Category Archives: nutrition

Homemade Paleo Protein Bar Recipe (Vegan, Dairy Free, Gluten Free)

If you’re a clean eater, you know how hard it is to find a good healthy protein bar these days. Most contain some type of junk your body just doesn’t need: dairy, gluten, soy, sugar (in many cases, unfortunately, it’s all of the above).

My criteria for a “healthy” protein bar are quite simple. It should have:

1.) Only organic, real food ingredients, and

2.) No added sweeteners. Sugar should come from only real fruit sources like dried fruit … I don’t touch anything with over 10 grams.

If you want to make your own healthy protein bar, here’s one of my favorite recipes.

Homemade Healthy Protein Bar Recipe

What’s In It:

  • 1/4 cup organic quick cook rolled oats
  • 4 scoops raw cacao protein powder (make sure you choose a high quality vegan protein)
  • 1 cup organic nut butter (I used peanut but any nut butter will work)*
  • 1/4 cup organic pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup organic dates, chopped into small pieces.
  • 1.5 cups organic coconut cream (or 1.5 cups coconut milk powder and 3/4 cup warm water)**
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • Dark chocolate shavings (optional)***

*I recommend organic nut butters with a maximum of two ingredients: nuts and salt. If yours has other oils or added sugar, look for another brand.

**Most coconut creams have some type of gum or filler added. I prefer to buy organic coconut milk powder on Amazon and mix it with water. Native Forest coconut cream.

**I recommend an organic dark chocolate bar with 70% cacao content or higher, 5 grams of sugar or less, and no soy (you’d be surprised how many of them have it … check the ingredients list).

How to Make It:*

  1. Whip the coconut cream until smooth.
  2. Stir in the almond flour and let sit for 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in almond/peanut butter, dates, salt, pumpkin seeds, and protein powder. Mix thoroughly by hand (or pulse in a food processor).
  4. Spread the mixture evenly into a pan or baking dish lined with parchment paper.
  5. Refrigerate overnight then cut into 8 bars.

*I used a mixer for steps 1-3 but you can do it by hand too.

Nutrition Facts (per bar)*:

  • 299 calories
  • 19 g fat
  • 18 g carbs (4 g fiber, 6 g sugar**)
  • 15 g protein

*I cut it into 8 bars. At ~300 calories a bar, you can cut it into 16 if you prefer something closer to 150 calories (it’s still filling too!)

**If you want to cut down the sugar content, cut back even more on the dates. To sweeten it up, add more dates or a dab of raw honey.

Best Clean Eats: Plant-based Clean Eating Food List for 2018

what is eating cleanWhen you claim to have created the world’s cleanest plant-based protein powder like I do, you better darn well know a thing or two about clean eats.

So with that said, I can tell you with conviction that I have spent countless hours reading labels, poring over nutrition research studies and articles, and dropping half my paychecks at Whole Foods in search of the healthiest “clean” products on the market that meet my dietary restrictions (I’m allergic to dairy and corn and avoid most products with gluten and soy too).

In this post, I will share my findings with you. You’ll discover:

1) What clean eating actually means.

2) How to spot and avoid brands posing as “clean.”

3) My 10 favorite clean eating packaged foods.

Plus as a bonus, I’ll share my clean eating grocery checklist with you.

[Get the printable clean eating grocery check list here]

Let’s start with #1 …

Clean Eating Basics

What does it mean to “eat clean”?

clean eatsI’ll be the first to admit that the term clean eating is ambiguous … enough to elicit some scathing reactions.

Like this response from one of the top writers on Quora:

It’s a vague term for faddish eating, mostly with an orthorexic bent. It has no scientific basis and, like pretty much all food fads, is rooted in a fear of modernity.

And this one from a registered dietitian published in the British Medical Journal:

The command to eat cleanly implies that everyone else is filthy, being careless with their bodies and lives. It comes with promises of energy boosts, glowing skin, spirituality, purity, and possibly immortality. But this nonsense is all based on a loose interpretation of facts and a desire to make the pursuit of wellbeing an obsessive, full time occupation.

Ouch.

I disagree with both and I’ll tell you why in a minute.

First, here’s my definition of clean eating:

A whole food, plant-focused diet that’s low in sugar and refined carbohydrates.

The body of evidence that supports the health benefits of eating this way is enormous. So maybe eating “clean” is just another label … but it’s one that I believe can be of real, tangible benefit to people who don’t know how to eat healthy (or who do but aspire to eat better).

What’s the harm in that?

To me, there are bigger fish to fry anyway …

clean eats product marketing claimsThe real problem with clean eating

One of the underlying reasons for much of the aforementioned ambiguity and debate is Big Food coming in and slapping clean eating claims on all types of unhealthy packaged foods.

For example, some of my competitors in the protein powder industry sell sugar sweetened beverages to children that are marketed as clean and “all-natural”.

Not cool.

In addition to added sugar or artificial sugar, many so-called “clean” products on the market contain mystery ingredients and fillers like gums and “natural flavors,” which are now the fourth most common ingredient on food labels.

It should come as no surprise that those clever food product marketers have found ways to exploit the “all-natural” and “clean” claims, since the FDA doesn’t regulate use of these terms.

So how do you know what’s clean and what’s not?

Well, clearly “clean” is open to interpretation. But here’s what I look for:

  1. Organic ingredients I recognize as whole, real foods.
  2. No added sugar.
  3. No refined white flour.
  4. No mystery ingredients like gums, “flavors”, and other additives that you know nothing about.

If you stick with products that meet those criteria, it’s hard to go wrong.

When in doubt, the ingredients and nutrition facts label are the two objective sources of truth on any packaged food product.

If you don’t know what something is, don’t buy it until you research the safety of the ingredients. Check out credible sources that back their claims with peer-reviewed science (like the EWGCSPI and Pubmed).

10 Best Clean Eating Packaged Food Brands for 2018

I’m not saying you need to be a vegetarian or vegan to eat clean. But the focus on my clean eating approach is plants … because 99.9% of us can benefit from eating more of them.

The clean eating food list I’m going to show you below contains foods with no:

  • Added sugar
  • Artificial ingredients
  • Allergens like soy, dairy, gluten, and corn
  • Animal products
  • Highly processed ingredients posing as “natural” (e.g., flavors, gums, and other additives)

Eden Organic: I love their organic canned beans and tomatoes. They have some solid clean eating recipes on their website too. Eden was one of the first companies to use BPA-free cans too! Many of their products are now available on Amazon.

Malk: Their unsweetened almond and cashew milk are the only ones I have found without gums, fillers, and additives. Here are the ingredients in the almond milk: organic almonds, Himalayan salt, filtered water. Use their Store Finder to see if it’s available near you.

Nutiva: Great source for organic coconut oil and hemp seeds. Here’s the Store Locator. Most of their products can be found on Amazon as well.

Nature’s Intent: This is my go-to source for organic chia seeds. I get mine in bulk at Costco or Amazon.

Simply Organic: Seasonings and spices without fillers and other junk. Their recipes page has some tasty-looking ideas.

Bragg Organic: Bragg apple cider vinegar, “liquid aminos” (non-GMO, lower sodium soy sauce), coconut aminos (soy free), and nutritional yeast are staples in my clean eating recipes.

Bob’s Red Mill: They sell a variety of whole grain flours and baking products. I love their organic rolled oats. You can get most of their products on Amazon.

Trader Joe’s: TJ’s is a great place to stock up on nuts, seeds, healthy oils, fresh and frozen produce, and organic, gluten-free, non-GMO grains and pasta. Try the Organic Brown Rice and Quinoa Fusilli Pasta.

Banza: Love their chickpea pasta, which is gluten free, high in protein, and delicious. Available on Amazon too.

Alter Eco: Ok, this one has a little added sugar … but if you’re driving yourself insane trying to eat clean 24/7, this is a guilt-free indulgence to help satisfy those sweet cravings in a responsible manner. 😉 Alter Eco’s dark blackout chocolate is dairy-free, has 4 simple, organic ingredients, and contains 85% cacao for a healthy dose of antioxidants. It has just 6 grams of sugar per serving (a Snickers bar has 20 grams of sugar, for comparison’s sake). They also sell other chocolates, coconut truffles, quinoa, and rice.

Clean Eating Shopping List

These are the staples I stock up on every week:

clean eating foods list
Get the printable version of the clean eating checklist here

Final Thoughts About Clean Eats

Hopefully this provides some inspiration and ideas to help you find cleaner products. It hasn’t been easy in the past but now you’re starting to see a lot of brands jumping on the clean eating bandwagon … and I think that’s a good thing.

Minimally processed foods with ingredients you can pronounce are generally (but not always) healthier.

If you have questions or want to share your favorite clean eating foods and/or packaged products, leave a comment below.

And don’t forget to hit those share buttons on the left if you found this post helpful. 🙂

Benefits of Protein Powder

Even mentioning the words protein powder can stir up heated debates among doctors, nutritionists, athletes, vegan/vegetarians, and everyone in between.

Protein powder, some say, is a magic bullet that can help you look like this if you’re a man …

benefits of protein powder

Or this if you’re a woman:

best protein shake for women

In this article, I’ll dispel the myths and misconceptions … and break down the latest and greatest science of protein powder. I’ll  answer your most common questions I get on the topic, such as:

  • What exactly is protein powder
  • How is it made?
  • How much protein do you need?
  • Do you really need a protein powder supplement to lose weight and/or gain muscle?
  • How/when should you consume protein powders for optimal health?
  • What are the benefits and risks of various types of protein powder sources?
  • How do you choose the best one for you?

Without further ado, let us begin …

What Is Protein and Protein Powder?

Proteins are organic molecules made up of amino acids (the building blocks of life). Protein helps build, maintain, and replace the tissues in your body. Your muscles, organs, and immune system are made up mostly of protein.

Protein powder is a powdered form of protein (duh).

What Happens When You Eat Protein

When you eat protein, your stomach uses its acid and enzymes to break it down into those “building blocks” we talked about (amino acids).

what are bcaasThe most important of the amino acids for building lean muscle and losing fat are called BCAAs, or Branched Chain Amino Acids.

Together, the three BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) account for as much as 33% of muscle tissue. Here’s a brief overview of each: 

  1. Leucine is a branched chain amino acid that helps your body synthesize protein.
  2. Isoleucine is a BCAA that can help your body regulate blood sugar levels and ensure your muscle cells are metabolizing sugar (instead of fat cells).
  3. Valine is the least important BCAA for body composition (it’s also the least-studied).

Protein powders can come from plant or animal sources, each having a different make-up of amino acids.

Different Types of Protein Powders (and Their Benefits and Risks)

There’s some intriguing science about the most common types of protein powder sources that we’ll explore a bit further …

Whey Protein

whey protein powder safetyAs mentioned, whey protein has been studied more than any other protein powder. A quick search of “whey protein powder” on PubMed brings up close to 400 studies to date.

While you can certainly find studies like this one that showed no link between whey protein and body composition, the overall body of evidence seems to suggest that whey works for building muscle. 

A meta analysis (a review of a group of studies) published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition looked at 14 clinical studies including a total of 626 adults and concluded that whey protein powder has favorable effects on body composition (and is even more effective when combined with resistance training).

However, there are some side effects associated with whey protein, particularly for those with sensitivities and allergies to dairy.

And one study found that high protein diets from animal-based sources may lead to kidney disease. The researchers cautioned against eating too much protein from animal sources like whey.

Casein Protein

Casein is a slower digesting form of milk-based protein. Casein is often marketed as a “superior” protein source.

However, one study showed that casein did not have any noticeable differences on body composition, strength, and power and agility compared to whey.

Casein has a few major flaws as a protein source too. This study found that it promotes the growth of prostate cancer cells.  And since it’s milk-based, it’s probably not a good choice if you’re sensitive to dairy.

Brown Rice Protein

brown rice protein woman weight lossRice protein is a plant-based protein powder used by vegans, vegetarians, and people who can’t tolerate dairy products like whey and casein. In one study published in the journal Nutrition, researchers found that rice protein had similar effects on body composition as whey.

In other words, there was no difference between the group of subjects that took rice protein and the one that took whey protein; both experienced positive body composition changes.

One of the main complaints you’ll hear about rice protein is it’s high in potentially toxic heavy metals like arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.

While it’s true consuming high amounts of some of these metals can lead to negative health effects, heavy metals are in all plants that grow in soil. Here’s a quote from Jon Barron’s well researched article on the topic:

In summary, don’t have a knee jerk reaction to the label “heavy metals.” (Both calcium and iron are technically heavy metals.) Yes, obviously, when it comes to “toxic” heavy metals, less is better than more. But the issue is far more nuanced than a simple label–or even numbers on a chart for that matter. You have to factor in whether or not the element actually has any “proven” toxicity (tungsten has no demonstrated toxicity), whether it’s organic or inorganic (organic arsenic is virtually ignored by the body), and whether it’s bound or unbound (bound cadmium has only 2-6% absorbability).

Yes, many plant-based protein powders have tested high for heavy metals.

That’s why it’s up to you as the consumer to ask the manufacturer of your protein powder what their heavy metal contents are, especially if they use rice protein (if they won’t share those numbers, it’s a big red flag).

And choose a rice protein from organic brown rice to avoid ingesting potential chemical pesticides and herbicides.

Pea Protein

organic pea protein benefitsPea protein is another popular plant-based source of protein. It’s becoming increasingly prevalent in vegetarian / vegan / dairy free powders for several reasons:

  1. It’s generally lower in heavy metals than rice protein.
  2. It’s a “complete” protein source that contains an impressive BCAA profile.
  3. Pea protein powder is among the most hypoallergenic of all protein powders, as it contains no gluten or dairy.
  4. It’s easy on the gut and doesn’t cause bloating, a common side effect of many other protein powders from animal sources.
  5. It has been shown in small studies to have similar effects to whey protein on body composition.
  6. Pea protein has a PDCAA (digestible indispensable amino acid score) of .89 (whey is 1). When combined with rice, hemp, and/or soy in certain combinations, you can get this number on par with whey!

While pea protein hasn’t been studied as much as whey or soy, it is a promising protein source for those looking for alternatives to dairy proteins. Again, organic pea protein is always a safer choice because you’re ingesting less pesticides.

Soy Protein

Soy protein is another popular plant-based protein powder. Most men should avoid it because it contains isoflavones and phytoestrogens that share similarities with estrogen.

It’s often extracted using hexane, a petroleum-based solvent … and most soy from comes from genetically modified (GMO) soybeans.

However, according to several studies, soy protein may have body composition benefits for older women.

One study showed that a daily supplement of soy protein prevented increases in subcutaneous and total abdominal fat in older women. Another showed soy protein had a mild effect on body composition in elderly women.

One caveat: whey has been shown to be more effective than soy for improving lean body mass when combined with resistance training. So if lean body mass is your goal, you may want to consider other protein sources than soy if you’re using a protein powder.

How Is Protein Powder Made?

Protein powder processing methods depends on the type of protein and the company making it.

Whey Protein Processing

how is whey protein madeMost commercial whey protein powders are made using a high-heat, acid-flushed, “ion exchange” process to separate the whey from the cow’s milk. This can strip away vital nutrients, creating an imbalanced, acidic “whey isolate” that’s then contaminated with synthetic additives, flavors, and chemicals to make it taste like something resembling food.

So why do companies use it?

Because processing protein with acids is cheaper, of course.

If you decide a whey protein supplement is best for you, I recommend choosing one that’s organic, from grass-fed cows, and raw or cold processed.

Ask the manufacturer how it’s made before you buy it and spend a few bucks more on an acid-free, organic product … it’s worth it.

What if you can’t tolerate milk-based products or prefer plant-based proteins though? How are those processed?

Plant Protein Processing

Many of the supposedly-healthy plant proteins used in supplements and packaged foods today are processed using hexane, a petroleum-based neurotoxin. Using hexane is an efficient and highly profitable way for food manufacturers to remove oil from plants and separate the protein.

If you decide a plant protein powder is a better option for you, look for plant-based protein powders that are cold processed and “enzymatically sprouted,” which means all-natural enzymes are used rather than chemicals to separate the protein from the plant.

Also, sprouting grains used in plant-based powders (e.g., rice, pea, amaranth) increases many of the plants’ key nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin C, folate, fiber, and essential amino acids often lacking in grains, such as lysine. Sprouted grains may also be less allergenic to those with grain sensitivities.

Who Should Take Protein Powder?

best protein for womanProtein powder is most commonly associated with athletes and people who are active … but it may be beneficial to everyday Joes and Janes too if you’re not getting enough protein (more on that in a minute). Here are a few reasons why:

  1. For healthy adults, low protein diets can lead to weight gain and increased fat mass.
  2. Eating more protein can help increase levels of the hormone glucagon, which helps control body fat.
  3. Eating protein can help strengthen bones as you age.

So How Much Protein Do You Need?

It depends on several factors:

  1. How much muscle you currently have. The more muscular you are, the more amino acids your body needs to maintain your current body composition. If you don’t know your body composition and want to make real, measurable improvements to your health, go see a personal trainer who offers body composition analysis so you can get a “baseline” of where you’re currently at.
  2. Your activity level. The more you move, the more protein your body needs.
  3. Your age. The older you get, the more protein your body needs to maintain its muscle.
  4. Your hormones. If your body has high levels of growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), it will use protein more efficiently than someone with low levels. These hormones decrease as you age, which is one of the reasons why older adults need more protein.

So back to the original question: how much protein do you need?

The current recommendation for protein intake is 0.8 grams per kilogram (or around 0.36 grams per pound) of body mass in generally healthy adults.

However, this protein intake recommendation is only to prevent protein deficiency and maintain nitrogen balance in the body (a negative nitrogen balance indicates that muscle is being broken down and used for energy).

It’s not necessarily optimal.

Studies show that athletes, active people, and older individuals may require even more protein (1.4 – 2.0 g/kg of body weight).

does protein powder workIn a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, researchers compared muscle development in three groups of athletes on the same exercise routine but with different protein intake levels.

One group was given 1.4g/kg of body weight, the second group received 1.8g/kg of body weight, and the third group got 2.0g/kg of body weight.

The researchers found that 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight was sufficient to see favorable changes in body composition in athletes.

Non-athletes and particularly older adults need at least 0.8 g/kg per day to help preserve current levels of muscle (or “lean body”) mass.

So to recap:

  • Athletes need at least 1.8 g/kg of bodyweight [For a 150-pound person, that’s 122 grams of protein per day].
  • Older adults and non-athletes need at least 0.8 g/kg of bodyweight [For a 150-pound person, that’s 54 grams of protein per day].

When Should I Take Protein–Before or After a Workout?

If your goal is to lose body fat and increase lean body mass (muscle), then the answer is both.

In a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, researchers concluded the following:

High-quality protein dosed at 0.4–0.5 g/kg of LBM at both pre- and post-exercise is a simple, relatively fail-safe general guideline that reflects the current evidence showing a maximal acute anabolic effect of 20–40 g

That’s 27-34 grams of protein both before and after a workout for a 150-pound adult.

Couple other interesting things the study authors noted:

  1. Despite claims that you need to take protein immediately (within 1 hour) after a workout to maximize gains, evidence-based support for such an “anabolic window of opportunity” is far from definitive.
  2. Even minimal-to-moderate pre-exercise high-quality protein taken immediately before resistance training is capable of sustaining amino acid delivery into the post-exercise period. In other words, eating protein before your workout may have more impact.

Long story short, eat a little protein before and after a workout if building muscle and/or losing body fat is your goal.

What is the Best Protein Powder?

“Best” is an ambiguous term. The best protein supplement for you depends on your age, your health goals, and a number of other factors.

Here are a few common things to consider:

  • What protein powders get absorbed by your body best?
  • What are the benefits and risks of all the ingredients in your protein powder?
  • What protein powders do not cause digestive distress (gas, bloating, etc.) when you take them?
  • What type of protein is best for your unique health needs (losing muscle, building fat, etc.)?

For me personally, I choose packaged products with only organic ingredients I can pronounce … that have no/low sugar and have some dietary fiber.

As you can see, choosing a protein powder is a highly personal decision though.

For most people, the potential benefits of protein powder outweigh the risks if your diet is lacking in protein and/or you want to improve your body composition.

Compare 20+ Plant Based Protein Powders by Nutrition, Ingredients, and Cost with My Free Google Spreadsheet

The Best All Natural Protein Powder for Women

best protein powder for women[If you want the PDF version of this post for later reading, download it here].

I must admit I had some trepidation when writing this post. That’s because:

a) I’m a man who sells a protein powder, and

b) There is no single best protein powder for women.

Stay with me though …

Because there are certain objective criteria you can look at and questions you can ask to evaluate protein powders to find the best one for you (whether you’re a woman or a man).

In this post I’ll share those insights with you.

Plus, I’ll show you supposedly all-natural ingredients to avoid based on my 15+ years as a science writer/researcher in the health and wellness industry and founder of my own small nutrition company.

Let’s get going …

Compare 20+ of the best all natural protein powders by ingredients, nutrition, cost, and more.

Types of Protein Powder

We’ll begin by looking at several types of protein that are marketed to women.

Whey Protein

You may have heard that whey protein is the best type of protein powder for women.

It’s not. 

Here’s why …

Whey is derived from dairy (it was a waste product of cheese-making before supplement companies realized they could process it and sell it).

According to the National Institutes of Health, 65 percent of adults have a reduced ability to digest dairy (this is called lactose intolerance).

Lactose intolerance can cause any number of the following:

  • Bloating and gas
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Imbalance of gut bacteria (which promotes dysbiosis of the gut)
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Irritability

Aside from these inflammatory responses lactose intolerance leads to, whey is also hyper-insulinogenic. This means your body secretes a lot of insulin when you eat it. Hyperinsulinemia is associated with hypertension, obesity, dyslipidemia, and glucose intolerance (collectively known as metabolic syndrome).

Can whey protein help if you’re a woman looking to gain lean body mass (or “muscle mass”)? It appears so.

But the potential side effects outweigh the benefits, in my opinion.

Plant-based Proteins

Soy Protein

While there are studies that show soy might have some benefits for older women such as lowering cholesterol, easing menopausal symptoms, and reducing risk of breast cancer, other research casts doubt on these findings.

A report published by the DHHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Effects of Soy on Health Outcomes, concluded that there was “little evidence to support a beneficial role of soy and soy isoflavones in bone health, cancer, reproductive health, neurocognitive function, and other health parameters.”

Perhaps most alarmingly for women, soy may stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells.

Also, most non-organic soy protein is derived from GMO crops.

Rice Protein

brown rice protein woman weight lossWhey protein is commonly thought of as a superior protein source for women looking to improve body composition (lose fat, increase muscle) compared to plant-based protein powders.

However, when one group of researchers studied whey vs. rice protein head to head, they found that both whey and rice offered similar post-exercise body composition benefits … there were no statistically significant differences between the two groups.

Another study found that leucine, the key amino acid to activate muscle building, was absorbed faster from rice protein than leucine from whey protein. The study also found that amino acids in brown rice protein are highly bioavailable and are non-statistically different from whey protein in trained athletes, despite claims from whey proponents claiming superior digestibility and “bioavailability.”

However, certain brands of rice protein have tested high for heavy metals like arsenic, which has made rice protein the source of much debate as well.

If you’re going to use a rice protein powder, make sure you ask the manufacturer for the heavy metal counts.

Finally, rice protein may be more beneficial when combined with other plant sources

Pea Protein

best protein powder for women Pea protein is one of the best plant-based sources of protein if you’re looking to replace body fat with lean muscle. It may also help you:

Lower levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and decrease your risk of heart disease and kidney disease.

Pea protein has an impressive amino acid profile that may be complementary with other plant-based sources like rice and hemp.

Hemp Protein

hemp protein fiber muscleHemp protein is generally made of about 50% protein and 50% fiber. Because of this, some critics knock it as a protein source.

But hemp is one of the only vegan protein sources that contains all nine essential amino acids.

And hemp protein provides the essential fatty acids Omega-3 and Omega-6 in a well balanced 3:1 ratio.

Consuming hemp is safe, healthy and legal (no, it won’t get you high). On top of that, hemp protein powder may help improve heart health, decrease osteoporosis risk, reduce sugar cravings and boost your immune system.

When combined with other plant proteins it offers a powerful plant-based complement.

Other Plant Proteins

There are plenty of other plant-based protein sources on the market (pumpkin seed, sacha inchi, flax, chia, barley, and algae, to name a few).

Not many of them have been studied in humans yet though.

This doesn’t make them bad options. Just stick with ones that are a) organic and b) processed using low heat methods (otherwise, vital nutrients can get destroyed).

What’s the Best Protein Powder for Weight Loss?

Any protein powder can help you lose weight as long as you create a calorie deficit.

Unfortunately, many of the protein products out there are marketed as weight loss supplements with “all-natural ingredients.” I’ll talk about the latter point in a minute, but the truth is, there’s no such thing as a “weight loss protein powder”.

There’s evidence that eating a high protein, plant-based diet is one of the best ways to lose weight. Supplement companies use this data to their advantage.

Check out this report from the National Institutes of Health for more info about common ingredients touted for their weight loss benefits (spoiler alert: most don’t have a strong body of evidence to support their supposed efficacy).

There are actually certain ingredients protein powder manufacturers put in their products that may do more harm than good for some women … even though they’re marketed as all natural and clean.

Here are a few, in particular, to think twice about …

Protein Powder Ingredients Women Should Avoid

Red Flag Ingredient #1: Sugar 

I’ve reviewed many protein powders that contain 10 grams or more of added sugar per serving.

That’s roughly half a day’s worth if you’re a woman and a third of a day’s worth if you’re a man.

Sugar is one of the biggest causes of weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

Doesn’t matter if it comes from all-natural honey or highly-processed high fructose corn syrup … they produce the same metabolic responses in your body.

And artificial sweeteners like sucralose and sugar alcohols like xylitol may be worse.

Red Flag Ingredient #2: Flavors

The FDA allows food companies to use the term “natural flavors” to describe any food additive that originated in nature. They’re now the 4th most common ingredient on food labels.

In a fascinating 2011 interview that aired on 60 Minutes, scientists from Givaudan, one of the largest companies in the $24 billion flavor market, admitted their number one goal when creating flavors was to make them addictive!

One of my biggest beefs with these “flavors” is protein powder manufacturers don’t have to tell you what’s in them.

David Andrews, Senior Scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), has this to say about so-called “natural” flavors:

The truth is that when you see the word “flavor” on a food label, you have almost no clue what chemicals may have been added to the food under the umbrella of this vague term. For people who have uncommon food allergies or are on restricted diets, this can be a serious concern. [Natural flavors] will often have some solvent and preservatives—and that makes up 80 to 90 percent of the volume. In the end product, it’s a small amount, but it still has artificial ingredients.

Here’s my final red flag …

Red Flag Ingredient #3: Fillers, Gums, Emulsifiers

We talked about potential allergens and additives in flavors. But there some other common ingredients to be wary of when you see them on the ingredients list of protein powders. Food manufacturers love these fillers because they have unique properties that add desirable texture and/or shelf life to processed foods.

But they may come at a price: many have been shown to cause digestive distress and gut imbalances and/or raise your glycemic load, which can lead to a whole other set of issues.

  • Gums (xanthan, locust bean, arabic, carrageenan, guar, carob, etc.)
  • Lecithins (soy and sunflower)
  • Dextrins (maltodextrin and rice dextrin)

If you’re using a protein powder that doesn’t have organic ingredients, there’s a high likelihood all of those plant-based ingredients are sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals.

If you’re in the dark about how these pesticides can impact your health, read what scientists have to say.

Summary: What’s the Best All Natural Protein Powder for Women?

Let’s not sugarcoat it: most women humans buy nutritional supplements like protein powders because they want to look better and/or feel better.

But what if looking and feeling better comes with a price?

Many protein powders have ingredients that cause inflammation, change your gut flora, raise your blood sugar, or worse.

Even most of the ones marketed as “all natural” have some type of highly-processed pseudo-food like gums, fillers, and other additives.

Most of them are deemed safe for consumption by the FDA … but “natural” has quickly become an ambiguous and over-marketed term in the protein powder business.

At the end of the day, all-natural comes down to the ingredients: are they real food as close to their natural state as possible or are they pseudo-foods that contains fillers, additives, and other junk?

In most cases it’s the latter, unfortunately.

The best protein powder for you depends largely on your health and fitness goals. Are you trying to lose body fat? Gain muscle mass? Eat cleaner, more natural foods?

In my opinion, the potential price you’ll pay down the road is not worth the risk when it comes to protein powders that contain these types of ingredients.

Click here to get my spreadsheet comparing 20+ protein powders/shakes by ingredients, nutrition, cost, and more.

Essential and Non-Essential Amino Acid Chart

“Amino acids” is one of those buzz terms you probably hear quite often if you’re interested in health and wellness. After reading this article, you’ll understand:

  • What they are
  • Why you need them
  • The difference between essential, non-essential, and branched chain amino acids (BCAAs)

I’ll also show you an amino acid chart for both Pure Food Protein flavors, since it’s a common question I get from customers.

Let’s jump right in …

What Are Amino Acids?

If proteins are the “building blocks of muscle,” amino acids are the building blocks of protein.

Your body uses amino acids to make proteins that help you break down food, grow/repair muscle and other body tissue, and perform many other functions.

There are around 500 amino acids scientists have discovered. Since only 20 appear in human genetic code, we refer to these as the “standard 20“. Here they are, in all their chemical compound glory:

standard 20 amino acids

Types of Amino Acids

There are three main types of amino acids:

1. Non-Essential Amino Acids

Your body makes 11 out of the 20 standard amino acids. This means it’s not “essential” to eat foods that contain them, since your body creates enough.

The 11 non-essential AAs include: alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.

2. Essential Amino Acids

Unlike non-essential AAs, your body can’t make essential amino acids, which means you must get them from the foods you eat. The 9 essential amino acids are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

essential amino acid chart

3. Conditional amino acids

Arginine has a star next to it in the image above because it’s also considered a “semi-essential”, or conditional amino acid. Your body only needs these types of AA’s in certain situations (when you’re stressed or sick, for example).

Conditional amino acids include arginine, cysteine, glutamine, tyrosine, glycine, ornithine, proline, and serine.

So what happens when you don’t get enough essential amino acids in your diet?

First, a lack of essential amino acids from foods in your diet affects your body’s ability to use protein.

Protein deficiency impacts pretty much all of the body’s organs and systems.

Protein deficiency is one of the biggest public health problems in the world, accounting for about 30-40% of hospital admissions in developing countries.

However, most of you reading this don’t live in developing countries … so should protein deficiency really concern you?

Let’s find out the answer to one of the most common questions I get …

How do I determine how much protein I need?

The short answer: it depends.

The current recommendation for protein intake is 0.8 grams per kilogram (or around 0.36 grams per pound) of body mass in generally healthy adults.

However, this protein intake recommendation is only to prevent protein deficiency and maintain nitrogen balance in the body (a negative nitrogen balance indicates that muscle is being broken down and used for energy).

It’s not necessarily optimal.

Studies show that athletes, active people, and older individuals may require even more protein (1.4 – 2.0 g/kg of body weight).

For healthy adults, low protein diets often lead to weight gain and increased fat mass.

Eating more protein can help increase levels of the hormone glucagon, which helps control body fat. It can also help strengthen bones as you age. And if you’re concerned about negative health effects of protein on kidney function, nearly all of these studies looked at animal sources of protein, not plant-based protein.

One of key indicators of the “quality” of a protein source is not whether or not it comes from a plant or animal … it’s the amount of BCAAs

What Are Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and Why Do You Need Them?

Of the essential amino acids, three account for as much as 33% of muscle tissue – leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These are called Branched Chain Amino Acids, or BCAAs.

Here’s a breakdown of each:

Leucine is arguably the most important BCAA because there’s clinical evidence that shows it helps your body synthesize protein. Aim for 2-3 grams of leucine per day for optimal protein synthesis. (Side Note: 1 serving of both Pure Food Protein flavors have 2 grams of leucine … more on this below)

leucine bcaa plant protein

Isoleucine is another BCAA. It can help your body regulate blood sugar levels and ensure your muscle cells are metabolizing sugar (instead of fat cells).

Researchers have yet to determine an “optimal” isoleucine level.

Valine is the third branched chain amino acid. Based on current research, it’s the least important BCAA for body composition. It’s also the least-studied, so I’ll report back when more clinical data becomes available.

bcaas valine

Do You Need a BCAA Supplement?

No.

Get your BCAAs from real food instead.

You may have seen BCAA supplement peddlers state that BCAAs may lead to anabolic effects before, during, and after exercise. However, there are zero double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials that show BCAA supplementation is any more effective than getting your BCAAs from food.

If you eat the right amount of protein for your body type, composition, age, and health goals (see above), then there’s no reason to take a BCAA supplement.

Pure Food Amino Acid Chart: Essentials and BCAAs

Vanilla:

Isoleucine 1.108
Leucine 2.117
Valine  1.362
Histidine 0.600
Lysine 1.281
Methionine 0.509
Phenylalanine 1.382
Threonine 0.937
Tryptophan 0.280
Arginine 1.741

Total BCAAs: 4.587 grams

Cacao:

Isoleucine 1.039
Leucine 1.981
Valine  1.279
Histidine 0.565
Lysine 1.197
Methionine 0.479
Phenylalanine 1.294
Threonine 0.880
Tryptophan 0.264
Arginine 1.636

Total BCAAs: 4.299 grams

Wrap Up

Getting the right amount of essential amino acids, and particularly BCAAs, does a body good.

However, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to choke down whey protein shakes and eat bloody steaks every day to get your BCAAs.

Protein that comes from meat is not “superior” to protein that comes from plants. Research shows that both protein from plant sources and animal sources seem to work equally well in increasing muscle protein synthesis.

You don’t need a supplement either to get your BCAAs each day. Eat plenty of whole, plant-based foods and if you need a little extra protein (remember, athletes, active people, and older individuals do), consider a clean vegan protein powder like Pure Food, which has 4 grams of BCAAs.

See What Pure Food Can Do for You

 

Shakeology Reviews: An Unbiased Nutrition Facts and Ingredients Analysis

Most Shakeology reviews have one thing in common: a vested interest in selling Beachbody products. 

That’s because they’re all written by Beachbody “Coaches.” [side note: I was a Coach for a short stint several years ago, so I’m very familiar with their marketing methods.]

While I do sell a plant protein powder of my own, my analysis/review of Shakeology’s products is unbiased because I use three objective criteria when evaluating their protein powders: 1.) Ingredients, 2.) Nutrition, and 3.) Cost.

Here’s the thing …

Shakeology actually has a lot of good stuff in it.

Unfortunately, there are some ingredients they use that concern me though, as you’re about to see.

Scroll below to see the summary and full versions of my Shakeology review …

best plant-based protein powders

Shakeology Reviews (Summary Version)

Similar to my other plant-based protein powder analyses, I am judging Beachbody’s Shakeology protein powders based on health and nutrition … NOT taste.

So here’s the deal …

In this section I’ll provide an analysis of Shakeology’s products as a whole and tell you the 4 things that concern me most about it. Below we’ll look at the complete nutrition facts and ingredients for each product separately.

Here we go …

Shakeology Nutrition Summary: All Products

Calories 160-170
Grams of Protein 16-17
Protein Source(s) Regular Shakeology: Whey protein isolate, pea protein, sacha inchi, flax, chia, quinoa

Shakeology Vegan Protein: Pea protein, oat protein, rice protein, chia, flax, quinoa

Grams of Sugar 6-8
Free of “Natural” Flavors No
Free of Gums & Thickeners No
Organic No
Vegan Yes
Cost Per Gram $.10

 

Here are 5 things I wish Shakeology would improve:

  1. Shakeology’s products are not organic.
  2. Shakeology shakes have an average of 6-8 grams of added sugar per shake.
  3. At $.10/gram, Shakeology is one of the more expensive protein powders on the market. (Note: I use cost per gram to account for different serving sizes).
  4. Most of Shakeology’s non-vegan shakes contain whey protein isolate. Whey protein may do more harm than good for many people with dairy sensitivities or allergies.
  5. Shakeology has “natural” flavors. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has an awesome web resource that evaluates the safety of the most common food additives. In its “Safety Ratings,” CSPI says natural flavors “may trigger an acute, allergic reaction, intolerance, or other problems.”
is shakeology bad for you
source: https://cspinet.org/eating-healthy/chemical-cuisine

Click here to get my FREE report on the dangers of natural flavors.

Next we’ll break down the nutrition facts and ingredients for each of Shakeology’s products/flavors separately.

Shakeology Ingredients / Nutritionals Review

Alrighty, let’s start with the good. I actually like a lot of the ingredients in Shakelogy:

  • Seeds: chia, flax, and quinoa
  • Greens: moringa, chlorella, kale, spinach, and spirulina
  • Probiotics/digestive enzymes
  • “Adaptogenic blend”: ashwagandha, maca, etc.

However, like I said above, there are 5 major issues I have with Shakeology’s products:

  1. They’re not organic. Any “superfood” that’s not organic may be sprayed with cancer-causing pesticides and/or high is in heavy metals. In fact, Shakeology found itself in hot water a couple years ago when Dr. Oz. issued a warning about the lead levels in their products. Beachbody, Shakeology’s parent company, has since reformulated their products to address these concerns.
  2. Sugar content. 6-8 grams of added sugar is too much for a 160-170-calorie protein shake for non-athletes. If your body isn’t using that sugar during exercise, it will get converted into fat.
  3. Price. At $.10/gram, Shakeology is one of the most expensive protein powders on the market. It retails at $130 for 30 servings.
  4. Whey protein. For people sensitive to dairy, whey is not a good protein choice. Read my article Whey Vs Plant Protein. Shakeology does make several vegan proteins, as you’ll see below … but they all have 6-8 grams of added sugar, depending on the flavor.
  5. “Natural” flavors. Natural flavors can contain hundreds of different substances–many of them chemicals–and still be called “natural.” Here’s what the EWG has to say about them:

Consumers may be surprised to learn that so-called “natural flavors” can actually contain synthetic chemicals such as the solvent propylene glycol or the preservative BHA.  Flavor extracts derived from genetically engineered crops may also be labeled “natural,” because the FDA has not fully defined what that term means.

Shakeology has 8 different products/flavors: chocolate, vanilla, cafe latte, strawberry, greenberry, chocolate (vegan), vanilla (vegan), cafee latte (vegan), and tropical strawberry (vegan).

shakeology review

Let’s have a look at the nutrition facts and ingredients for each, starting with the vegan ones, which I recommend over the whey protein based shakes.

I highlighted areas of concern in red below …

Beachbody Shakeology Nutrition Facts Labels

Vanilla Vegan Protein

shakeology vegan vanilla
There are some ingredients in Shakeology’s “superfood blend” I really like: the protein sources, mushroom powders, and herbs. However, beware of the red flag ingredients: sugar, “natural” flavors, xanthan gum.

Cafe Latte Vegan Protein

plant-based shakology
8 grams of sugar in a protein shake is way too much unless you’re a hardcore exerciser! It doesn’t matter is it’s “organic cane sugar” or high fructose corn syrup … your body processes these the same way.

Chocolate Vegan Chocolate Protein Powder

shakeology chocolate vegan protein ingredients
Again, some great superfood ingredients here; however, you should be wary of the added sugar and gums.

Vegan Tropical Strawberry Protein Powder

shakology tropical strawberry protein nutrition
Lots of different “natural” flavors going on here.

Chocolate Protein Powder

shakeology chocolate nutrition facts

Vanilla Protein Powder

shakeology vanilla nutrition

Greenberry Protein Powder

shakeology reviews unbiased

Strawberry Protein Powder

beachbody shakeology nutrition label

Cafe Latte Protein Powder

shakeology ingredients

Bottom Line: Is Shakeology Good for You?

Even though I have strong opinions about protein powders, I tried to remain as unbiased as possible in my Shakeology reviews.

From a nutrition standpoint, there are some really nice ingredients in Shakeology: quality protein sources in their plant-based ones along with with a nice mix of adaptogenic herbs, mushroom powders, and other superfoods.

However, the problems I have with Beachbody’s Shakeology shakes is they a) are not organic; b) have 6-8 grams of added sugar per serving, c) contain flavors, and d) are not cheap.

There are definitely worse protein powders you can buy, and the Chocolate Vegan flavor is the “cleanest” of the bunch when it comes to ingredients, based on my analysis.

But for the money, I recommend sticking with an organic, plant-based protein with 100% real food ingredients instead.

best plant-based protein powders

The Best Vegan Probiotics, According to Science

4 out of every 5 probiotic supplements contain dairy-based derivatives.

This isn’t just bad news for vegans. 

Why?

Because:

  1. best probiotic supplementUp to 65 percent of adults are lactose intolerant, which means milk-based probiotics can make things worse for those with dairy sensitivities.
  2. Dairy-based probiotics are often only shelf stable for a few days. After this, the bacteria start to die. So, you have to take more of them to feel any effect.

Vegan probiotics must be better for you then, right?

Not necessarily.

Most vegan probiotic manufacturers use corn-, soy-, and wheat-based fillers and additives that may make your gut issues worse.

And many just flat out don’t work.

In this guide, I’ll help you navigate the fascinating yet complex world of probiotics. We’ll talk about the best vegan food sources of probiotics. Then I’ll show you what to look for if you decide to take a vegan probiotic supplement.

Away we go …

What Are Probiotics and Why Are They So Popular Right Now?

best vegan probiotics

There are 40 trillion bacterial cells in your body at any given moment (compared to around 30 trillion human cells).

Many of these bacterial organisms live in your gut, part of a stunningly complex network of neurons known as your “microbiome”.

The densest part of your microbiome is in your gut, where about 1,000 species of bacteria feast on complex carbohydrates and fibers you eat.

The microbiome plays an important role in your body …

Scientists have discovered that 70-80 percent of your immune system is controlled by your microbiome and 95 percent of your body’s serotonin—the neurotransmitter that’s the main contributor to your well-being and happiness—is made in your gut, not your brain.

The gut microbiome is largely shaped by what we eat and drink. And the Western diet, with its heavy use of heavily processed foods like refined flour and sugar, actually starves your microbiota, leading to a plethora of health conditions.

That’s why probiotics, these “good”, “friendly” or “healthy” bacteria you can take in supplement form, are so popular now.

The Best Sources of Probiotics for Vegans and Vegetarians

1. Fermented vegetables 

Sauerkraut, pickles, and kimchi are among the most popular natural sources of vegan probiotics. But most of the store brands contain vinegar and preservatives, which kill the beneficial bacteria.

So look for pickled vegetables that are naturally fermented using salt.

Or just make your own.

Personal note: I was inspired to start fermenting vegetables after reading Michael Pollan’s fantastic book, Cooked. All you need is vegetables/fruit, salt, and a fermentation vessel. This is the crock I use if you get serious but when you’re first starting out, any large container will work).

Also, the cellular structure of certain foods makes them act as “superfoods” for good microbes to feed on. These include onions, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, dandelion greens, jicama, and peas.

2. Fermented tea 
Kombucha is black tea that’s fermented with sugar. Some store-bought brands also add sugar, which can strengthen harmful microbes like E. coli.

Personal note: I got this kombucha kit and use it to make a fermented tea called Jun that uses green tea and honey instead of black tea and sugar. Here’s how to make it.

3. Sourdough Bread

There is not a more delicious way to enjoy the benefits of probiotics than eating a warm, crusty slice of sourdough bread (assuming you don’t have a gluten sensitivity).

Personal note: I also start making sourdough bread after reading Cooked. Seriously, read the book! Then pick up a sourdough starter and some flour and make this no-knead Cast Iron Sourdough Bread recipe. from the New York Times.

4. Fermented soy

Soy has gotten a bad rap (from me included) because it’s used so much in processed foods. However, fermented soy products like organic miso, tofu, and soy sauce may actually have some health benefits.

5. Variety

Simple sugars cause conflict between our microbes and cells, but eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains encourages cooperation between them. Gregory Plotnifkoff, MD, coauthor of Trust Your Gut recommends adhering to the old Japanese adage of eating at least 30 different whole foods per day!

6. Supplements

Eating 30 different foods can be a challenge for time-strapped folks though. That’s where probiotic supplements may help …

How to Find the Best Probiotic for Your Health Needs

healthiest probioticsNot all probiotics strains are the same. Different strains offer different benefits and some probiotic strains survive manufacturing processes, shelf life and digestive transit better than others. When choosing a probiotic consider the following questions:

  1. Is it derived from dairy? As mentioned, even if you’re not a vegan, dairy can be problematic for the 65 percent of people who can’t digest lactose properly. Choose vegan probiotics instead.
  2. Does your probiotic survive stomach acid and/or manufacturing? As mentioned, most don’t. Certain strains fare better than others. Always ask the manufacturer of your probiotic if they have any clinical research to support their product. Just because they sell a popular strain, doesn’t mean their probiotic are live and active.
  3. Is your probiotic safe and FDA-approved? The FDA doesn’t require probiotic companies to test their bacteria strains. So naturally, most don’t do it. Probiotic contamination is a big deal though. If your probiotic manufacturer doesn’t have strict quality control measures in place, your probiotic may be doing more harm than good. Make sure the company you buy from tests its probiotics for safety and efficacy and can provide documentation to prove it.
  4. Is your probiotic backed by peer-reviewed clinical studies? Don’t trust marketing claims on product labels and websites. Even most clinical data probiotic companies cite is funded by the companies themselves. Your probiotic should be backed by peer-reviewed clinical studies (the gold standard in scientific research) if the company makes any claims about its benefits.
  5. Does your probiotic contain fillers, preservatives, allergens, and artificial ingredients? The answer is usually yes, but manufacturers are very good at hiding this information. The only way to know is to ask them what “excipients” are in it.
  6. What health challenges are you facing? Different strains of probiotics offer different types of benefits. Don’t just buy a probiotic without understanding the type or types of strains it contains—otherwise you’re very likely wasting your money. For example, I suffer from GI issues, so I make sure I take strains that help me with those.

The Best Time to Take Probiotics

Research shows you can take probiotics before, during, or after meals. However, you may experience additional benefits if you take your probiotics with some form of healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, etc.).

Benefits of Various Probiotic Strains

Let’s look at some of the strain-specific benefits of probiotics …

Sleep Benefits

We spend almost a third of our lives asleep. Researchers are discovering that the duration and quality of our sleep affect everything from our cognitive performance, mood, and memory to the health of our immune and endocrine systems.

It’s widely known that quality sleep can improve your memory, reduce inflammation (the pre-cursor to most disease), sharpen your mental focus, help you control your weight, and lower your stress levels.

Probiotics (beneficial bacteria) produce and regulate a number of neurotransmitters and hormones that impact our sleep:

Tryptophan and Melatonin: Probiotics can increase blood levels of tryptophan, an amino acid that converts into serotonin and then into melatonin, the hormone that regulates how sleepy you feel.

Serotonin: Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood and plays a significant role in sleep quality. Researchers found that serotonin deficiency in rats led to disrupted sleep-wake cycles. Most serotonin is made in the gut.

GABA: Beneficial bacteria help produce GABA, the calming brain chemical, as well as enhance its brain receptors.

Cortisol: If temporary stress and anxiety are the cause of your sleepless nights, rest assured that probiotics may even lower levels of cortisol, a hormone that becomes elevated during times of stress.

So what probiotic strains have been shown to be effective for sleep? Not many, just yet.

A small study showed that the probiotic Streptococcus can help improve sleep outcomes.

Mental Health Benefits

The relationship between the microbiota and anxiety/depression has been studied mainly in animals … but preliminary research is promising.

Your gut microbiota plays a major role in the communication between the gut and the brain.

A review of several research studies showed that certain probiotics have antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties. The researchers concluded:

Regulation of the gut microbiota using diet, probiotics and FMT (fecal microbiota transplantation) may have important benefits for preventing and treating depression.

Weight Loss Benefits

In a metaanalysis of over 800 studies, researchers found that:

Administration of probiotics resulted in a significantly larger reduction in body weight and fat percentage compared with placebo; however, the effect sizes were small.

Immunity Benefits

Research is still emerging in this area but it appears probiotics may be able to help you keep your immune system functioning at a higher level.

New research has shown that certain strains can activate health immune cells and decrease inflammation.

Gut Health Benefits

Several probiotic strains have been shown to help those suffering from GI issues like diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), irritable bowl disease (IBD), and food allergies.

Safety and Side Effects of Probiotics

According to the National Institutes of Health, the safety of probiotics depends on the state of your health and the strain you’re using.

In people who are generally healthy, probiotics have a solid safety record. Side effects, if they occur at all, usually consist only of mild digestive symptoms such as gas.

On the other hand, there have been reports linking some probiotics to severe side effects, such as dangerous infections, in people with serious underlying medical problems. The people who are most at risk of severe side effects include critically ill patients, those who have had surgery, very sick infants, and people with weakened immune systems.

Do your homework and ask your doctor about any certain strains so she/he can tell you whether it’s safe for you.

Why GanedenBC30 (Bacillus coagulans) is the Best Vegan Probiotic Supplement

vegan probioticsOk, I’ll admit I’m a little biased here because GanedenBC30 is the probiotic we use in Pure Food Protein.

But here’s why I think it’s one of the best vegan probiotics on the market …

Bacillus coagulans is:

  • Proven to be safe for people of all ages (it’s one of the few strains with FDA “Generally Recognized As Safe” affirmation)
  • Calorie and gluten-free
  • Organic Compliant
  • Kosher and halal
  • A sustainable, naturally occurring, non-GMO ingredient (non-GMO verified)
  • Studied and supported in  25 peer reviewed, published clinical trials.
    • Research on GanedenBC30 demonstrates the probiotic helps keep your digestive system functioning at full speed.
    • Several studies found that GanedenBC30 reduced bloating and gas and even abdominal pain.
    • In addition to helping people digest food better, GanedenBC30 increased utilization of minerals and proteins and
    • GanedenBC30 can even support immune function, according to several studies.
  • One of the few EXTREMELY stable probiotics due to the cell’s ability to form a protective spore. Just like plant seeds wait to grow until spring when the temperature and moisture levels are optimal, GanedenBC30 spores wait to germinate and grow until they reach the intestines where the conditions are just right. This protective shell also gives GanedenBC30 is one of the few vegan probiotics on the market that can survive harsh manufacturing processes, product shelf life, and the journey through the digestive system.

Bottom Line About Vegan Probiotics

the best probioticsFrom the day you were born, your digestive tract has been exposed to a steady stream of bacteria–some helpful, some harmful. One key to gastrointestinal (GI) health is maintaining a balance of these “good” and “bad” bacteria.

Over time, diet, aging, antibiotic use, travel, medications, illness, stress, and hormonal changes can disrupt your intestinal balance.

Keeping a healthy level of these “good” bacteria is key to maintaining your digestive and immune health.

To help level the playing field of good and bad bacteria, many people find it helpful to add a daily supplement or eat more probiotic fortified foods and beverages.

Like most industries, the market for probiotics is ripe with crappy products. The only way to know if your probiotic is legit is to answer the 6 questions above. If a manufacturer is hesitant to provide any information you ask for, that’s a big red flag for an inferior product that could do more harm than good.

10 minutes of research makes a world of difference when it comes to choosing the right probiotic supplement for you.

Learn More About Pure Food Protein Powder with Probiotics

Sources Not Linked to Above/Further Reading:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/strange-but-true-humans-carry-more-bacterial-cells-than-human-ones/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10564096

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970204468004577164732944974356

https://www.ganedenbc30.com/health

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-second-brain/

https://www.the-rheumatologist.org/details/article/1386089/The_Microbiome.html

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/gut-week-do-probiotics-work-are-they-good-for-me/ 

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/11/18/244526773/gut-bacteria-might-guide-the-workings-of-our-minds

https://experiencelife.com/article/how-to-heal-a-leaky-gut/

 

Healthy DIY Soylent Recipes with Organic, Real Food Ingredients

Soylent runs a website with thousands of DIY recipes.

I spent over an hour searching for one with 100% real food ingredients (no gums, fillers, additives, sugars, etc.).

I couldn’t find a single one.

So naturally (pun intended), I decided to make my own.

In my Soylent review, I answered the question, “Is Soylent good for you?” (spoiler alert: the answer was no).

In this post, I’ll show you how you can create your own healthy DIY Soylent recipes.

Let’s get started …

Bonus: Download 3 Soylent DIY printable recipe cards

My 4 Criteria for “Healthy”

1. 100% organic, plant-based, real food ingredients.

2. No added sugar.

3. A balanced macronutrient profile (carbs, fat, protein). 

4. 400-500 calorie range. 

Quite the challenge to pull off, right?

Here’s how I did it … and how my DIY recipes compare to Soylent.

INGREDIENTS

soylent ingredients
Red Flag #1: when you can’t pronounce 95% of the ingredients. (click to enlarge)

For carbs, I used oat flour, maca, real fruits and fruit powders, and other high fiber, real food sources.

Soylent uses maltodextrin, a GMO corn-based thickener and other processed starches you can barely pronounce. Just look at their ingredients label, you guys: Soylent is a science experiment gone horribly wrong … not real food.

I used higher quality, healthier sources of fat like olive, coconut, and avocado oils in my recipes. Soylent uses sunflower, canola, and algal oil powder. These oils are high in Omega-6 fatty acids (the kind that promote inflammation).

For protein, Soylent uses soy protein, which has some pros and many cons. All 3 DIY recipes use Pure Food Protein. Yes, it’s (obviously) the protein I sell. Yes, I think it’s the best plant based protein powder on the market for many reasons.

But use whatever protein powder you want, especially if cost is your biggest concern (more on this below). The type of protein powder type doesn’t make or break the recipe … just watch out for the ones that use chemicals and cheap additives though.

COST

At $1.54/serving, Soylent is cheap. Like, so cheap I have no idea how they make money. So if you’re looking for a cheap meal replacement and don’t care about ingredients/nutrition, Soylent is a great deal at least!

These healthy Soylent alternative recipes are much more expensive at $3-6/meal. Couple things to note about that though:

1. I used all organic ingredients, so you can probably save a couple bucks if you don’t buy organic if cost is a concern.

2. To knock the price down even more, buy whole fruits and seeds instead of the powders I mention below (for example, in DIY Soylent recipe #1 I wanted to create a full powdered version so I used banana powder but in recipe #4 I used a whole banana, which was much cheaper).

I recommend a high-powered blender like a BlendTec or Vitamix if you go that route. This is the Vitamix I have. It’s a couple years old but saves you a few hundred dollars compared to the new models.

Although I’ve included links to ingredients that are the best deals I found on Amazon, Costco is another great place to get deals on many of this stuff (except Pure Food … we’re only available on Amazon and here on our website … for 20% cheaper if you Subscribe & Save, I might add, which decreases the cost/serving substantially).

So long story short, if you don’t have time to cook a full meal, scoop up the awesome ingredients below and try my homemade Soylent recipes.

Healthy Soylent Recipe #1

DIY soylent recipe
My meager phone photography skills don’t do it justice, but this recipe was the best tasting, in my opinion.

Ingredients:

Nutrition:

  • Calories: 496
  • Fat: 34 grams
  • Carbs: 33 grams (7 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar)
  • Protein: 20.5 grams

Price:

$5.32/meal (496 calories)

Healthy Soylent Recipe #2

homemade soylent
This recipe has just 2 grams of sugar (plus 17 grams of fiber)!

Ingredients:

Nutrition:

  • Calories: 522
  • Fat: 25 grams
  • Carbs: 52 grams (17 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar)
  • Protein: 25 grams

Price:

$5.28/meal (522 calories)

Healthy Soylent Recipe #3

healthy soylent alternative

 Ingredients:

Nutrition:

  • Calories: 494
  • Fat: 33 grams
  • Carbs: 30 grams (12 grams of fiber, 8 grams of sugar)
  • Protein: 24 grams

Price:

$5.40/meal (494 calories)

Healthy Soylent Recipe #4

homemade soylent recipe

Ingredients:

Nutrition:

  • Calories: 506
  • Fat: 20 grams
  • Carbs: 60 grams (10 grams of fiber, 14 grams of sugar)
  • Protein: 26 grams

Price:

$3.13/meal (506 calories)

Final Thoughts

I think Soylent is a brilliant idea. I love the concept of a meal replacement drink that meets all your nutritional requirements. But Soylent’s ingredients and nutrition facts are garbage. Their last batch of powder actually got recalled because a bunch of people experienced vomiting and diarrhea (yikes!).

I’ll be updating this post in the coming weeks with more DIY Soylent recipes as I work on my new real food meal replacement product … join my email list if you’re interested in getting new recipe updates or getting a free sample of the new product when it’s ready. I’m experimenting with many of the ingredients you see in this post!



(This is the 2nd of a 2-part series. Read the first post for my full Soylent review.)

Soylent Ingredients and Nutrition Facts Review and Analysis

Before I get into my ingredients and nutrition facts reviews and analyses for Soylent’s protein products, let me say this …
I love the idea of Soylent: a convenient, inexpensive way to get a full meal.
If you take a closer look at the ingredients and nutrition panel though, there are a few red flags you need to be aware of if you care about the foods you put in your body.

In this Soylent review, you’ll find out exactly why.

Click/tap the links below to jump to each section …

Get Instant Access to My 3 Healthy DIY Soylent Recipe Cards Here


What Is Soylent Made Of? Nutrition Facts and Ingredients Review

I’ve reviewed a lot of different protein powders. If there’s one single piece of advice I can offer when deciding for yourself whether a product is “healthy,” it’s this:

The nutrition facts and ingredients are the only objective sources of truth.

Let’s have a closer look at the nutrition facts for both Soylent bottle (liquid) and pouch (powder). We’ll start with Soylent Drink.

Soylent Drink 2.0 is the current version of their liquid ready-to-drink bottle, which is now available in three flavors: Original, Cacao, and Nectar. 1.8 is the current version of the powdered formula. Here are the nutrition facts labels for each:

Soylent 2.0 Drink Nutrition (Original):

soylent 2.0 nutrition

Soylent 2.0 Drink Nutrition (Cacao):

is soylent healthy

Soylent 2.0 Drink Nutrition (Nectar):

soylent nectar nutrition facts

Soylent 1.8 Powder Nutrition Facts:

soylent 1.8 powder nutrition facts

Upon first glance, you might think these are healthy.

Here’s where this review gets a little ugly though if you’re a Soylent fan.

Each “meal” has between 9 and 15 grams of added sugar. Newly proposed recommendations provided by the WHO encourage limiting added sugar to less than 5% of your total energy intake each day. That’s just 100 calories’ worth of sugar (or around 25 grams) for someone who eats 2,000 calories per day!

So 60% of the sugar you’re supposed to eat in an entire day is in a single serving of Soylent Powder!

According to Soylent’s website:

The Soylent recipe is based on the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and is regulated as a food by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Uh, call me crazy, but where does the IOM (or any other respectable health organization) recommend 15 grams of added sugar in a single meal?!

But this isn’t even the worst part.

We haven’t gotten to the ingredients yet …

Soylent Ingredients

First, I’ll call your attention to this graphic from Soylent’s website:

soylent review
Thanks, Soylent, for being “transparent” about your low standards for ingredients. Source: www.soylent.com

As you can see, the ingredients in Soylent are:

  1. Not organic (which means there’s a high likelihood there are chemical pesticides and herbicides in your meal replacement shake)
  2. Not kosher-free
  3. Not GMO-free (Soylent actually says their products are “proudly made with GMOs“)
  4. Not allergen-free

Here are the complete ingredient lists for Soylent’s current releases of their Drinks and Powder:

Soylent 2.0 Drink (Original):

soylent ingredients - bottle

Soylent 2.0 Drink (Cacao):

soylent drink - cacao

Soylent 2.0 Drink (Nectar):

soylent nectar ingredient list

Soylent 1.8 Powder Ingredients:

soylent powder ingredients

These sounds more like chemistry experiments than real food.

There’s a lot of cheap fillers and additives in those ingredients lists but I want to call your attention to a few, in particular, you might want to consider avoiding …

Click on the links below to read about the potential dangers and side effects of the following Soylent ingredients. I’ve summed up each in parentheses too.

  • Soy Protein Isolate (cheap protein source usually produced from GMO and chemical-ridden soybeans; derived using petroleum-based hexane; common allergen and cause of inflammation)
  • Natural Flavors (the 4th most common ingredient on food labels; consist of a “natural” extract combined with potentially hundreds of chemical compounds that food companies don’t have to disclose, thanks to the FDA)
  • Maltodextrin (GMO corn-based starch used to thicken processed foods)
  • Soy Lecithin (GMO soy-based thickener/emulsifier that may promote inflammation)
  • Sucralose (artificial sweetener that caused cancer in animal studies; still approved by the FDA for some crazy reason)

What Does Soylent Taste Like?

I didn’t case for the taste for either Soylent bottle (2.0) or pouch (1.8). It’s kind of like a thick, malty mush. Not gag-worthy by any means but not good either. The Cacao and Nectar Drinks tastes better but that’s because they use so-called “natural” flavors (see link above).

I’ve heard that earlier versions were too sweet so they reduced the sweetness level in the latest version. It’s still too sweet for my liking.

Its grey color is a little off-putting for me but this may not be an issue for others.

I realize this is only my opinion about how Soylent tastes and not a very objective answer. If you’d like to hear what others have to say, check out the answers to this question on Quora: What does Soylent taste like?

Soylent Price

One of Soylent’s biggest draws is its cost—it’s pretty cheap. This comes as no surprise when you look at their list of unhealthy, processed junk ingredients.

Here’s how much Soylent costs:

Soylent Drink 2.0 Original Price: 

$34 for 12 bottles ($2.83 per 400 kcal serving) or $32.30 for 12 bottles with a monthly subscription ($2.42 per 400 kcal serving)

Soylent Drink 2.0 Cacao Price:

$39 for 12 bottles ($3.25 per 400 kcal serving) or $37.05 for 12 bottles with a monthly subscription ($3.09 per 400 kcal serving)

Soylent Drink 2.0 Nectar Price: 

$39 for 12 bottles ($3.25 per 400 kcal serving) or $37.05 for 12 bottles with a monthly subscription ($3.09 per 400 kcal serving)

Soylent Powder 1.8 Price:

$64 for 35 meals ($1.83 per 400 kcal serving) or $154 for 35 meals with a monthly subscription ($1.54 per 400 kcal serving).

Soylent Recall

It seems like every time I blink, there’s another Soylent recall …

Soylent recalled their 1.6 Powder in late 2016 after it made a lot of people sick.

Then 1.7 was released after a messy dispute with one of their ingredient suppliers.

Just a month later, they released version 1.8, adding “soluble corn fiber,” which they claim is a “truer source of fiber to the consumer,” whatever that means.

Then 1.8 was recalled due to “undeclared allergens.”

Mistakes happen in the food industry, I get it. But that’s a lot of recalls in a short amount of time.

Soylent Review: The Final Verdict

My Soylent review can be summed up in three words:

Not. Real. Food.

Sure, it satisfies your daily calorie requirements—but it may do your body more harm than good because of all the artificial, processed, junk ingredients.

Look for a meal replacement powder with ingredients sourced from organic whole foods instead.

This is the first of a two-part series. Check out the next post: Healthy DIY Soylent Recipes with Organic, Real Food Ingredients

Whey vs Plant Protein: Dangers, Side Effects, and Myths

Whey vs plant protein … it’s a topic of much debate. In this article, I’ll break down the science and show you some possible whey protein dangers and side effects you probably didn’t know about.

First, a quick story …

When I was a young buck I liked to lift weights (still do). After every workout, I choked down a whey protein shake. If you’re a gym-goer you know exactly what I’m talking about … that overly sweet, chemical-tasting concoction that’s supposedly the best way to gain muscle fast.

Aside from the taste, my “healthy” whey protein shakes made me super bloated and wreaked havoc on my digestive system. Fast forward to my mid-thirties and my gut was a complete mess. I saw countless doctors, including several GI specialists, and spent some time in the hospital trying to figure out what was wrong with me. To this day, I still don’t have a diagnosis. But when I gave up whey protein (and all dairy, for that matter), my gut issues disappeared.

Now, as someone who studies food science and reads clinical studies in his free time, I know this story is anecdotal. In other words, it’s just one example that doesn’t lend much credibility to the plant vs protein argument. However, once I started digging into the science, I found there are plenty of whey protein side effects and I was clueless about.

So with that said, it’s time to separate the facts from the myths about whey vs plant-based protein powder. In this article, you’ll learn what whey protein is and how it’s made; the potential dangers, side effects, and myths of whey and plant proteins; and the criteria I recommend using to find a clean protein powder.

Click on each button below to navigate to each section.

 

What Is Whey Protein?

Milk contains two types of protein: casein and whey. Whey is found in the watery portion of milk. When cheese is produced, the fatty parts of the milk coagulate and the whey is separated from it as a by-product.

Whey Protein Side Effects and Dangers

Here’s what one of the most reputable medical sources on the planet, The Mayo Clinic, has to say about the possible dangers and side effects of whey protein:

Allergies

  • Avoid in people with known allergy or sensitivity to milk or milk products, including cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, goat’s milk, and mare’s milk.
  • Allergic reactions (including diarrhea, failure to thrive, infant colic, rash, and vomiting) have been reported with exposure to whey.

Side Effects

whey vs plant protein

  • Whey protein may cause abnormal heart rhythms, changes in cholesterol levels, headache, increased diabetes risk, increased fracture or osteoporosis risk, kidney dysfunction, liver damage, stomach or intestine symptoms (acid reflux, bloating, constipation, cramps, gas, increased bowel movements, movement problems, nausea, reduced appetite, swelling of limbs, and upset stomach), and thirst.
  • Whey protein may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in people with diabetes or low blood sugar, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar.
  • Whey protein may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in people with bleeding disorders or in those taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
  • Whey protein may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver’s “cytochrome P450” enzyme system.
  • Whey protein may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people with low blood pressure or in those taking drugs or herbs and supplements that lower blood pressure.
  • Drowsiness or sedation may occur. Use caution if driving or operating heavy machinery.
  • Use cautiously in people who take medications, including agents that affect the immune system and agents that lower cholesterol.
  • Use cautiously in people with stomach or intestine disorders.
  • Avoid in people with known allergy or sensitivity to milk or milk products, including cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, goat’s milk, and mare’s milk.
  • Avoid in people who are avoiding the use of dairy products.
The Mayo Clinic says to avoid using whey protein long-term and in excessive amounts. Click To Tweet

Source:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/whey-protein/safety/hrb-20060532

Whey Protein Myths

Myth #1: Whey is a health food

Whey is a waste product of cheese-making. It was discarded for hundreds of years until some greedy corporations realized they could profit from it.

In its natural form, whey from pasture-raised cows may have some health benefits for people who can tolerate it.

However, most dairy products in your average grocery store, whey included, are anything but natural.

Most whey protein you buy comes from malnourished, stressed, diseased animals from factory farms. If this isn’t reason enough to scrap your whey protein shake, this fun tidbit might: food companies process whey so it’s cheaper and easier to make using a high-heat, acid-flushed, chemical process. Then, they add artificial ingredients, fillers, and unhealthy sweeteners to cover up the acidic, chemical taste.

Sources:

https://examine.com/supplements/whey-protein/#effect-matrix

https://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/not-all-whey-protein-is-created-equal

Myth #2: Whey is more “bioavailable”

“Bioavailability” is a scientific term used to describe the extent to which a substance is absorbed in your body.

Problem is, the standard measures don’t hold up too well to scientific scrutiny when it comes to measuring protein powders. A few examples:

  1. Biological Value (BV), which measures how efficiently your body uses protein, doesn’t take into account several key factors that influence digestion and interaction with other foods.
  2. Protein Efficiency Ratio Value (PER), which measures the effectiveness of protein based on animal growth, has only been demonstrated in animal studies—which means it doesn’t necessarily correlate to humans.
  3. Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAA) is a measure created by the World Health Organization (WHO) to more accurately measure protein digestibility in malnourished people—but it hasn’t been tested with strength training athletes so sports scientists have questioned its effectiveness.

Long story short:

Most of the evidence about bioavailability of protein powders is anecdotal. Click To Tweet

This means scientists don’t actually have large scale, peer-reviewed clinical data that “bioavailability” has any actual impact on your body.

There is NOT a significant body of evidence to support whey protein as being more effective than other protein sources.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23107546

https://examine.com/supplements/whey-protein/#effect-matrix

Myth #3: Whey is a more “complete” protein

You may have heard that plant proteins are “incomplete” and can only become “complete” when you combine them with other proteins. According to Drs. Andrew Weil and Michael Bluejay, research has shown this commonly-held belief is 100% inaccurate!

Research shows whey protein offers NO BENEFITS over other protein sources. Click To Tweet

Sources:

https://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/QAA142995

http://michaelbluejay.com/veg/protein.html

https://examine.com/supplements/whey-protein/#effect-matrix

Myth #4: Whey protein is best for weight loss and muscle gain

Not true. Examine.com offers up this conclusion based on clinical studies:

best protein powder for muscleThe influence of whey protein on weight per se is highly unreliable, and is subject to the overall context of the diet. Protein in general can aid weight loss attempts and is required to build lean mass, with whey not having any demonstrated benefit over other protein sources.

Sources:

https://examine.com/supplements/whey-protein/#effect-matrix

Plant Protein Dangers

So plant protein powders like rice, hemp, pea, and soy must be better for you, right?

Not necessarily.

Some are actually worse.

Here’s why:

  1. whey protein dangersMany of the supposedly-healthy plant proteins used in foods today are processed using hexane, an explosive chemical neurotoxin that can damage your central nervous system. Using hexane is an efficient and highly profitable way for food manufacturers to remove oil from plants.
  2. Vegan protein powders that aren’t made with organic ingredients are likely to contain potentially harmful pesticides and herbicides. Since most of these plant proteins come from countries where pesticide use is not enforced, your healthy protein shake is more likely to be a chemical cocktail.
  3. Most vegan, gluten, and dairy free protein powders are made using high temperature processing methods, which destroys the healthy nutrients in the plant and makes it harder for your body to digest.

Source:

https://www.naturalnews.com/026303_hexane_soy_food.html

The Final Verdict: Plant Vs Whey Protein

Here’s my advice based on my extensive research and personal use:

Whey protein's potential dangers and side effects outweigh its benefits. Click To Tweet

Choose organic plant-based protein powders that:

1) only have ingredients you recognize as real food,

2) are low in sugar, and

3) use an all-natural, low heat, enzyme-based method to separate their protein from the plant.

The side effects of whey protein outweigh the benefits. When in doubt, ask the manufacturer how their proteins are made, where they come from, and if their ingredients are organic. If they won’t tell you this information, it’s time to pick another protein powder.