I know lots of peeps that don’t eat dairy or gluten, two of the most common allergens that can cause all types of health issues.
This (obviously) means they shop for protein powder brands that are gluten and dairy free too.
Today I want to dispel a common myth though:
Just because you’re buying something without dairy or gluten, doesn’t mean it’s “healthy.”
In this article, I’ll break down exactly why that is and show you five questions to ask to find a gluten and dairy free protein powder that’s actually good for you.
Here we go …
99% of Gluten Free Dairy Free Protein Powders Are Complete Junk (Even the Organic Ones)
That’s because most of the time, the bestselling protein powder brands are highly processed, pseudo-health foods that can actually do more harm than good.
Today, there are lots of companies vying for the title of healthiest protein powder. But how do you see through the marketing hype and objectively assess which powders are worthy contenders?
First, you consult the only two pieces of objective information on the food label: the nutrition facts panel and ingredients list.
A lot of times, gluten free and dairy free protein powder manufacturers will add a bunch of chemical fillers, sugar, and/or other unhealthy ingredients to make the product taste better.
Here are the “Big Five” questions you should ask to find the healthiest dairy free and gluten free protein powder (or any high protein plant-based foods, for that matter):
5 Questions to Ask to Find the Healthiest Protein Powder WITHOUT Dairy and Gluten
- How much sugar is added? Sugar—no matter if it’s from cane honey, maple syrup, molasses, or coconuts—turns to fat in your body. Eating too much sugar increases your risk of dying from heart disease too. I recommend avoiding all protein powders with added sugar. If your protein is gluten-free and dairy-free yet contains a bunch of sugar, that pretty much defeats the purpose of taking a protein powder.
- Which artificial sweeteners do they use instead of real sugar? You don’t see a lot of fake sugars like saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose in vegan protein powder blends. But look out for the supposedly “all-natural” sweeteners. Xylitol and erythritol are highly processed “sugar alcohols” that can cause gut imbalances. Whole stevia leaf powder in its natural state is a healthy, green, all-natural sweetener. But the stevia most food companies use is a chemically-altered, bleached, stripped down version that’s likely to contain GMO fillers (often with allergens like corn and soy).
- What types of protein do they use? Vegan protein powders made from organic pea, rice, hemp, sacha inchi, and pumpkin seed are generally healthy sources of protein. Whey and casein proteins are milk-based and have lots of side effects so obviously aren’t good choices for those looking for a dairy free option. And if your vegan protein powder isn’t organic, you’re drinking pesticides with your protein smoothie.
- How are their ingredients processed? This is a tricky one because protein manufacturers are hesitant to disclose this information (which is the first sign they’re hiding something). Most vegan protein powders—even the organic ones—are processed using high temperature methods that destroy vital nutrients in the plant and render much of the protein useless. If you have a severe allergy to gluten or dairy, you’ll want to avoid brands that are manufactured in a facility where other gluten- and/or dairy-containing products are produced. There are now several reputable organizations that “certify” protein powders as gluten-free. This shouldn’t be a deal breaker unless you have a disease like celiac though.
- What other ingredients do they add? This is where most protein powders—especially the ones you may have thought are healthy—fail miserably. Here are a few common unhealthy ingredients to look out for:
- Natural flavors. Here’s all you need to know: up to 90 percent of natural flavors are made of allergens like dairy, soy, corn, and gluten … as well as chemical solvents and preservatives, says David Andrews, senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group.
- Many protein powders that claim to be all-natural have gums like carrageenan, guar, xanthan, locust bean. These cheap, processed fillers often have other additives and can lead to gut imbalances.
- Lecithins. To make most lecithins, oil is extracted from soybeans or sunflowers using a toxic chemical called hexane.
The Bottom Line About Dairy Free and Gluten Free Protein Powders
There are lots of protein powders available these days without gluten and dairy. But a lack of those two allergens doesn’t make a product “healthy” or “clean,” like most of these brands claims to be.
Learn how to read and understand the ingredients list and nutrition facts label. It’s the only way to see through the marketing hype and know if your gluten and dairy free protein powder is healthy.