it’s definitely worth checking out).

Most people just go straight to goal setting, then get discouraged when they don’t pan out.

You need to set your destination postcard first.

Ever since I started writing a letter to myself the last two years, I’ve been blown away by what I’ve been able to accomplish.

Not everything I wrote down came true, and certain events will play out far differently than you planned. But it’s incredible how many of the things I wrote down did come true … and every single one of the most audacious, seemingly-impossible ones have also begun to take form in my life.

The science world is only just starting to understand the power of imagination, visualization, and intuition. We don’t know how they work … but we know they do work.

So I ask you: what have you got to lose? 30 minutes out of 525,600 you’ll have this year?

Try writing a letter to yourself, read it once a week so that seed you planted cultivates and grows, and report back to me in January of next year. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Here’s an example of a letter I wrote to myself in January 2014 if you need some inspiration. When I re-read it in January 2015 it was pretty cool:

 

Oh what a year it’s been for you. The best year of your life, in fact (you said the same thing last year, so hey, you’re on a roll). 
 
You’ve always dreamed big. But for a long, long time it seemed like something was missing for you, right? 
 
This was the year of change. 
 
The year you finally started applying the knowledge from the thousands of hours of research, writing, and hard work.
 
You’ve always been a dreamer. 
 
And this year your dreams became reality. 
 
You took calculated risks, and they paid off. You invested your money and time wisely. You learned how to be “productive” instead of just “busy.” You put yourself outside your comfort zone.
 
And holy shit, you finally achieved the thing you’ve been working toward for the last 5 years: you’re a self made man.
 
You still have lots ‘o work to do. But the days of feeling unfulfilled with your career are behind you. 
 
You did it. 
 
You officially run a business online. You do what you love. You’re helping people. And you’ve finally found something you can put your heart and soul into. 
 
That’s pretty sweet. Well done. 

Most importantly, you just had your first child. I won’t spoil the surprise and tell you whether it’s a boy or girl. You always detested the people who said, “You’ll understand when you have kids.” 

As much as it pains my pride to admit this, they were right.
 
Having a child was the most significant moment of your life. 
 
You see the world in a new light. You’re a teacher. A guardian. A dad.
 
Everything’s a little different now. In the best way imaginable. 
 
You filled a piece of you that was missing for a long time. You absolutely love it.
 
And your wife. Watching her become a mother has been one of the most beautiful displays of love you’ve ever witnessed.
 
You’re more in love with her than you’ve ever been, and she with you. 
 
You two have a life of wonder ahead of you. 
This year you made some amazing memories with your family and you feel blessed and grateful for this time every day.
 
I look forward to you reading this and being astonished about how much of it is spot-on. 
 
The biggest lessons from the last year were:  Time is a gift. Use it wisely. Don’t waste it on things that don’t serve your higher purpose and lead you to your aspirations. Dream bigger than big.  
 
And this note will serve as proof that you can do whatever the hell you want in this world. 
 
You done well…but you’re not even close to being done. 
 
You won’t believe what the next year has in store.  

Healthy High Protein Chocolate Chip Cookie / Brownie Hybrid Recipe

Let me start by saying I’m not known for my baking prowess. My cooking comfort zone is in savory dishes–soups, sauces, salads, and hearty entrees.

Truth is, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth (this is known to happen when you stop eating added sugar). However, I do love to splurge on the occasional bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream, dark chocolate, or chocolate chip cookie.

The issue with this, as you healthy eaters know, is it’s damn near impossible to find a healthy chocolate chip cookie recipe. Most of the ones I found online still had a boatload of sugar and used some type of refined flour … both no-no’s in my kitchen.

So I decided to create my own recipe for a healthy chocolate chip cookie that was low in sugar and high in protein. The final product turned out more like a cookie/brownie hybrid but it was actually pretty tasty. Here are a some things I did differently to make it healthy:

  • Used a combination of coconut flour and whole grain spelt flour (these are higher in fiber and protein)
  • Used real vanilla bean powder (a nutritional powerhouse packed full of flavor)
  • Used coconut oil instead of butter and vegetable oil (a healthier source of fat)
  • Added a couple scoops of Pure Food Protein
  • Made my own dark chocolate chips by buying a high cacao/low sugar chocolate bar (avoid Godiva and Ghiradelli … they had soy lecithin, a GMO emulsifier, last time I checked)
  • Used organic whole leaf stevia powder instead of added sugar or artificial sugar (I get mine from Mountain Rose Herbs … it’s the same stuff that goes into our protein powder. This is the real, healthy form of stevia because it’s the actual ground up leaves of the plant and nothing else … 99% of “stevia” is junk)

Here’s the rundown of what’s in it, how to make it, and the impressive nutrition stat line:

Healthy High Protein Chocolate Chip Cookie / Brownie Recipe

What’s In It:

  • healthy chocolate chip cookie ingredients3/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup whole grain spelt flour (any whole grain flour will do here … try almond meal instead if you need a gluten-free recipe)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. real vanilla bean powder (the real stuff is super expensive but tastes phenomenal … organic vanilla extract works too though)
  • 4 T coconut oil, divided
  • 1 cup coconut/cashew/almond milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 scoops Pure Food Protein
  • 1 (3.5 oz.) dark chocolate bar (the higher cacao content, the better. I recommend at least 70% cacao … I used 85%)
  • 1/4 cup pistachios (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. stevia leaf powder (optional … I used just a tiny pinch but I don’t like things overly sweet … taste the mixture to see if it’s sweetened to your liking then add more stevia little-by-little as your heart desires)

How to Make It:

  1. Mix the egg, flours, and coconut milk together thoroughly with a whisk or mixer.
  2. Use a large chef’s knife to cut the chocolate bar into chocolate chip-sized pieces.
  3. Add the baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, protein powder, nuts, stevia, chocolate, and 2 T of the coconut oil and mix again.
  4. Coat a large baking pan or sheet with the other 2 T of coconut oil.
  5. Spread the mixture evenly across the pan.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Here’s what the final product looks like (with my festive Christmas decor in the background):

Healthy High Protein Chocolate Chip Cookie / Brownie Recipe

And the best part … it’s actually healthy!

Nutrition (per cookie … makes 12 total cookies):

Calories: 188

Fat: 12.5g

Carbs: 12.5g (3g fiber, 3g sugar)

Protein: 9g

 

If you have a good healthy chocolate chip cookie recipe … or another healthy dessert you think might be good with some Pure Food Protein powder, send me your recipe and I’ll do some experimenting!

Scott@purefoodcompany.com

P.S. Fashion Santa loves Pure Food.

healthy cookie recipe for santa

How to Find the Healthiest Plant Protein Powder in 3 Simple Steps

You remember those “Where’s Waldo” books? The ones where you had to find the little guy in the striped shirt in the middle of a colorful, chaotic scene filled with Waldo imposters?

That’s kind of what it’s like trying to figure out if all those protein powders marketed as “healthiest” and “all-natural” are actually good for you.

In other words, if you don’t know what to look for and where to look, chances are your protein powder may not be so healthy after all*.

Here’s why …

Supplement brands and their marketing teams spend LOTS of money on “Waldo imposters” (pretty graphics, clever marketing language, deceptive psychological tricks, etc.).

I know this because I was one of the guys they paid to help them create their marketing campaigns.

Here’s the truth they don’t want you to hear:

Most food supplement marketing is deliberately designed to distract you from scrutinizing the one piece of information that actually matters: the ingredients they put into their products.

In this article I’m going to show you how to see right through their b.s. and find the healthiest protein powder for you.

The Problem With Most Protein Powder Brands Marketed As “Healthy” and “All Natural”

When it comes to protein powder supplements, there’s one objective source of truth you can use to determine if a product is the right fit for your health needs: the ingredients list.

Here are a few ingredients, in particular, I found in some of the so-called healthiest plant protein powders (Vega, Garden of Life, SunWarrior, Orgain, and PlantFusion all have one or more of these):

  1. Natural flavors. Natural flavors are the 4th most common ingredient on food labels. Unfortunately, they’re anything but natural. They can actually contain up to hundreds of chemicals and preservatives. Here are a few of the more common ones:
    • Propylene glycol (found in antifreeze)
    • BHA, a known carcinogen
    • Genetically modified plants (GMOs) like corn and soy
    • Insects and bizarre animal products (such as beaver’s anal secretions)
  2. Sugars. Sugar comes in many forms these days, as you well know. Most proteins have some type of sweetener added–whether it’s artificial or “natural” is open to interpretation. For example, some companies use sugar alcohols like xylitol and market them as natural. Sugar alcohols originate from plants, but they’re chemically altered and may cause major digestive distress. Many protein powders that use more “natural” sugars like agave claim to be the healthiest … but they have half a day’s worth of sugar per serving (Shakeology is one example). Choose a protein powder that has 1 gram of sugar or less per serving from all-natural sources.
  3. Additives and Fillers. Avoid anything that ends with “dextrin” (like maltodextrin, a cheap, highly processed food additive usually made from genetically modified (GMO) corn. Protein companies use it to make their products mix easier. Soy and sunflower lecithin are common additives used to thicken protein powders and other foods. To make soy lecithin, soybean oil (GMO unless it says “organic” or “non-GMO verified”) is extracted from raw soybeans using a chemical solvent (usually hexane), then dried and bleached.
  4. Allergens. Dairy, soy, and gluten are among the most common allergens you’ll find. If you’re chugging down whey protein shakes and it’s causing GI issues, STOP. Whey protein works for some people. But for the majority, the cons outweigh the pros.
  5. Gums. Gums are thickening agents that improve the texture of protein powder blends. Xanthan gum, a common one, is produced by bacterial fermentation of a sugar-containing medium. Unfortunately, that medium is usually a potentially allergenic or GMO-containing substance such as corn, soy, dairy, or wheat. On top of that, xanthan gum has been shown to have a laxative effect … you might wanna wear a diaper if your protein powder has it. Be wary any time you see a “gum” listed on the ingredients list of your favorite protein brand.

3 Simple Steps to Help You Find the Healthiest Plant Protein Powder for You

My rule of thumb: stick with plant based protein powders that have mostly (or all) organic ingredients you recognize as real food.

Conclusion: Most Protein Powder Brands Claiming to Be All Natural Are Anything But

Shopping for the right protein powder brand for you starts with identifying your health goals.

Are you looking for a clean, all-natural ingredients? Then scrutinize that ingredients list and avoid all the stuff I mentioned above.

Do you want to lose weight and/or build some lean muscle? Then choose a powder with 20+ grams of protein per serving and 3+ grams of fiber.

If you’re looking to compare 20+ different protein powders, check out this post.

*Disclaimer: I sell an all-natural, plant-based protein powder called Pure Food.  

CrossFit: The New Scientology?

crossfit pros consThis week the NYT published an article called When Some Turn to Church, Others Go To CrossFit. In it, author Mark Oppenheimer likens CrossFit to religion, and it’s hard to argue with him when you see quotes like this one:

CrossFit is family, laughter, love, and community.

CrossFit, if you’re not familiar, is the one of the hottest workout movements, with 13,000 locations and over 2 million participants. CrossFit’s strenuous Workout of the Days (WODs), which combine Olympic-style weight lifting with functional movement, have been criticized for their propensity to cause injury.

Pros and Cons of CrossFit

I don’t have any affiliation with CrossFit … never been to a CrossFit gym, in fact. But I think it’s pretty awesome for two big reasons:

1. Doing interval training combined with strength training is the absolute best way to lose weight and build lean muscle.
2. The community-based environment is a great support system for anyone who’s had trouble sticking with a workout regimen (aka, everyone).
3. The CrossFitters I know are all in great shape … your friends who do it probably are too.

The whole CrossFit-causes-injury argument is way overblown. CrossFitters push themselves more than other exercisers … and that’s not a bad thing! Injuries happen in every sport and every type of workout, and they’re almost always attributable to poor form when you’re in the gym.

I’ll sum this one up by quoting CrossFit co-founder Greg Glassman in the NYT article:

Three hundred fifty thousand Americans are going to die next year from sitting on the couch. That’s dangerous. The TV is dangerous. Squatting isn’t.

Is Bone Broth Good for You? Here’s What Science Says

Bone broth is all the rage right now. This New York Times article praised bone broths’ “demonstrable nutrition benefits.” Kellyann Petrucci, M.S., N.D. wrote an article on MindBodyGreen called The ONE Trick I Use To Stay Slim: A Nutritionist Explains. Her “one trick” is drinking bone broth. The list goes on.

I wanted to know if bone broth is actually good for you. It seems as if every blogger out there sings the praises of bone broth as a miracle cure for everything from digestive disorders to weight loss … but none of them ever seem to back it up with actual science.

That’s what we’ll do in this article: quickly sum up what actual research says about the pros and cons of bone broth.

Get your spoon ready, because we’re about to dig in …

The (Alleged) Health Benefits of Bone Broth

Here are some of the many health claims I found about the health benefits of bone broth:

is bone broth good for you

  • Heal leaky gut
  • Overcome foods intolerances and allergies
  • Improve joint health
  • Reduce cellulite
  • Boost immune system
  • Make your skin supple
  • Reduce cellulite

Unfortunately, there’s zero evidence to back up any of these claims. David Katz, M.D. Director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, had this to say:

I recently published the third edition of my nutrition textbook for health care professionals. The book ran to over 750 pages, and roughly 10,000 references (and yes, it was every bit as painful as it sounds; writing textbooks is not for the faint of heart). Nowhere in the mix did I or my coauthors find, or cite, an article about the “demonstrable nutrition benefits” of bone broth.

One of the biggest benefits of bone broth that advocates tout is collagen, a protein found in the connective tissue of animals. Collagen, they say, can help strengthen your bones, protect your digestive tract, and improve your skin.

Again, there’s no clinical data to support any of these claims though. Most scientists will tell you it’s way overblown.

William Percy, an associate professor at the University of South Dakota’s Sanford School of Medicine, said in this NPR article that:

Since we don’t absorb collagen whole, the idea that eating collagen somehow promotes bone growth is just wishful thinking.

In the same article, food scientist Kantha Shelke says if you want to build collagen, you need more than bone broth:

Eating a diet rich in leafy green vegetables is ideal. Plants offer richer sources in collagen building blocks and, in addition, provide nutrients not found in sufficient quantities in meats or broth.

The Actual Health Benefits of Bone Broth

There are two health claims about bone broth that do seem to hold up to scientific scrutiny.

One small study from the year 2000 found that chicken broth may help reduce inflammation and cold symptoms when you’re sick (personal anecdote: I always drink hot tea and broth when I’m sick, and it always helps).

Another small study found that bone broth or soups made with bone broth may help replace electrolytes after intense exercise and aid in post-workout recovery.

Other than that, there’s not much credible evidence that bone broth is actually good for you.

The Bottom Line

Like most health fads, take bone broth’s supposed magical elixir qualities with a grain of salt. Drinking salty animal broth may taste good, but it’s not a magic potion. I love making soups and stocks (here are some healthy soup recipes from my other website) but the evidence simply doesn’t justify all the hype they’re getting.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Dr. David Katz:

The most remarkable thing about the dietary component of lifestyle as stunningly effective medicine is how simple it is. Real food, not too much, mostly plants, to quote Michael Pollan.

How Organic Coconut Milk Powder Can Help You Burn More Belly Fat

In 2015, when I was in the process of creating Pure Food, I knew I wanted to include a whole food ingredient with medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) because of this special type of fat’s ability to help people burn belly fat.

I decided to use organic coconut milk powder.

This ingredient, which you can find in Pure Food Cacao Protein, has some pretty special health benefits.

Here’s why …

The Science of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs)

You’re probably well aware of the heart healthy benefits of monounsaturated fats found in foods like avocados, nuts, and olive oil. I highly recommend eating more of each of those.

But there’s a “new kid on the block” type of healthy fat not everyone knows about called Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs). Scientists have discovered MCTs may help you:

That’s why I decided to put MCTs in Pure Food Protein

But the problem was, all of the “MCT powders” on the market are highly processed and loaded with GMO fillers and additives.

Not how we roll around these parts.

I found the best whole food source of MCTs on the planet: organic coconut milk powder.

Most coconut powders use soy or animal product fillers. Not ours.

It’s 100% organic, plant-based goodness.

How Our Organic Coconut Milk Powder is Made

organic coconut milk powderThe flesh from the coconut is dried and ground into a fine powder and combined with organic ground cassava plant roots to make it mixable (since coconuts are high in good fats, coconut powder on its own is clumpy and impossible to mix).

Nearly all other companies add artificial soy- and GMO corn-based fillers like maltodextrin.

The coconut milk powder adds a subtle, sweet, creamy flavor too that I absolutely love.

You can read more about all our ingredients, including our organic coconut milk powder, here on our Why Pure Food? page.

How to Find the Best Gluten Free Dairy Free Protein Powder

best non dairy protein powderDairy and gluten are two of the most common food allergens. 65% of U.S. adults are lactose intolerant and up to 3% are allergic to dairy … so it comes as no surprise that demand for protein powders that are gluten and dairy free has went up in recent years.

But there are two big challenges if you’re looking to find the best gluten free / non dairy protein powder for you:

1.) The abundance of hidden junk ingredients to be wary of (for example, most of the so-called best dairy free protein powders are loaded with added sugar and mystery chemicals and additives that may be doing your body more harm than good).

2.) Most people are relying on highly biased online reviews, which are cherry-picked by brands. I’ll share my “secret” for making sure you understand the pros and cons of each protein company you consider.

Long story short, just because you buy a protein powder without dairy or gluten, doesn’t mean it’s “healthy.”

In this guide, we’ll share our 5-step checklist you can use to objectively find the healthiest and best gluten free and non-dairy powders for you.

Why 99% of Gluten Free / Dairy Free Protein Powders Are Complete Junk (Even the Organic Ones)

gluten free dairy free protein powder

Most of the time, the best selling protein powder brands are highly processed, pseudo-health foods with very good marketing.

So how do you see through the marketing hype and objectively assess which powders are worthy contenders?

First, you consult the only two pieces of objective information on the food label: the nutrition facts panel and ingredients list.

Most of the time, protein powder manufacturers will add chemical fillers, sugar, thickeners, fillers, and/or other unhealthy ingredients to make the product taste and mix better. 

Here are the “Big Five” questions you should ask to find the healthiest dairy free and gluten free protein powder (or any high protein plant-based foods, for that matter):

5 Steps to Find the Healthiest Protein Powder Without Dairy and Gluten

  1. Check the sugar content. Sugar—no matter if it’s from cane honey, maple syrup, molasses, or coconuts—turns to fat in your body. Eating too much sugar increases your risk of dying from heart disease too. I recommend avoiding all protein powders with added sugar. If your protein is gluten-free and dairy-free yet contains a bunch of sugar, that pretty much defeats the purpose of taking a protein powder. If you like it sweeter, blend your shake with a little fruit instead!
  2. Find out which artificial sweeteners they use. You’ll often discover fake sugars like saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose in non dairy protein powder blends. To see some of the potential health effects of artificial sweeteners, check out this article from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. And there’s good reason to be wary of the supposedly “all-natural” sweeteners too. Xylitol and erythritol are highly processed “sugar alcohols” that can cause gas, bloating, and gut imbalances. Xylitol also comes from genetically modified corn. Stevia leaf extract in its natural state is okay, but the stevia most food companies use is a chemically-altered, bleached, stripped down version that’s likely to contain GMO fillers (often with allergens like corn and soy). Monk fruit is another all-natural sweetener that may be a good option for you. Again, just make sure there are no additional dairy-based fillers or additives, which is often the case. When in doubt, ask the company you’re buying from!
  3. What types of protein do they use? Vegan protein powders made from organic pea, rice, hemp, sacha inchi, and pumpkin seed are generally healthier dairy-free sources of protein. Whey and casein proteins are milk-based and have lots of side effects so obviously aren’t good choices for those looking for a dairy free option. Collagen proteins may be another good dairy-free option (unless you’re a vegetarian or vegan). And if your protein powder isn’t organic, you’re probably drinking pesticides with your protein smoothie.
  4. How are their ingredients processed? This is a tricky one because protein manufacturers are hesitant to disclose this information (which is the first sign they’re hiding something). Most vegan protein powders—even the organic ones—are processed using high temperature methods that destroy vital nutrients in the plant and render much of the protein useless. If you have a severe allergy to gluten or dairy, you’ll want to avoid brands that are manufactured in a facility where other gluten- and/or dairy-containing products are produced.
  5. What other ingredients do they add? This is where most protein powders—especially the ones you may have thought are healthy—fail miserably. Here are a few common unhealthy ingredients to look out for:
    • Natural flavors. Up to 90 percent of natural flavors are made of allergens like dairy, soy, corn, and gluten … as well as chemical solvents and preservatives, says David Andrews, senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group. If you have a dairy sensitivity, definitely ask the company you’re buying from if they use any allergens in their natural flavors (they may not even know!).
    • Many protein powders that claim to be all-natural have gums like carrageenan, xanthan, locust bean. These cheap, processed fillers often have other additives and can lead to gut imbalances and be problematic for those with any GI issues.
    • Lecithins. To make most lecithins, oil is extracted from soybeans or sunflowers using a toxic chemical called hexane. Most are made from GMO soybeans (unless they’re organic).

The Bottom Line: How to Find the Best Gluten Free and Non Dairy Protein Powders for You

There are lots of protein powders available these days without gluten and dairy. But a lack of those two allergens doesn’t make a product “healthy” or “clean,” like most of these brands claim to be.

Learn how to read and understand the ingredients list and nutrition facts label and then use the checklist above when evaluating protein brands.

It’s the only way to see through the marketing hype and know if your protein powder is healthy.

Lastly, as we mentioned above, most folks rely on online reviews when choosing what protein to buy. This is a great approach but make sure you understand that most of the reviews you see are cherry-picked by brands.

Here’s how to make sure you’re getting the full picture:

  1. Do a Google search for “INSERT BRAND NAME + reviews”.
  2. Read the top 3 positive and negative reviews on each review you visit (many of the online retail sites and brand sites will not have any negative reviews so Amazon is usually a good source here).

Compare 30+ Dairy Free Proteins with Our Plant Based Protein Powder Comparison Chart

How to Live a Healthy, Happy, More Fulfilling Life

happy healthy lifeWhether you want to look great in a bathing suit, stop feeling so tired/stressed/anxious all the time, or live a more prosperous, happy, balanced, healthy and more fulfilling life, here’s “the secret” of the world’s healthiest, happiest, most successful people:

They choose to take action while others sit back and watch.

If you really want something to change in your life, just start. Not next week. Not tomorrow

Right freakinnow.

Because those tiny, seemingly insignificant steps every day will compound into great accomplishments over time.

For years I thought I had to wait until I was “ready.” To start working out … eat better … finally launch the business I dreamed about.

Then I said, “Screw it, I’m just gonna start.”

My life has changed in ways I couldn’t even imagine as a result.

Yours will too, if you stop waiting/wishing/hoping and just start.

Change is inevitable … so embrace it. 

Most people accept their fate and blame circumstance for their misfortunes. They play it safe and never question the status quo. They live a life of fear disguised as comfort. They’re “busy,” yet can never seem to find time for themselves.

Others make the time. They do whatever they can, within their bodily limits, to make themselves better.

Because they know it’s an investment in themselves.

And as a result, they create the life they want.

You will go through some really tough stuff along the way.

Life is hard, there’s no doubt about it, as most of us have experienced the past couple years.

Without the darkness, there is no light.

But I’m here to tell you I’m walking proof that all the adversity you will go through in life only makes you stronger and better prepared for this moment.

You have to take those first couple steps though.

They’re the hardest but also the most important.

Your life is a blank canvas. 

And your success largely depends on how you choose to see things.

Study after study proves that your mindset can have a dramatic impact on whether or not you accomplish your goals in life.

If you’re struggling with something, do these five things and I guarantee things will get better for you:

Step 1: Take a baby step

Take things one step at a time. If you’re trying to lose weight, for example, start with just a couple minutes of exercise every day. Small steps are what lead to big successes. Here are some small things you can do today:

  • Cook a healthy breakfast.
  • Do yoga for at least 10 minutes.
  • Take a 5-minute stretching or walking break every hour.
  • Read one inspirational article today.
  • Record what you eat in your food diary.
  • Look for healthy recipe for dinner.

Step 2: Write it down

If you don’t already have a journal or planner, drop what you’re doing and go get one. They’re that important. Use it to capture your thoughts, plan your day, and track your goals. Here’s what I do every day, as an example:

  • At the start of every day I write a positive quote at the top of my daily planner (today’s quote is “Life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it”).
  • Next, I write down everything I plan to do over the course of the day to accomplish my goals (for example, “Write new blog post, network with 3 people, lift weights for 45 minutes, find recipe for healthy dinner”).
  • Then, I evaluate what I accomplished at the end of each day in these four categories:
    • Mental: What did I learn today? How did I challenge my mind? What did you read, write, or listen to that expanded your mental capacity and got you closer to your goals today?
    • Emotional: Who did I choose to spend my time with and what did I do? Did I take time to mindfully engage in happy, positive experiences with friends and family?
    • Physical: Did I exercise and eat healthy today and take care of my body? How so?
    • Spiritual: Did I take time to breath, give thanks, and stop to connect with the world around me?

This strategy will help you manage your time better and increase your self-confidence and healthy habits over time.

Step 3: Get support

Friends and family can help encourage you, increase your accountability, and help you cope with setbacks. That’s why social support is so crucial to overcoming any obstacle in your life. Find a friend or family member who lives a healthy lifestyle, and have the courage to ask for their help. You’ll be happy you did.

Step 4: Visualize your results

Visualization is a powerful tool that can drastically enhance your level of self-efficacy. In the book The Social Animal, author David Brooks says your subconscious mind processes up to 200,000 times more information than your conscious mind. Spend 5 minutes each day visualizing both the journey and the end result you seek. Forming a mental picture of yourself taking the steps required to reach your goal creates a lasting image in your brain that your subconscious will bring to reality.

Step 5: Do things that make you laugh and smile every day

Create experiences every day that make you happy. Spend time with people you love. Keep an uplifting book by your bedside for words of encouragement before you go to sleep or when you first wake up. Take a walk outside with your significant other. Experiences are infinitely more valuable than things.

Dream big but start small. Focus on your mindset first and you will open doors to anything and everything you want to accomplish in life.

Bonus: Here are 40 of My Favorite Inspirational Quotes

  1. “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” -Aristotle Onassis
  2. “All our dreams can come true–if we have the courage to pursue them.” -Walt Disney
  3. “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.  -Helen Keller
  4. “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” -Napoleon Hill
  5. “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” -Zig Ziglar
  6. “Everyone has inside them a piece of good news. The good news is you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is.” – Anne Frank
  7. “It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” -Abraham Lincoln
  8. “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” -Tony Robbins
  9. “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” -Charles Swindoll
  10. “I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.” -Audrey Hepburn
  11. “When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” -Harriet Beecher Stowe
  12. “You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality in the mind next to honor “ -Aristotle
  13. “There are moments when troubles enter our lives and we can do nothing to avoid them. But they are there for a reason. Only when we have overcome them will we understand why they were there.” -Paulo Coelho
  14. “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” -Buddha
  15. “If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.” -Oprah Winfrey
  16. “The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who is doing it.” -Chinese Proverb
  17. “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” -Albert Einstein
  18. “First, have a definite, clear practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.” -Aristotle
  19. “The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.” -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  20. “Every day I will renew my commitment and think about the benefits that come from it.” -John Maxwell
  21. “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” -Bruce Lee
  22. “People who labor all their lives but have no purpose to direct every thought and impulse toward are wasting their time–even when hard at work.” -Marcus Aurelius
  23. “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be”. -Lao Tzu
  24. “”In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.” -Tony Robbins
  25. “When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.” -Helen Keller
  26. “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” -Henry David Thoreau
  27. “If you accept the expectations of others, especially negative ones, then you never will change the outcome.” -Micheal Jordan
  28. “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  29. “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” -Stephen Covey
  30. “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life.  When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I wrote down ‘happy’.  They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” -John Lennon
  31. “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.“ -Friedrich Nietzsche
  32. “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” -Steve Jobs
  33. “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt
  34. “Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.” -Vince Lombardi
  35. “Somehow I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C s. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.” -Walt Disney
  36. “If you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable.” -Marcus Aurelius
  37. “I am thankful for all of those who said NO to me. Its because of them I’m doing it myself.” -Albert Einstein
  38. “He who refuses to embrace a unique opportunity loses the prize as surely as if he had failed.“ -William James
  39. “The best revenge is massive success.” – Frank Sinatra
  40. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” -Robert Frost

Can Clean Eating Actually Be Bad for You?

A couple days ago I came across an article published on Today called Blogger Jordan Younger reveals how extreme ‘clean eating’ almost killed her.

Before I share my thoughts on the article, please take a moment to read it … it’s a short read, I promise.

If you don’t want to read it, here’s a quick quote that sums it up:

[Jordan Younger] writes about suffering from a controversial disorder called “orthorexia.” What began as an attempt to get healthy, morphed into an unhealthy regimen of food restrictions, 800-calorie-a-day juice cleanses and exercise. After a year, Younger had wasted away to 101 pounds, her hair was falling out and she had stopped menstruation.

Younger has written a memoir called “Breaking Vegan” that chronicles her self-destructive fixation with “clean eating,” an obsessive focus on healthy, unprocessed foods.

K, now that you’ve witnessed this steaming pile of sensationalist, clickbait journalist, allow me to vent a few specific issues I have with this article:

Issue #1: The headline itself is incredibly misleading.

The woman in the article suffered issues because she adopted a vegan diet and didn’t get enough calories … not because she was a “clean eater.” While I fully advocate a plant-focused diet for many reasons and believe people can get more than enough calories eating this way, “clean eating” doesn’t necessarily mean vegan.

Issue #2: Her problems stemmed from an eating and/or compulsive disorder, NOT from eating clean eating.

From the article:

Orthorexia is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, and experts disagree on whether it’s an eating disorder or disordered eating with obsessive-compulsive features.

Ms. Younger even states that she “found the term online” and diagnosed herself. She states:

 

I developed obsessions and anxiety around food. It wasn’t about veganism. I had restrictions on top of veganism.

So here’s the takeaway from this, you guys: don’t believe everything you read. If you have an “obsessive focus on healthy, unprocessed foods” like I do, then you should be damn proud of yourself.