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I totally get it - it's confusing and a total minefield when shopping for a protein powder and trying to figure out what is best for you. That's why I'm hoping this video and post should help you decide!
I would recommend taking some time to think about what your goals are and then talking to a sales associate at a health food store who can advise you what may be best. Oftentimes the people working at the health food store are certified nutritionists, so they have tons of knowledge, and they are able to steer you in the right direction.
I do think that having this info in your back pocket should help you decide! I have my favourite brands, but I thought it would be worthwhile to take you through the most popular kinds (not brand specific) of powders on the market.
Please use the same eagle eye you use when shopping for any packaged foods.
There are certain ingredients that should NOT be in a protein powder:
*Avoid fillers like inulin and psyllium. Unless you specifically want some fibre -- but note that inulin is very bloating.
I used this protein in my smoothies religiously many years ago in my personal training days until my digestive system could no longer handle it (BLOAT-CITY). It was the GOLD STANDARD a decade ago, but one of the reasons aside from the excellent absorption rate of high-quality whey is that there just wasn't much else on the market. Fermented protein powders are the new gold standard, in my opinion, whether you choose whey or vegan -- your body will thank you when you consume protein in a form that makes the amino acids far more bioavailable and easier on your digestive system. But more about that in a bit...
I talked about collagen on my Cityline segment only because people commonly assume it's an ideal source of protein for your smoothies. While it has amino acids, it is NOT a complete protein and should not be considered a good substitute for an actual "protein powder."
Collagen has many other benefits, and I've talked about them on the blog before in this Matcha Collagen Latte but I do not recommend collagen as your protein of choice for your smoothies. However, it has multiple benefits for beauty which you can read all about here.
Definitely try my Collagen Chocolate Chip Snowballs , they are super duper yummy!!
Pea protein was one of the first most widely used plant-based proteins on the market and really started the trend of plant-based protein. It's an excellent option, particularly for those who can't consume any dairy protein, lactose, or those with allergies and vegans. The one drawback I hear about often and experience it myself from time to time is that it can bother your tummy - cause constipation or bloating. But if it doesn't do that for you, it's an excellent option.
Brown Rice Protein
A very popular choice among people searching for a plant-based protein. It's a great option for those with pea protein allergies or those on a therapeutic diet that restricts peas. It's also a great idea to mix up your protein powders and not always use the same protein.
Pumpkin Seed Protein
Pumpkin seed protein has been slowly gaining in popularity over the years. It is a great source of plant-based protein, it tastes like pumpkin seeds (which are delicious) and you can even find it at bulk food stores, making it quite affordable. I love this one!
Hemp is a very popular protein powder, but even more popular is the food it's derived from -- hemp hearts. My preference is to use the whole food as opposed to just the powder for all the healthy and anti-inflammatory fats in hemp. I use hemp hearts ALL THE TIME! I've got multiple recipes on the blog such as my Hearty Hemp Flatbread, Vanilla Chai Truffles and Lemon Basil Pesto.
Fermented Vegan Protein Blends
Before blends came along, I always recommended you cycle your protein powders, so you don't develop an intolerance to a protein you're using all the time. You don't need to worry about this when you're using a blend because you won't always get the exact same amounts of each protein in every scoop since it's all mixed together.
As I mentioned earlier in this post, that's pretty much what happened to me with whey - I had too much of it and then had to stop using it.
WHAT ABOUT SOY?
I did not include soy protein on my list because even though it's a great source of protein and amino acids, it can increase impact estrogen levels, and this is not ideal. That being said, there have been some more recent studies done that say that's not the case. Nutritional science is often conflicting and confusing. Additionally, most soy protein on the market is highly processed and subjected to some nasty chemicals. My experience in clinical practice and my own body has made me not favour it, so that's why I do not recommend it.
You will be happy to know that there are more ways to enjoy protein powders than in a smoothie. I also shared some recipes on my recent Cityline segment, which you can watch here, and the recipes are posted below.
In this segment I made the following recipes:
If you love using one particular protein powder and you're always using the same protein source then I would suggest it's time to mix it up! I hope you found this post helpful.
Wishing you joyous health!
Great resource on all of the different protein choices which can be overwhelming! Thank youReply
You're welcome Lisa, glad to hear it helped!
Hi Joy, Are you able to provide any insights into collagen supplements as well? thank youReply
Collagen is not a complete protein so I don't recommend it as a single protein source. I've written about it on the blog here: https://www.joyoushealth.com/27290-blog-collagen-chocolate-chip-snowballs
And I've done some Cityline segments on it too: https://www.cityline.tv/recipe/dessert/one-bowl-collagen-cookie-bites/
Hope that helps!
Thanks for the great info! Just wondering what your favourite rice and pumpkin protein powders are? I love Genuine Health Protein Powder but I’m looking for something that doesn’t contain pea protein. Thanks!Reply
Glad you appreciate the info! I don't really have a favourite brand because I don't use it that often. However, I would check your local health food store and look for one with as few additives as possible. This brand is pretty clean https://well.ca/products/north-coast-naturals-cold-pressed_172375.html?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIlPmm7_yM5QIVAZSzCh04pwo9EAQYASABEgIS6PD_BwE
Have you researched bone broth protein powder? Would be curious how that ranks!Reply
I didn't include bone broth protein powder because it's literally bone broth with added protein which seems more like a marketing thing. I love bone broth which I make regularly so I would just make your own and then have your protein powder separately as it seems odd to add bone broth protein to a smoothie -- I don't think it would be very tasty! But that's just my opinion :) Here's my recipe: https://www.joyoushealth.com/24260-blog-simple-chicken-bone-broth
Bookmarking this page for sure! Excellent resource, thank you!Reply
You're very welcome!
I tried the genuine health protein and I liked it a lot. However since then I’ve came across research and I’ve seen in a few places where a big issue with protein powders that is often overlooked is the levels of heavy metals. So there’s a website that’s called project clean I think.. and they do testing on several types of consumer products, to see the nutritional profile as well as other contaminants. Unfortunately SO many protein powders didn’t make the cut. Most were very high in heavy metals. So I stopped using genuine health and went in search for a different protein powder. I’ve only tried a couple and they were either ridiculously expensive or whey/whey isolate. (Trying to steer away from animal products if I can) Its tough! Hopefully in the future there will be better products that not only look at the criteria that you’ve listed but at the heavy metal levels! Thanks for your helpful tips Joy. Just wanted to make a note of that!Reply
Pretty much all plant-based protein powders will have some level of organic metals in them because these they come from the soil. The important consideration is that they do not exceed the levels the government sets as safe. That being said, you may or may not agree with the gov't standards with regards to heavy metals. However, I know some of these websites claim that any amount of heavy metal is not good but that's simply not possible if you eat plants. You'd have to stop eating all food to entirely avoid metals. Or set your own standards :)
Great info! Is the Genuine Health fermented vegan protein powder safe for pregnancy?Reply
I used it while pregnant :) However, the package label will likely say "no" because it has not been tested on pregnant women.
I loved watching your segment on Cityline and your expertise on protein powders. I too started out with whey protein but used "isolate" instead but still experienced some bloating pain from using it despite the lactose being removed. I've moved on to more plant based with my favorite being pea protein and runner up hemp protein. I will try your suggestion of "cycling" to switch things up a bit. I didn't even know other protein options were available such as the fermented ones or blends. Thank you very much!! Much appreciated.Reply
You're very welcome! I love Genuine Health's fermented vegan protein, definitely give it a try! https://www.genuinehealth.com/en-ca/products/fermented-proteins/
Thank you so much Joy! Will definitely check out this product:)Reply
Hi Joyous Health team! I am looking for a suggestion for a protein powder to include in my smoothies while pregnant. I want to be able to bring an option with me for my next appointment and chat with my doctor about it! What would you recommend?Reply
I used Genuine Health's Vegan Fermented Protein while I was pregnant. It probably says on the bottle not to use but that's because it hasn't been studied on pregnant women. However, you can't ethically do studies on pregnant women. All that to say, I used it :) https://www.genuinehealth.com/en-ca/products/fermented-proteins/