Whole Food Center
THE SCOOP ON PROTEIN
Protein is all the rage right now. You can find it added to almost everything, from beverages like collagen water (mmm refined animal hide added to my water), to protein doughnuts. Just like any other food, the quality, manufacturing process and sourcing of the protein matters a great deal.
Here are some things that frequently get added to protein powders:
Gums and Thickeners - These are used to give the protein shake more body and volume. They add no nutritional value, but you pay for them. They cause gas and bloating in many people, and are often made from allergens like soy and corn. Common gums/thickeners include xanthan gum, guar gum, and cellulose gum.
Flavorings - These are very different than actual berry powder, vanilla powder or raw cacao powder. They are much cheaper for companies to use, but do not offer the health benefits of the real thing and are often made from very questionable ingredients like acetone, and petroleum derived chemicals - not the sort of things you want in your food. Your best bet is to avoid any protein powders that use the words flavoring on the label because companies are not required to disclose what the flavors are actually made from and many of them do not actually know. Look for ingredients like vanilla powder, strawberry powder or cacao powder, without the word "flavoring".
Emulsifiers - These are used to make the powder mix into liquid more easily. Typically you will find either lecithin or mono- and diglycerides. Most lecithin is extracted with hexane or acetone - again, not something we want in a food.
Fillers and fibers - like inulin and fos/fructooligosaccharides. While you may see them marketed as "prebiotics", these can cause a lot of gas and bloating and can feed bad bacteria like klebsiella. If you want a protein shake with fiber, it is best to use one where the fiber is naturally occurring in the food that the protein shake is made from, like hemp seed.
Isolated Amino Acids - Many companies add isolated amino acids to make it seem as though there is more protein than there actually is. Since amino acids are rich in nitrogen and most tests for protein content actually test for nitrogen, it makes the product appear to have more protein that it actually contains. Look for protein powders that have no isolated amino acids added such as L-glutamine or L-cysteine.
Sweeteners - such as artificial sweeteners, dextrin, sugar, sugar alcohols such as xylitol, maltitol, sorbitol, and erythritol, agave, fruit juice concentrate, and fructose.
These are just a fraction of the unneeded additives in protein shakes. You are paying for protein and yet many protein powders can contain over 50% non-protein ingredients.
Adding isolated amino acids to protein powders:
Many protein powders have added amino acids to them. Never, buy proteins that have added amino acids. Most companies test the nitrogen content in order to know how much protein is in a serving of their product. Since the added amino acids are rich in nitrogen they make the product appear to have more protein than it actually does. This is very deceiving, because isolated amino acids, are not the same thing as complete proteins. Here is an example:
Contaminants in protein powders:
Depending on the type of protein, various types of contaminants can be found such as:
Heavy metals including lead, arsenic, and cadmium
Hormones and Antibiotics (mainly found in animal proteins)
Pesticides and Herbicides
It is important to make sure that your protein powder is tested have very low or no levels of these. Here is a lab test showing the heavy metal test results on a batch of whey protein. It is important that the testing method be listed as well, not just the amounts, so you can verify that it is being tested properly.
How protein is processed:
Just like the food you eat, your protein should be as minimally processed as possible. The best proteins are low temperature dried, minimally processed and packaged. There should be no complicated or hard to understand steps in the process.
Plant proteins should be processed entirely without the use of chemicals. Grinding, milling, and occasionally separating the starch or sugars, using mechanical means to increase the protein content, are all acceptable practices.
Whey Protein should be treated and processed as little as possible - pasteurized for just a short time (no whey protein can actually be raw, it is illegal, all whey proteins must be pasteurized).
Many proteins are very heavily processed despite the claims they may make on the label. Since most companies do not actually manufacture their own protein, instead just slapping their label on the container, the consumer has no real way of knowing what the actual processing method is. The best way to be sure of the process is to buy from brands that manufacture their own protein powders. Farm to bottle is the only way to truly be able to know what is in the products.
All of the protein supplements found in the Rooted Nutrition Whole food Center are farm to bottle, so it is very easy to know exactly how each product was grown, processed and bottled. No other supplement retailer can say that.
Ethics matter, too.
If a protein is free of contaminants but made using slave labor or causes severe damage to the local environment, is it really healthy?
Most of us have no idea where our protein powders actually come from. Saying a protein comes from New Zealand, Argentina or the mountains in Tibet does not really tell us much. Are the farms near a waste disposal plant, a garbage dump, a Nuclear Power plant? How can we be sure of the environment where the plants or animals are grown and raised? Are the farm laborers paid a fair wage? Is the farmer using truly sustainable and environmentally friendly farming processes or just growing monoculture crops?
The vast majority of plant-based protein powders come from ingredients grown on old industrial sites in China. No matter how many pretty pictures they put on the website, it does not change the fact of what goes on in China - from pollution to massive human rights violations. Garden Of Life is the number one seller of protein powders in the United States and they are owned by Nestle. No matter how many nice pictures or good stories they tell, do you really think Nestle cares about you, the farmer or the planet’s health?
This is where we come in. Our transparency project will allow you to see exactly where your supplements come from, all the way back to the farmers who grew them.
Quality control and testing are very important, but ethics are just as important, if not more so. Like all supplements, there are really four parts to making a proper: Quality Control, Ingredients, Sustainability and Ethics. Even if you get the first couple right, without the ethics they are nothing.
Farm to table needs to apply to more than just our food, it should apply to our supplements as well. Demand to know where all of your products actually come from, not just a nice story.
Where do our proteins come from?
MARTIN FARMS | BROCKPORT NY
PM FARMS | PENN YAN, NY
GIANFORTE FARM | AUBURN NY
Each one of these plant proteins only contain a single ingredient, ensuring you get the purest, safest and highest quality plant proteins on the market. If you prefer a protein powder with multiple types of proteins in the same shake, you can easily make your own blend.
By using New York State grown and packaged proteins, the carbon footprint is greatly reduced, compared to importing proteins from China. You also get to know exactly where your food is grown and can even go visit for yourself. The farmers also get paid a fair price for their crops. How many protein powders can you actually view from seed to shelf? Plus, they're economical:
We also carry dairy-based proteins which meet the same quality standards.
Our first dairy-based protein is goats milk whey protein. These single-ingredient whey proteins come from a small goat farm in Centralia, Washington.
This farm uses a special refractance window dryer to preserve all the natural goodness of the milk and not damage any of the proteins. They are all left in their original state.
Because of the quality of the milk and the wonderful treatment of the animals, this results in a smooth and creamy protein, that mixes easily without the addition of any additives, sweeteners or emulsifiers.
Many people find goats milk easier to digest than cow's milk. We also offer colostrum, ghee, goats milk powder, goats milk cream flakes, and goats milk mineral whey from this amazing little farm.
We also offer cow's milk dairy whey from NorCal. NorCal's dairy whey protein is the first Non-GMO Project Verified, American Humane Association Certified, USDA Organic, Kosher Organic Whey Protein. NorCal comes from family farmers who believe in the welfare and humane treatment of their animals. Located in Humboldt and Del Norte counties in Northern California, our farmers' cows are a heritage breed called Jersey cows. These cows graze year-round on fresh pasture of clover, rye, and other native grasses. The whey is also independently certified by Humane Heartland.
After the milk leaves the farm, it travels a short distance to the Rumiano Cheese Company. Rumiano Cheese is one of the oldest cheese making companies in the United States and is still family-owned. The entire process from cow to bottle is 100% family-owned, with no massive food conglomerates involved. Most whey protein is produced by large conglomerates who process the milk and sell the leftover whey. It often goes through multiple steps like acid washing and extensive heating. Ours does not.
Due to the gentle processing, all of the naturally occurring beneficial compounds in the whey remain.
Every batch is independently tested to support these claims. By using whey protein that is processed in the United States and packaged in bags not plastic tubs, it keeps the carbon footprint small. This pure and potent whey protein is the gold standard for how whey protein should be made - from farm to bottle.
We have a wonderful collagen option as well, check out our article on collagen here.
To sum it all up, look for protein powders with just a single, minimally processed, tracable ingredient. You can add your own ingredients like fruit and vegetables (or fruit and vegetable powders), raw cacao powder or other whole foods. If you need some sweetener add a little local maple syrup or honey. This way you are getting 100% pure whole foods, without any of the junk or unneeded synthetic chemical additives that the average protein powder contains.