Tag Archives: natural flavors

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.

Garden of Life Raw Protein Powder Review

Here’s the deal …

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

However …

When I analyzed the ingredients and nutrition facts in their protein powders, I discovered some things that may be cause for concern.

In this article, I’m going to share those findings 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:

Researching Plant Protein Powders?

CLICK HERE to get our FREE Google Sheet comparing 25+ brands by nutrition, ingredients, and cost.

Garden of Life Protein Powder Review (Condensed Version)

garden of life reviews
Source: www.gardenoflife.com

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
  • 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:

  • Certified USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified
  • Organic, sprouted grains and seeds
  • Probiotics
  • At $.04/gram, their price point is very affordable

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.

But

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

Let’s start with this one …

1. Most Garden of Life Protein Powders Have “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 Controversy

Garden of Life was in hot water last year when 33 people got Salmonella poisoning from their Raw Meal Organic Shake & Meal Replacement powdered mixes. The victims ranged in age from 1 year to 84 years old. I’ve had Salmonella and it was quite possibly the sickest I’ve ever felt in my life … wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Thankfully, none of the 33 people from the Garden of Life recall died.

Now, as someone who also sells an organic, plant-based protein powder I feel for GOL. These things happen in the food industry (thankfully not to Pure Food thus far).

But I found it a little odd that shortly after the recall, Garden of Life rebranded their product line from Garden of Life Raw Meal Organic Shake & Meal Replacement to “Raw Organic Meal Shake & Meal Replacement”.

4. None of GOL’s Products Are a True Meal Replacement

On its website, Garden of Life says:

Raw Organic Meal is a delicious organic MEAL-ON-THE-GO packed with incredible nutrition to help you satisfy hunger, manage weight and feel great!

Guys, 120-130 calories is not a meal … it’s a supplement or snack! Even 2 scoops is not enough for a meal replacement.

One of the few powdered meal replacements on the market, Soylent, has 400 calories, by comparison.

5. Garden of Life Nestle Acquisition

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

Despite Garden of Life’s CEO Brain May assuring customers there are no “current plans” to change anything, many people are concerned based on Nestle’s track record of peddling junk food and investing money to thwart GMO labeling efforts.

The future of GOL’s ingredients remains to be seen.

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 and their commitment to organic, real food ingredients … but can’t give their flavored ones my stamp of approval.

best plant-based protein powders

Best Plant Based Protein Powder Reviews / Comparison Chart


First, let’s get this out of the way: the best plant based protein powder for you may be completely different than me. Your age, activity level, health goals, pre-existing conditions, and hormones all play a part in determining the right powder for you.

Generally speaking though, there are two pieces of objective data we can use to evaluate “the best” protein powders: 1.) The ingredients, and 2.) The nutrition facts.

For this review, I analyzed the nutrition and ingredients for 20+ of the (supposedly) healthiest and best plant based / vegan protein powder brands.

If you currently use (or are looking to find) a healthy plant-based protein powder, I have some alarming news:

99 percent of plant based protein powders I analyzed (even the organic protein powder brands) have chemical additives, fillers, gums, and/or sugars.

If you want to find the best plant protein powders for your health, my reviews will reveal:

  • Why most whey and vegan protein powder brands are not what they say they are (and 5 questions you should always ask to find the cleanest and healthiest ones)
  • What several top health experts (including a world renowned cardiologist) look for when recommending protein powder
  • How 20+ of plant protein powders compare in terms of ingredients, nutrition, and cost.

This review is massive at 2500+ words … so I broke it up into three sections.

Scroll down or click/tap the the green and grey boxes below to navigate to each section.

 

Why Most Plant Based Protein Powder Brands Are BAD for Your Health

Protein manufacturers spend lots of dough to convince you their products are “clean” and healthy. I’m talking millions of dollars on marketing and fancy packaging with bogus health claims.

But fear not, because there’s an easy way to cut through their b.s. and find out if a protein shake is actually good for you. The first step:

Read and understand the nutrition facts and ingredients in your protein powder.

It’s the only objective piece of information you have to judge whether the ingredients are “clean” and “healthy” or not.

Here are 5 things to look for on the nutrition panel/ingredients list:

1. How many grams of sugar do you see?

Sugar is sugar. It all turns to fat in your body. Doesn’t matter if it’s from honey, maple syrup, molasses, or coconuts (although I do enjoy raw honey in moderation).

Bottom line:

Avoid all protein powders with more than 1 gram of sugar. Click To Tweet

2. Which artificial sweeteners do they use instead of real sugar?

A “clean” plant protein should definitely not contain chemical sugars like saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose anymore. But protein manufacturers are notorious for sneaking so-called “all-natural” sweeteners that may not be so good for you into their products. Here are a few to be wary of:

best vegan protein powder
Avoid these so-called “natural” sweeteners.
  • Xylitol is a cheap, processed “sugar alcohol” that can cause serious gut imbalances.
  • Monk fruit (luo han guo) is a popular sweetener many protein powder companies use. It’s commonly made using ethanol chemical resins and often contains GMO fillers.
  • Stevia. The stevia most protein companies use is chemically-derived and loaded with fillers. Organic stevia leaf extract is the cleanest … you just need to find out how it was processed (no bleaching!) and whether or not it has excipients (ask the manufacturer!).

Bottom line:

The best plant based protein blends use organic, real food ingredients and all-natural (or no) sweeteners … not GMO fillers and junk.

And again, 1 gram of total sugar should be your limit per serving.

3. What other highly-processed ingredients (flavors, gums, fillers, etc.) do they add?

Here are a few ingredients you’ll find in the majority of the so-called healthiest protein powders:

  • Natural flavors. Up to 90 percent of “natural” flavors have chemical solvents and preservatives. If you see them on the ingredients list, make sure you ask the manufacturer how they’re made and what’s in them.
  • Gums. Many so-called clean plant protein powders contain gums like carrageenan, guar, xanthan, locust bean, konjac, and acacia. Gums make vegetable protein products easier to mix and blend … but there are some reasons for concern with some of them. Many people report gut issues and certain gums have been shown in clinical studies to produce laxative effects, gas, and bloating. I recommend people with sensitive guts and GI issues avoid protein powders that have gums.
  • Lecithins. The most common way to make lecithins involves using a petroleum-based neurotoxin called hexane. Avoid powders with this cheap soy- and sunflower-based filler … or at the very least make sure it’s organic if your powder has it.
plant protein comparison chart
This is why it’s so hard to find a healthy protein powder–you have to cut through a lot of b.s. to find the hidden junk.

Bottom line:

Avoid vegan protein powder with flavors, gum, or lecithins if you have a sensitive gut. Click To Tweet

4. What types of protein do they use?

Whey has long been considered the gold standard for packing on muscle but it may come with a price. And it’s true: whey has a lot of clinical evidence that shows it’s a good source for those looking to improve body composition. However, whey protein brands like to talk up their efficacy without mentioning the possible side effects. And there are lots of them, according to the Mayo Clinic.

If whey works for you, that’s great. I recommend sticking with organic protein powder though.

Plant-based protein blends made from organic peas, rice, hemp, sacha inchi, cranberry and pumpkin seed are a better choice for those who want to avoid whey. Again, if the ingredients in your protein powder are not organic, chances are it’s sprayed with pesticides, and most of these powdered vegetable ingredients come from countries outside the U.S., where regulations may not be as strict.

Whether you choose a plant-based or animal protein like whey, pay a little more for organic. It’s worth it for the sake of your health.

Bottom line:

If your protein powder isn’t organic, you’re likely drinking chemical pesticides with that protein shake. Click To Tweet

5. How are their ingredients processed?

how is whey protein made
Whey protein processing–yuck

This is a tricky one because protein manufacturers rarely disclose this information. Most whey protein is made using a high heat, acid-flushed process.

Most companies that use vegetable proteins also use high temperature processing methods, and some even use hexane. These high-heat, chemical methods destroy vital nutrients in the plant.

A small handful of protein manufacturers will disclose how they make their proteins. Most won’t though. When in doubt, ask.

Bottom line:

Always ask the manufacturer how their proteins and other ingredients are processed. Click To Tweet

How to Find the Healthiest Protein Powders: What Health Experts Say

I asked several health and wellness gurus, “What’s your advice for finding the best plant based protein powder?

Here’s what they said:

Joel Kahn, M.D.

America’s Holistic Heart Doc, University Professor, Founder, The Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity

no whey
“I recommend clean plant-based protein powders to my patients and use them myself in a morning smoothie. When they ask me about whey my answer is “No Whey“!”

Michelle Crowder, N.D.

Licensed Naturopathic Physician

doctor recommended protein
“In general, I recommend that my patients look for real food ingredients in anything they purchase, and avoid ingredients like artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils. If cane sugar or another refined sweetener is listed, it should be organic and one of the last ingredients listed. Look for organic, hormone-free, non-GMO products. Casein and soy tend to be more allergenic than other proteins and should be avoided in general.”

Carolyn Scott-Hamilton

TV Host & Media Personality, Celebrity Vegan Chef, Holistic Nutritionist

Carolyn-Scott-Hamilton
“For me, it must be vegan but after that I look for powders that aren’t full of fillers, sugars and extra junk. I love pure, clean powders that are non-GMO and I know how to pronounce the ingredients ; )”

Alisa Fleming

Founder, GoDairyFree

Alisa-Fleming
“Since protein powder can be a daily food, I think it’s important to be sure you are comfortable with every single ingredient. I may not be as particular about a “once in a blue moon” treat, but if it is going to be in my daily diet rotation, I want to make sure it doesn’t have any questionable ingredients.”

Myra Mingo

Founder, The Happy Health Freak

Myra-Mingo
“I look for vegan protein powders with very few ingredients, no soy or gluten and sweetened naturally without chemicals.”

Samantha Shorkey

Vegan Coach and WNBF Bikini Pro

vegetarian bodybuilder protein
“At this point in my vegan bodybuilding career, I like to think of myself as a connoisseur of the top vegan protein powders. I’ve literally tried ‘em ALL! The ones I tend to gravitate the most towards are of course, the ones that taste good, have a nice texture that isn’t too gummy, chalky or gritty and are high in protein but low in fats and carbs. I prefer to eat my calories rather than drink ‘em so texture and consistency is super important. I want my protein “pudding” to be creamy. I also try to avoid protein powders that are chalk full (no pun intended) of added sugars or fake sugars. Usually the natural sweetness of vanilla and cinnamon is enough for me (and better for staying lean.)”

Best Vegan / Vegetarian Protein Powder Reviews: Compare 20 Brands

Use this handy-dandy comparison chart to see some of the so-called best plant based protein powder and nutritional shake brands on the market.

All of these guys make claims about being “clean, “healthy” and “natural”. When you start to peel back the curtain though, you’ll see there’s a lot of hidden junk in pretty much all of most popular brands

best plant based protein powder

Click/tap the numbers below to skip to each section or just scroll down to compare 20 vegan / vegetarian protein brands.

1

Protein Sources

pure food protein

Organic fermented pea protein
Organic sprouted and fermented whole grain brown rice protein
Organic hemp protein

PlantFusion Chocolate Pea protein isolate, Artichoke protein, Organic sprouted amaranth, Organic sprouted quinoa
Vega One Pea protein, sunflower seed protein, pumpkin seed protein
Aloha Chocolate Organic pea protein, Organic pumpkin seed protein, Organic hemp seed protein
Skoop Chocolate Organic pea protein, Organic rice protein, Organic hemp protein
SunWarrior Warrior
Blend Chocolate
Organic pea protein, organic hemp protein
Orgain Organic Protein Powder – Chocolate Organic pea protein, organic brown rice protein, organic chia seed, organic hemp protein
Garden of Life Organic
Chocolate Protein
Organic sprouted brown rice protein
Sprout Living Pea protein isolate, Manitoba Harvest hemp protein powder, Rice protein concentrate
Lifetime Life’s Basics Pea protein concentrate, Organic brown rice protein concentrate
MRM Veggie Elite
Chocolate Mocha
Pea protein concentrate, Organic brown rice protein concentrate
Body Ecology Fermented
Chocolate Protein Shake
Pea protein, Mushroom protein blend
Healthforce Organic sprouted brown rice protein, Organic hemp protein
Kachava Organic sprouted brown rice protein, Organic hemp protein
Yuve Pea protein isolate, Rice protein concentrate
Philosophie Organic hemp seed protein, Organic reishi mushroom
Sann Pea protein isolate, Rice protein isolate, Artichoke protein
22 Days Nutrition Organic pea protein, Organic flax, Organic sacha inchi
Growing Naturals Chocolate
Power Rice Protein
Organic brown rice
Boku Organic brown rice, Organic cranberry
2

Calories, Protein, Sugar (g) Per Serving and Sweeteners Used

Calories

Protein

Sugar

best vegetarian powder
134
20
1

Organic stevia leaf powder

PlantFusion Chocolate
120
21
1
Monkfruit, Stevia
Vega One Chocolate
140
20
2
Stevia leaf extract
Aloha Chocolate
150
18
4
Organic coconut sugar Monk fruit extract
Skoop Chocolate
150
20
1
Organic stevia extract Organic coconut sugar
SunWarrior Warrior
Blend Chocolate
100
17
0
Erythritol
Organic rice dextrins
Organic stevia extract
Orgain Organic Protein Powder – Chocolate
150
21
0
Organic stevia extract
Garden of Life Organic
Chocolate Protein
90
17
1
Organic stevia leaf
Sprout Living
110
19
1
Organic red banana
Organic baobab fruit
Organic stevia leaf powder
Lifetime Life’s Basics
134
22
5
Fructose Xylitol Stevia
MRM Veggie Elite Chocolate Mocha
130
24
0
Stevia extract Monk fruit extract
Body Ecology Fermented Chocolate Protein Shake
110
15
1
Stevia extract
Healthforce
100
17
2
Organic whole stevia leaf
Kachava
220
24
8
Erythritol Oligosaccharides Stevia
Yuve
155
16
2
Stevia leaf extract
Philosophie
55
10
0
Organic mesquite
Sann
116
21
1
Fructose Stevia
22 Days Nutrition
100
16
2
Organic stevia leaf extract
Growing Naturals Chocolate Power Rice Protein
120
25
3
Organic brown rice syrup solids Organic stevia
Boku
120
18
4
Vermont maple syrup Organic lucuma fruit
3

Free of Natural Flavors & Gums/Thickeners

FREE OF NATURAL
FLAVORS
FREE OF GUMS/
THICKENERS
PlantFusion Chocolate No (natural chocolate flavor) No (silica, xanthan gum)
Vega One Chocolate No (natural chocolate flavor) No (xanthan gum)
Aloha Chocolate No (xanthan gum, organic sunflower lecithin)
Skoop Chocolate No (organic flavor, natural flavor) No (organic acacia gum)
SunWarrior Warrior
Blend Chocolate
No (organic chocolate flavor blend) No (organic guar gum)
Orgain Vegan
Protein Powder – Chocolate
No (natural flavor, organic natural flavors) No (organic guar gum, organic acacia gum, xanthan gum)
Garden of Life Organic
Chocolate Protein
No (natural chocolate flavor, natural vanilla flavor)
Sprout Living
Lifetime Life’s Basics No (natural chocolate flavor)
MRM Veggie Elite Chocolate Mocha No (natural chocolate mocha flavor) No (konjac gum, guar gum, tara gum)
Body Ecology Fermented Chocolate Protein Shake No (natural cocoa flavors with other natural flavors) No (natural cocoa flavors with other natural flavors)
Healthforce
Kachava No (natural chocolate flavors) No (alkalized cocoa, xanthan gum, guar gum)
Yuve No (natural flavors) No (corn starch powder, guar gum, xanthan gum)
Philosophie
Sann No (natural flavor) No (glycine, guar gum, lecithin)
22 Days Nutrition No (organic chocolate flavor) No (organic chocolate flavor)
Growing Naturals Chocolate
Power Rice Protein
No (organic flavor) No (organic guar gum, organic gum arabic, organic sunflower oil)
Boku No (organic guar gum)
4

100% Organic Ingredients, Probiotics Added and Cost Per Gram

100% Organic
Ingredients
Probiotics
Added
Cost Per
Gram ( $ )
protein powder review

Bacillus coagulans
0.06

Bacillus coagulans

0.06
PlantFusion Chocolate No No
0.04
Vega One Chocolate No No
0.05
Aloha Chocolate No No
0.08
Skoop Chocolate
Lactobacillus plantarum
Lactobacillus bulgaricus
0.11
SunWarrior Warrior Blend Chocolate No
0.06
Orgain Organic Protein (Chocolate) No
0.02
Garden of Life Organic Chocolate Protein No
Bacillus subtilis
Lactobacillus bulgaricus
0.04
Sprout Living No
0.07
Lifetime Life’s Basics No No
0.04
MRM Veggie Elite Chocolate Mocha No No
0.03
Body Ecology Fermented Chocolate Protein Shake No
Lactobacillus, Saccharomy
ces, Bifidobacterium
longum
0.10
Healthforce No
0.06
Kachava No
Lactobacillus rhamnosus
Lactobacillus acidophilus
0.08
Yuve No No
0.08
Philosophie No
0.11
Sann No No
0.07
22 Days Nutrition No
0.11
Growing Naturals Chocolate Power Rice Protein No
0.06
Boku No No
0.09

Click Here to Download the Free PDF Version of This Chart!

*Note: I usually update this post at least once per month. However, if you see something that looks inaccurate or you’d like me to analyze and add another product, shoot me an email (Scott@purefoodcompany.com).

Final Thoughts: What Is The Best Plant Based Protein Powder?

“Best” is subjective and depends on your unique health goals and needs. If you value ingredients and nutrition over taste, my criteria for finding the healthiest protein powder for you are pretty simple:

1. Look for ingredients that are organic and come from whole food sources you can pronounce without any additives like fillers, gums, or flavors.

2. Research the amount of protein per serving, the protein sources, sugar content, and cost per serving in grams. 

Is Pure Food Protein a Good Fit for You?

Here’s me being (probably too) honest: if you’re looking for the best tasting plant protein powder, Pure Food isn’t it. We don’t add artificial junk and chemical-ridden flavors to make our product taste better.

But if you’re done settling for “average” protein powders and the junk ingredients that wreak havoc on your body and want to try a product that will actually have a positive impact on your health (and the world), then try

The HEALTHIEST plant protein with 100% real food, organic, vegan ingredients + probiotics. 

Not only does Pure Food have the best ingredients, it’s the best value for the money at $.06/gram (the same price as Vega, which is NOT organic and has all types of fillers, additives, and “natural” flavors).

Find Out If Pure Food Is Right for You

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How to Find the Best Gluten Free Dairy Free Protein Powder

gluten free dairy free protein powderI 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. How are their ingredients processed? This is a tricky one because protein manufacturers are hesitant to disclose this information (which is the first sign they’re hiding something). Most vegan protein powders—even the organic ones—are processed using high temperature methods that destroy vital nutrients in the plant and render much of the protein useless. If you have a severe allergy to gluten or dairy, you’ll want to avoid brands that are manufactured in a facility where other gluten- and/or dairy-containing products are produced. 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.
  5. What other ingredients do they add? This is where most protein powders—especially the ones you may have thought are healthy—fail miserably. Here are a few common unhealthy ingredients to look out for:
    • Natural flavors. 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.

Check Out My Best Plant Protein Powder Comparison Chart to Compare 20 Plant-based, Gluten Free / Dairy Free Protein Powders

What Are Natural Flavors?

what are natural flavorsOne of the most common questions I get from readers is:

What are natural flavors, and are they bad for me?

Natural flavors are the fourth most common ingredient on food labels today. The only ingredients you’ll see more often: salt, water and sugar.

In this article, I’ll tell you:

  1. What natural flavors are, and
  2. Four science-backed reasons you should avoid foods that have them

Away we go …

What are natural flavors?

The FDA allows food companies to use the term “natural flavors” to describe any food additive that originated in nature.

If they originated in nature, what’s the problem? you may be asking.

According to David Andrews, Senior Scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), this:

[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.

Natural flavor is now the fourth most common ingredient listed on food labels! Click To Tweet

This is a major issue for anyone who considers themself a clean, healthy eater.

Here are my top four reasons to avoid natural flavors

Reason #1: natural flavors are 90 percent chemical junk

As you learned above, 80 to 90 percent of the ingredients that make up natural flavors contain chemical solvents and preservatives. These include the cancer-causing chemical BHA, propylene glycol (found in antifreeze), and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Reason #2: natural flavors are basically perfumes for your mouth

Cleaning products, perfumes, and cosmetics contain a combination of chemicals called “fragrances.” In processed food, this chemical mixture is called a “flavor.” Because smell comprises 80 to 90 percent of the sense of taste, fragrances and flavors are often alarmingly similar in chemical composition.

Reason #3: natural flavors are designed by Big Food to be addictive

There are four huge corporations that control the $24 billion market for both flavors and fragrances: Givaudan, Firmenich, IFF and Symrise.

In a fascinating 2011 interview that aired on 60 Minutes, scientists from Givaudan, one of the aforementioned power players in the food flavoring world, admitted their number one goal when creating flavors was to make them addictive!

Scientists have admitted that natural flavors are designed to be addictive. Click To Tweet

Reason #4: The FDA lets flavor companies call the shots

Incredibly, the FDA frequently allows food companies to develop their own food additives without providing oversight or safety reviews of their chemical concentrations. These companies are smart: they hire expensive lawyers to ensure they’ve followed the archaic FDA processes when developing their flavors … and generally the FDA leaves them alone.

Scientist David Andrews sums it up once again:

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.

What you can do about it

Natural flavors are not natural, no matter how much food companies try to convince you otherwise.

But they’re so prevalent in so many foods it’s really hard to avoid them.

The simple solution is to stop buying foods that contain natural flavors. You can also contact the FDA expressing your concern. Or reach out to your elected officials and tell them you think this is unacceptable and you’d like more oversight of these types of ingredients in the foods you eat.

At the end of the day, eating more fresh foods that come from nature and packaged foods with only ingredients you recognize as real food is the easiest way to avoid natural flavors.

Like what you read here?

CLICK HERE to get our FREE Google Sheet comparing 25+ plant protein brands by nutrition, ingredients, and cost (and discover which brands use natural flavors).