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The Best All Natural Protein Powder for Women

best protein powder for womenI 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 30+ of the best all natural protein powders by ingredients, nutrition, cost, and more.

Types of Protein Powder for Women and Men

We’ll begin by looking at several types of protein.

Whey Protein

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

That may not be the case though.

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

Now some people may say that whey does not affect people who are lactose intolerant. I can tell you as someone who is lactose intolerant and allergic to dairy that it definitely affects me!

And aside from these inflammatory responses lactose intolerance may 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

all natural protein powderHemp 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 Based Proteins Powders

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?

Most protein powders 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 and market their products to supposedly help women lose weight.

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: Natural 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 “all natural” 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 are 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)

Red Flag Ingredient #4: Non-organic Ingredients

If you’re using a protein powder, particularly a plant-based one, that doesn’t have organic ingredients, there’s a high likelihood all of those 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, to find the best all-natural protein powders for you, start with the ingredients: do you only see ingredients you recognize as real food on the label or are they pseudo-foods that contain added sugar, fillers, additives, and other junk?

In most cases it’s the latter, unfortunately. 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.

The best protein powder for you depends largely on your health and fitness goals too.

Are you trying to lose body fat? Gain muscle mass? Eat cleaner, more natural foods?

Again, the ingredients and nutrition facts are really the only objective source of truth you should be using to evaluate your protein powder. If you have further questions/comments, reply at the bottom!

Click here to get my spreadsheet comparing 30+ protein powders/shakes by ingredients, nutrition, cost, and more.

Garden of Life Raw Meal and 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 raised a few red flags.

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:

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Garden of Life Protein Powder Review (Condensed Version)

garden of life protein 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 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 proteinraw organic proteingarden of life raw meal proteingarden of life Raw Fitraw protein and greensSPORT 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
Calories9011012017013085
Grams of Protein15 22 20 282015
Protein Source(s)Organic pea, organic chia, organic flax, organic cranberry seedOrganic pea, brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, chia, flax, garbanzo bean, lentil, pumpkin seed, sesame seed, sunflower seedOrganic pea, brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, chia, flax, garbanzo bean, lentil, pumpkin seed, sesame seed, sunflower seedOrganic 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, garbanzoOrganic pea, navy bean, lentil, garbanzo bean, cranberry seed
Grams of Sugar 0 00-6 (depending on flavor … see below) 06<1
Free of “Natural” FlavorsNoNoNo NoNoNo
Free of Gums & ThickenersNoNoNoYes YesYes
OrganicYesYesYesYesYesYes
VeganYes YesYesYesYesYes
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 “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 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. 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 us thus far).

But it doesn’t make it any less scary.

4. 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.

When small companies get bought by big companies, they generally do everything possible to decrease costs, and the first thing they look at is, “How can we reduce the costs of our ingredients.” This often leads to more ingredient sourcing from questionable sources overseas.

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 with no sugar added and their commitment to organic, real food ingredients … but can’t give their flavored ones my stamp of approval.

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.

And, it’s probably the best tasting protein powder I’ve ever tried.

Unfortunately, there’s a reason for that, as you’re about to see.

Scroll below to see my Shakeology review …

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Shakeology Reviews

Similar to my other plant-based protein powder analyses, I am judging Beachbody’s Shakeology protein powders based on health and nutrition … NOT taste. It tastes freakin’ great, as I’ve already mentioned. If taste is your only criteria when choosing protein powders, then this one’s a winner.

But if you also care about what’s in it then read on, because in the next section I’ll provide an analysis of Shakeology’s products as a whole and tell you the 5 things that concern me most about it.

Then we’ll look at the complete nutrition facts and ingredients for each product separately.

Let’s jump in …

Shakeology Nutrition Summary: All Products

Calories160-170
Grams of Protein16-17
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 Sugar6-8
Free of “Natural” FlavorsNo
Free of Gums & ThickenersNo
OrganicNo
VeganYes
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 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 Protein Shakes Nutrition and Ingredients

Alrighty, let’s start with the good. I actually love 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 other chemicals. In fact, Shakeology found itself in hot water a few years back when Dr. Oz. issued a warning about the lead levels in their products.
  2. Sugar content. 6-8 grams of added sugar is just 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 more 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 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 four different flavors that are available in both whey and plant-based options: chocolate, vanilla, cafe latte, and strawberry.

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

beachbody shakeology vanilla vegan protein powder
7 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

beachbody shakeology chocolate vegan protein shake
Added sugars, gums, “natural” flavors…these are all questionable ingredients.

Vegan Tropical Strawberry Protein Powder

shakology plant based protein shakes
This one has 8 grams of sugar per scoop. That’s 16 grams per standard 2-scoop serving…over half a day’s worth of sugar!

Cafe Latte Plant Based Shakelogy Shake

beachbody shakology

Chocolate Protein Powder (Whey)

shakeology chocolate nutrition facts

Vanilla Protein Powder (Whey)

shakeology vanilla nutrition

Strawberry Protein Powder (Whey)

beachbody shakeology nutrition label

Cafe Latte Protein Powder (Whey)

shakeology ingredients

Shakeology Reviews on Amazon

Shakeology’s Chocolate flavor is rated 3.1 out of 5 stars by reviewers on Amazon.

Here are the most helpful positive and negative reviews:

Most Helpful Positive Review:

5.0 out of 5 stars Some people love it, some hate it. We Love it!
I had been wanting to try shakeology for a long time. But the price was just too high for my budget. I have a few friends who are “coaches” and have tried to sell to me. But again, it’s just been too expensive. My financial situation has improved a little and I was encouraged by a friend to at least give it a try. The sample box is $29.95 +shipping and tax. I live in a state that doesn’t have sales tax, luckily, so that saved me a few bucks.

5 days passed and I got my package in the mail. At this point I was really excited to try it and see how it tasted and how it affected my eating habits throughout the day. Let me share with you that I love food. I’m over-weight, but I’m not terribly over weight. I’m 5’5″ and weigh about 160lbs. My ideal weight is around 135-140.

The first day, I tossed a packet of the regular Chocolate flavor in my blender bottle with 16oz water and 4oz 1% (cows) milk and about 5 ice cubes and blended the holy hell out of it. I had read some reviews prior to purchasing about how it smelled better than it tasted. This kinda worried me when I smelled the powder and it smelled gross. Uh-oh, I thought, this is going to be a bust.

BUT IT WASN’T! For a meal replacement shake, it was pretty good! I took a couple drinks to really get a feel for the shake. This is something I could stand to drink everyday. I had my boyfriend try it, he really enjoyed it as well, which is surprising because he is relatively picky AND doesn’t like many healthy foods. So the fact that Mr. Picky also stated he could stand to drink a shake everyday, says something.

The only thing we both noticed was the artificial sugar after taste. It’s not terrible, but you notice it.

I have also tried the Strawberry, Vanilla and Vegan Chocolate. They’re all good. I haven’t tried any of the fancy recipes that you can find on the Beachbody website or Pinterest, I’ve blended them all plain.

As far as food cravings and my food intake throughout the day. I used to eat upwards of 2100-2200 calories per day. I’m a avid snacker and again, I love food. Since starting Shakeo, I’ve been able to keep my calories around 1400-1500 each day. It hasn’t done much in the way of energy, but that could be due to the fact that I’m trying to cut down on my coffee intake and replace it with Shakeo. I will try to come back in the end of June and post an update on if I’ve had any significant help with losing weight from Shakeology.

Most Helpful Negative Review:

1.0 out of 5 stars New formula ruined it
I drank Shakeology for years. I stuck with either the regular chocolate or vegan chocolate. I realize it was very pricey; but, it offered a good amount of nutrition and did a great job curbing cravings so I was willing to pay. I loved it for a long time. In fact, I looked forward to drinking a shake each day. It took care of any cravings for sweets that I had and filled me up. It was a fantastic meal replacement when I was on the go. However, a few months back, I noticed a much different taste to the shakes. I called to see if I had gotten a bad bag or something. I was informed that there was a new formula and that is why it tasted different. The new formula makes the taste so bad that I can’t stomach a couple of sips of it (that is why I cannot give this product more than 1 star). I can’t even describe it, it is just horrible. I am so disappointed in this change. I have yet to find something else that take care of my cravings and fill me up like Shakeology used to.

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 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 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.

Aria Protein Powder Review

Fair warning: I don’t hold back any punches in my Aria Protein Powder review. I call ’em as I see ’em, and out of all the other protein reviews I’ve done (Vega, Orgain, Arbonne, and PlantFusion), Aria has some of the most questionable ingredients.

For those who don’t know, Aria is a top-selling protein powder marketed to women. It’s sold at Walmart and at their online store, Jet. Aria is owned by Designer Protein (which I used as a teenager back in the 90s!).

Before we get to my Aria protein review, it’s important to note that all my protein powder reviews are based on the nutrition, ingredients, and overall value for the money of each product. I don’t review products based on taste, because I don’t care to taste most of the products I review because of what’s in them. If you want a great tasting protein powder with a bunch of crappy ingredients in it, then this is not the review for you.

However, if you are (or aspire to be) a clean eater, then I’ll show you some facts about what’s in Aria’s proteins that may make you think twice about buying it (to that end, check out Pure Food if you’re looking for a clean protein powder alternative).

Here are the long and short versions of my Aria Protein Powder review:

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Aria Protein Powder Review (Short Version)

There are three main things I look at when reviewing protein powders:

  1. Ingredients: are there organic, real food ingredients that you can pronounce? Any inflammation-causing soy, dairy, or gluten? How about fillers, flavors, or gums?
  2. Nutrition Facts: What do the key nutritionals looks like (carbs, fat, protein, fiber, sugar)?
  3. Cost: What’s the cost per gram and overall value of the product given the other two pieces of information above?

Aria fails miserably in each of these areas.

Here’s a quick breakdown … if you scroll down further after the chart, I’ll explain which of these concern me most.

aira chocolate protein powderaria vanilla protein powderaria vegan chocolate protein aria vegan vanilla protein
Aria Women’s Wellness Protein Powder – ChocolateAria Women’s Wellness Protein Powder – VanillaAria Women’s Wellness Vegan Protein Powder – ChocolateAria Women’s Wellness Vegan Protein Powder – Vanilla
Calories90909595
Grams of Protein15151515
Protein Source(s)Soy protein isolate, whey proteinSoy protein isolate, whey protein concentratePea protein concentrate, organic rice proteinPea protein concentrate, organic rice protein
Grams of Sugar1111
Free of “Natural” FlavorsNoNoNoNo
Free of Gums & ThickenersNoNoNoNo
100% OrganicNoNoNoNo
VeganNoNoYesYes
Cost Per Gram$.04 $.04$.04$.04
Nutrition/Ingredients (click each image to enlarge)aria chocolate protein nutritionaria womens wellness nutritionaria vegan chocolate nutrition factsaria vegan vanilla nutrition

 

Aria Protein Powder Review (Long Version)

When I browsed through various Aria Protein Powder reviews online, they all had one thing in common: a vested interest in selling Aria! In other words, bloggers create “review posts” in which they get incentivized for every time someone clicks on a link and buys Aria. On Amazon, my most trusted source for reviews, Aria has a 3.9 rating (out of 5 stars).

On Aria’s website, it’s abundantly clear their products are marketed toward women.

aria protein powder review
Look at those fit women doing yoga … if that’s what artificial chemicals and fillers can do to my body, sign me up!

Behind the pretty packaging and stock imagery of “aspirational” women doing yoga (that’s a term marketers use … it means they think you should aspire to be like the women in this happy photo), I have some major issues with the ingredients in Aria’s protein powders.

Here we go …

1. None of Aria’s Protein Powders Are Organic

This means their ingredients are likely contaminated with pesticides and herbicides. Yuck.

2. Aria Uses “Natural” Flavors

Natural flavors are NOT natural. They can contain hundreds of chemical ingredients that food companies may disguise under the name “natural” flavors. See this CNN article for a good explanation or check out my article about natural flavors if you want to learn more.

3. Aria’s Protein Powders Are Loaded with Highly Processed Fillers, Gums, and Additives

Aria uses lots of cheap, processed fillers in their protein powders. Here are a just a few:

  • Lecithin: a processed thickener that’s usually extracted from GMO soybeans using harsh, chemical-based methods.
  • Prebiotic Vegetable Fibers: While protein powder companies like Aria will tout their “beneficial prebiotic fiber”, the truth is these prebiotics are not always beneficial … especially for those with sensitive stomach. Prebiotics can actually lead to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or worsen existing digestive issues. If you have had any type of food sensitivities before, these prebiotics will likely ferment and create more gas that will cause your symptoms to worsen. Get your fiber from vegetables, fruits, whole grains and seeds instead. The good bacteria in your gut will thank you.
  • Gums: Aria uses guar gum and xanthan gum, which can be disruptive to your gut as well.

4. Aria Sweetens Its Protein Powders With Stevia Extract and Monk Fruit

Stevia extract is often derived using chemicals or alcohol. It’s certainly not the worst sweetener in the world but it doesn’t have the same health benefits as actual ground stevia leaves.

Monk fruit is a healthy sweetener in its natural state. But if the other aforementioned ingredients are any indication, my guess is Aria uses the cheap, processed version of monk fruit that’s extracted using GMOs (or contains the sugar alcohol erythritol).

Summary: Is Aria Protein Good for You?

I rate Aria Protein Whey/Soy Protein a 1/10 and Aria Vegan Protein Powder a 2/10.

Aria’s proteins are loaded with highly processed fillers. They’re not organic, which means they most likely have chemical pesticides. And at $.04/gram, you can pay a couple cents extra and get an organic protein powder with probiotiocs instead.

They’re sold at Walmart and marketed to women … but ladies, please make sure you give that ingredients and nutrition panel a second look and really understand what you’re getting.

best plant-based protein powders

Vega Protein Powder Reviews: Nutrition & Ingredients Analysis

When I started looking at the Vega protein powder reviews scattered across the Internet, I noticed they were all missing one hugely important thing: a fair analysis of the stuff that Vega actually puts in their products.

First, a disclaimer: I sell a protein powder. So that naturally invites some bias into the equation. That’s why when I review whether a protein powder is nutritious or not, I look at two objective criteria:

  1. The Ingredients
  2. The Nutrition Facts

They reveal the answers to these important questions:

  • Are the ingredients all organic and made from real food?
  • Any allergens or inflammation-causing soy, dairy, or gluten?
  • Do they contains gums, fillers, and/or natural flavors?
  • How much protein per serving?
  • What are the protein sources?
  • How much sugar is added?
  • What other sweeteners (real or artificial) do they use?

With that said, let’s dig in!

Researching Plant Protein Powders?

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Vega Protein Powder Reviews (Summary Version)

Vega is one of the biggest plant based protein powder brands on earth. WhiteWave–the gargantuan corporation that makes soy-based products Silk and So Delicious–acquired Vega for $550 million in 2015. (side note: Dannon, the huge yogurt maker, acquired WhiteWave in 2016 for $10 billion!)

Here’s what I found out by looking at Vega’s ingredients and nutrition facts information:​

Vega Protein Smoothie Review

Vega Protein and Greens Review

Vega Sport Protein Powder Review

Vega One Review

Vegan Clean Protein Reviews

vega protein reviewsvega protein and greens reviewvega sport protein powder reviewvega one reviewsvega clean protein review
Calories90110160170130
Grams of Protein 15 20 30 20 25
Protein Source(s)Pea protein, saviseed protein, hemp seed protein, brown rice proteinPea protein, brown rice protein, hemp seed protein, sacha inchi proteinPea protein, pumpkin seed protein, organic sunflower seed proteinPea protein, hemp protein, sacha inchi proteinPea protein, hemp protein, pumpkin seed protein
Grams of Sugar 2 2 1 1 1
Free of “Natural” FlavorsNoNoNoNoNo
Free of Gums & ThickenersNoNoNoNoNo
Organic NoNoNoNoNo
Vegan YesYes NoYes No
Amazon Reviews 3.93.9 4.0 4.0 3.5
Cost Per Gram $.05 $.04 $.05 $.06 $.05
Nutrition Facts (click/tap to enlarge)vega protein smoothie nutrition labelvega protein & greens nutrition  vega sport nutrition vega all in one nutrition facts informationvega clean nutrition label
Ingredients (click/tap to enlarge)vega protein smoothie ingredientsprotein greens ingredientsvega sport ingredientsvega all-in-one shake ingredientsvega clean ingredients

I noted a few red flags here, as you may have noticed in the ingredient images above.

Here’s why …

Vega Review (Extended Version)

There are several things I wish Vega would improve with its line of protein powders:

  1. They’re not organic.
  2. They contain “flavors”.
  3. They use gums, fillers, and other highly processed ingredients.
  4. Some of their processing methods involve heat treating, which kills essential nutrients and means their products are not raw.

Let’s explore each of these…

Issue #1: Not Organic

Here’s the deal:

[bctt tweet=”Non-organic ingredients means there could be chemical pesticides and herbicides in your protein shake.” username=”nutritionguy”]

If there’s one reason to spend a few more dollars on an organic product, this is it.

Eating foods contaminated with pesticides increases the odds you will get cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and many other diseases. See this video from Dr. Michael Greger of NutritionFacts.org:

This is Vega’s explanation for why they don’t use more organic ingredients (you can find this on the FAQs page of their website):

As demand for organic ingredients grows, it’s getting easier every year to find reliable sources of organic ingredients, but the cost of certification remains prohibitive for smaller-scale farmers.

C’mon Vega, you guys were acquired for half a billion dollars! You’re telling me you can’t find reliable sources of organic ingredients?

I run a protein powder business that’s 1/5000 of the size of yours and I have had no problems.

They’re right–it does cost more to produce organic ingredients. A lot more.

But when you’re owned by Big Food, unfortunately you often need to put shareholder profits first.

In my humble opinion, and according to the latest and greatest research, paying more for products with organic ingredients is worth every penny for your long-term health and wellbeing.

[bctt tweet=”Vega’s use of non-organic ingredients is the #1 reason why I recommend avoiding their products.” username=”nutritionguy”]

Problem #2: Natural Flavors

David Andrews, senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, said:

“[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.”

Andrews go on to point out that adding any type of “flavoring,” both natural and artificial, means you may be ingesting anywhere from 50 to 100 ingredients.

All of Vega protein powders–Vega One, Sport, Clean, Protein and Greens, and Protein Smoothie–contain natural flavors. Even their newest product, “Clean Protein,” has two types of natural flavors:

vega protein powder reviews
These heavily processed ingredients are not “clean!”

When I wrote the first version of this review in November, 2016, Vega All-in-One Nutritional Shake listed 4 types of natural flavors on its ingredients label:

is vega protein healthy

Now they only list “natural flavors” once.

At least they’re making progress. But the problem is, we still don’t know what’s in those flavors.

I contacted Vega and asked.

It’s a question many others must have asked, because their quick response–while friendly–sounded well-rehearsed:

Natural flavors include a variety of compounds obtained from the natural essence or extracts of plants to produce the characteristic flavor and aromatic sensation of the intended (and labeled) flavor. The essences and extracts can be from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, but always exclusively plant-based, and never artificial. These natural flavor blends are proprietary.

Here’s the bottom line, gang:

Unless you know exactly what those “variety of compounds” are, I recommend avoiding products that have them.

Learn more by downloading my FREE report about natural flavors here

Problem #3: Gums, Fillers, and Other Processed Ingredients

Beyond Vega’s “natural flavors,” there are a handful of other ingredients in most Vega protein powders I don’t like. These are called “gums,” which are thickening agents/fillers. Some of them can cause digestive distress for many people.

Problem #4: High Heat Processing Destroys Vital Nutrients

I also asked Vega about how they process the ingredients in their protein powders.

Here’s what they said:

There are certain ingredients that are heated. For example our SaviSeed protein is heated in order to make it easier on the body to digest. Our products are not considered raw.

While it’s true heating makes certain ingredients easier to digest, it also can destroy many vital nutrients in the plant. All protein powders (and all foods, for that matter) are “processed” to some extant. But clearly Vega more so than others.

Summary: Is Vega Protein Good for You?

While I admire what Vega has done for plant-based nutrition as a whole and I respect them for politely answering all my questions, I’d like to see them make a line of all organic products and stop using flavors, fillers, and gums.

As you can see from my reviews above, Vega Protein and Greens, Vega One, Smoothie, Vega Sport, and even Vega Clean protein powder products all have at least one of these ingredients.

Problem is, if they’re not organic, they may contain additives, preservatives, gums and fillers that may cause intestinal distress and bloating, and exacerbate existing GI conditions.

For those reasons, I recommend choosing another powder if healthy, clean ingredients is your top priority.

best plant-based protein powders