Garden of Life Raw Meal and Protein Powder Review

garden of life plant protein powder review

There are two things I like about most Garden of Life protein powder products: 1.) they’re cheap, and 2.) they’re organic.

But …

When you analyze the ingredients and nutrition facts in their protein powders, you discover some things that raise a few red flags.

In this article, I’m going to share those with you, so you can decide for yourself whether Garden of Life’s raw protein powders are the right choice for you.

Here are the condensed and full versions of my review:

Garden of Life Protein Powder Review (Condensed Version)

garden of life protein reviews

Similar to my other plant protein powder reviews, I am reviewing Garden of Life protein powders based on health and nutrition … NOT taste. If you want to know what it tastes like, read the Amazon reviews.

This is what I look for in a healthy protein powder:

  • Organic, real food ingredients sourced from the U.S. and Canada whenever possible
  • Amount of protein per serving
  • Protein sources
  • Added sugars or other sweeteners used
  • None of these junk ingredients:
    • Soy
    • Corn
    • Dairy
    • Gluten
    • Fillers
    • Natural flavors
    • Gums

Garden of Life meets most of these criteria …

Let’s start with what I like about Garden of Life protein powders:

  • Certified USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified
  • Organic, sprouted grains and seeds
  • Probiotics
  • At $.04/gram, their price point is very affordable
  • The Unflavored version contains no sugar, stevia, gums, or other additives

Here’s a high-level overview of what’s in each of their 6 main protein powders (I noted my red flags and will tell you more about each below the chart):

garden of life organic plant protein raw organic protein garden of life raw meal protein garden of life Raw Fit raw protein and greens SPORT Organic Plant-Based Protein

Garden of Life Organic Plant Protein

Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein

Garden of Life Raw Meal

Garden of Life Raw Fit

Garden of Life Raw Protein and Greens

SPORT Organic Plant-Based Protein
Calories 90 110 120 170 130 85
Grams of Protein 15  22  20  28 20 15
Protein Source(s) Organic pea, organic chia, organic flax, organic cranberry seed Organic pea, brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, chia, flax, garbanzo bean, lentil, pumpkin seed, sesame seed, sunflower seed Organic pea, brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, chia, flax, garbanzo bean, lentil, pumpkin seed, sesame seed, sunflower seed Organic pea, brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, chia, flax, garbanzo bean, lentil, pumpkin seed, sesame seed, sunflower seed  Organic rice, pea, chia, navy bean lentil, garbanzo Organic pea, navy bean, lentil, garbanzo bean, cranberry seed
Grams of Sugar  0  0 0-6 (depending on flavor … see below)  0 6 <1
Free of “Natural” Flavors No No No  No No No
Free of Gums & Thickeners No No No Yes  Yes Yes
Organic Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Vegan Yes  Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Cost Per Gram  $.04  $.04  $.04 $.04 $.04 $.05

Read on to find out why I highlighted the things above in red …

Garden of Life Protein Powder Reviews (Full Version)

Ok, so as we said, GOL looks pretty good at first glance. Organic ingredients, probiotics, quality protein sources.


There are a few red flags about GOL organic protein powders I want to tell you more about.

Let’s start with this one …

1. Most Garden of Life Protein Powders Have “Natural Flavors”

raw fit reviews

Here’s what David Andrews, Senior Scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has to say about natural flavors:

Natural and artificial flavors really aren’t that different. And those “natural flavors” can actually contain synthetic chemicals! You’re right to be skeptical of the word “natural” – it’s often thrown around loosely.

Vandana Sheth, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says these flavors may induce food cravings in some people too.

I emailed Garden of Life and asked, “What ingredients, specifically, do your natural flavors contain?”

Here’s what they said:

In the Organic Plant Protein and RAW Organic Meal there will be ingredients that says it’s a flavor, like Organic Vanilla Flavor, which means that the ingredients is not strictly a vanilla bean that was added to the product but an extract form. This just means it’s more concentrated so less of the ingredient can be used without altering the nutrients that are in the product. In other flavors you’ll see a combination of both like the Chocolate Cacao flavor of the RAW Organic Meal. This one will have RAW Organic Cacao which is where chocolate comes from with Organic Chocolate Flavors just to enhance the cholate taste. If you were to just have the cacao then the product will most likely not taste like what most will expect from a chocolate flavored product.

Now, I’m not saying Garden of Life’s “flavors” contain other shady ingredients like most companies add, especially since they’re organic.

However, in general I avoid products with “flavors” because they may contain other additives and preservatives.

Let’s move on and talk about red flag #2.

2. Hidden Sugar in Garden of Life Raw Protein

I was surprised to see that two of Garden of Life’s unflavored protein powder products contain 6 grams of sugar. Check it out …

Garden of Life Raw Meal

raw organic meal nutrition facts

Garden of Life Raw Protein and Greens

protein & greens nutrition ingredients

If you’re buying an unflavored protein powder, added sugar is probably the last ingredient you want in it. And “organic cane sugar” is no better than any other sugar source.

The chemical composition is exactly the same … your body will break the sugar down into glucose and fructose in the digestive tract and it will have the exact same negative effects on your metabolism.

3. Garden of Life Recall and Protein Powder Controversy

Garden of Life was in hot water a few years ago when 33 people got Salmonella poisoning from their Raw Meal Organic Shake & Meal Replacement powdered mixes.

4. Garden of Life Nestle Acquisition

In December 2017, GOL’s parent company Atrium was acquired by Nestle for $2.3 billion.

Read into that what you will.

Garden of Life Protein Powder Reviews Summed Up

The one Garden of Life product I really like and recommend is Organic Plant Protein (Unflavored). It’s a solid product with all organic, real food ingredients and contains probiotics. Here are the ingredients and nutrition facts:

organic plant protein unflavored ingredients nutrition facts

I’ve used Garden of Life’s Raw Fit protein in the past but I’ve since phased out all products with “flavors.”

Unfortunately, all Garden of Life protein powders other than Unflavored Organic Plant Protein (Raw Fit, Raw Organic Meal, Raw Protein and Greens, and SPORT Organic Plant-Based Protein) contain flavors, gums, and/or sugars.

Long story short, I like their Unflavored products with no sugar added and their commitment to organic, real food ingredients … but can’t give their flavored ones my stamp of approval.

Check Out Our Garden of Life Alternatives Here

36 thoughts on “Garden of Life Raw Meal and Protein Powder Review

  1. Jessa Smith says:

    In this review, you repeatedly and mistakenly refer to the flavoring as natural when it is in fact organic. From what I know, there is a big difference, so I’m hesitant to agree with all your comments on that specific area of the review. Would you be willing to elaborate on your choice of wording? Additionally, I have the vanilla chai spiced organic meal replacement by GOL and it has less than 1g of sugar in it, so it doesn’t seem that organic cane sugar is added to all flavors. But as far as the erythritol, I am wondering where you see this ingredient listed because I would like to check if my flavor has it. I do see stevia leaf on mine, but that’s the only sweetener I’ve found.

    • Scott Christ says:

      Organic flavors and natural flavors are the same thing … one’s just derived from organic ingredients. Obviously organic flavors are better … but they still may contain hundreds of different fillers and additives.

  2. Monika brennan says:

    i just tried the vega one all in one nutritional shake mixed berry – terrible taste, I also have it in chocolate and the same terrible taste. I also bought garden of life
    All in one nutritional shake organic
    Chocolate will try in the morning – I just read the reviews – not good
    I just want it for breakfast and will eat normal meals lunch/dinner 2L
    Of water. ….. What protein drink would you recommend?

    • Scott Christ says:

      Well I can honestly say my product is not the best tasting because I don’t add any of the gums, fillers, and sweeteners other do.

      If taste is your number one priority, Shakeology was the best I tasted (beware the high sugar content though if you’re not someone who burns a lot of calories through exercise).

  3. Katie says:

    I found this website because I am using Garden of Life Fit Chocolate Protein powder and I bought it for many reasons, one being it didn’t have sugar or artificial sweeteners (on the label). However, the taste is very sweet, were you able to determine what makes this GOL protein powder sweet?

  4. Brian Hamilton says:

    I’m curious about how your pea protein is processed. Is it sprouted? Fermented? How are the anti-nutrient lectins removed or neutralized?

  5. Brian Hamilton says:

    I commented too soon. I should have dug a little further on your site first and I’d have found my answer. It looks like you’re doing everything right. 🙂

  6. josh says:

    november/10/2017. ok check this out, i’ve used Garden of life several times, and it was good. but the last batch i bought was in maybe april or may, but when i used it gave me the runs and the drink would look out of the ordinary, since then i’ve been using sun warrior meal replacement and its been good, but since they stopped selling it at my local vitamin world i was thinking bout just finishing the garden of life that i havent touched,. i remembered what it did to me last time but i was thinking maybe it was just my diet at the time, so i make a shake and it looks terrible extra bubbly and separates easily, and kind of a diiferent color than i remember, brown greenish when i separates(the chocolate flavor), but i take a few sips, and just to be sure i check the online reviews of the product, and poof i see your website talking about the recall and salmonella poisoning incident, and now i think i am one of those victims with a bad batch, i wasnt even sure on what the symptoms of salmonella so i googled it and i had stomach aches and the runs those days i drank it, (keep in mind i was about 2 sips in when i read this) so i spilled it, threw it away, and i thot of vomiting it out, but i coulndt.. so yeahh.. fuck garden of life. (also, why wasn’t i informed of this fuckery) someone couldve died. FOOD poisoning is serious!!

    • Scott Christ says:

      Wow, Josh, I’ve had food poisoning so I can relate. It’s the worst feeling in the world! Did you contact GOL to see if the bag you had was part of the recall?

    • Scott Christ says:

      It depends on what you’re looking for in a protein powder/meal replacement. If you’re pre-diabetic, I recommend avoiding the ones with added sugar.

  7. Ciel says:

    I am searching for a product like GOL raw meal (I like that it contains all the greens and fruits and the protein and not just one or the other) except frim a company that is all vegan and doesn’t mess around with offering bee products or fish oil or commit other social justice crimes like Nestle. Do you know of an all vegan company not iwned by a terrible parent?

    • Scott Christ says:

      Hi Ciel. This is a 100% biased answer but check out our product, Pure Food Protein. It doesn’t have greens but does contain all organic, plant-based ingredients + probiotics.

      Personally, I prefer fresh greens in my smoothies because many of the greens powders are high in heavy metals and additives like “flavors” and artificial sweeteners. I do add a bit of Hawaiian spirulina occasionally.

  8. Julia Bennett says:

    I’m a raw-food long distance runner and I’ve purchased GOL unflavored “Raw Organic Protein” for years. I’ve never had issues at all. There are zero “flavors” nor “added sugars” (or stevia, which I really can’t stand the aftertaste of). I think this review is a little biased because it seems to focus mainly on flavored GOL products. Many people don’t buy flavored products and instead, add their own fruits.

    I’ve compared GOL unflavored raw protein to every product out there and would love something cheaper, but there are very few raw organic proteins out there of the same quality, and they cost more.

  9. Brian says:

    The information about the products is irrelevant for me since GoL (as well as Pure Encapsulations and all of the Atrium Innovations brands) is now a Nestlé company. Nestlé has a long history of harmful and sleazy practices, and buying any of their products gives them more power to do more harm. I was buying GoL products frequently until I learned about the merger, but I’m no longer buying them at all.

  10. Eve says:

    Artificial Flavor
    Comprised entirely of artificial flavor ingredients
    Labeling: Artificial Flavor, Artificial “X” Flavor (example: artificial strawberry flavor)
    May Contain: Propylene Glycol, BHA, MSG, pesticides, GMOs, chemicals, animal derivatives, and more
    Natural Flavor
    Flavor derived solely from the named botanical
    Labeling: Natural “X” Flavor (example: natural strawberry flavor or strawberry flavor)
    May Contain: Propylene Glycol, BHA, MSG, pesticides, GMOs, chemicals, animal derivatives, and more
    Organic Flavor Blend 70%
    Derived solely from natural ingredients of which ≥ 70% are organically produced. The remaining 30% is comprised of natural ingredients that are organic compliant.
    Labeling: Natural Flavor, made with Organic “ingredients” or Natural Flavor, with other natural flavor
    Contains: Organic compliant ingredients

  11. mary says:

    check the origin of organic pumpkin seeds, they always come from china. any china’s food products are not reliable

  12. Mike Stano says:

    I have bought the Organic Protein powder chocolate , has there been an improvement on the this product hearing there metal contaminants like lead and other metals?

  13. fabian says:

    Very nice article, informative.
    Should 6 grams of sugar (23 calories) be in red?
    That would be for a person who doesn’t eat any kind of bread, pasta… maple syrup, etc.
    I put this in the context of an extremely processed food which are these protein shakes. Highly processed.
    I think companies need to fight against each other to give us value and convenience for people with impediments of money and time to create their own food.
    IMHO, the equation is very complex to create a line of products of people with impediments.

  14. Deborah says:

    I have been using GOL protein formula, sweetened with stevia (chocolate, vanilla, or chai) for years. I just discovered that their “new improved version” contains erythritol, though “sugar alcohol” is not listed in the ingredients. This erythritol is new, and it seems that they snuck it in. Personally, I react to erythritol and other sugar alcohols with bloating and gas. I’m pretty disappointed that they snuck that in and ruined it for me, and possibly for others with the same reaction.

  15. Janet says:

    I get heart palpitations after using the GOL ROM (Garden of Life Raw Organic Meal) vanilla flavored. I tried to figure out what’s in it that could be causing it. The excessive B12 and Chromium are the only things I can think of. Any thoughts? I have stopped taking it to see if there was anything else that could be causing the palpitations, but this seems to be it. Why do so many supplements have excessive B12!! If you take more than one it’s like a daily overdose!!

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