Protein powder isn’t just for vegetarians, vegans and intense athletes. In fact, the average American consumes far too much animal protein, and plant protein powder can be an excellent alternative. A high quality protein powder can help boost your intake of plant proteins, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as support immune function and maintain and promote healthy muscle mass and body composition. Not all protein is equal however. In fact, protein quality really comes down to the whole protein package including content levels of amino acids and other nutrients, as well as the nutritional pitfalls associated with certain protein sources such as animal proteins.
Food proteins can be classified as complete or incomplete, a status determined by the types of amino acids provided by a particular protein. Complete proteins are made up of the nine essential amino acids which can only be obtained through diet. Animal sources are usually complete proteins, however they also come with added pitfalls such as high saturated fat content. Incomplete proteins on the other hand, often come from fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts. Still, combining two or more incomplete proteins may form a complete set of amino acids, therefore creating a complete protein.
When choosing a protein powder, look for these nine essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. It is also important to stay away from protein isolates because many are exposed to acid processing and over-processing can alter key amino acids.
If this all sounds a bit overwhelming, try looking for protein powders made from yellow peas, hemp, chia, potato and Golden Chlorella(TM) High Protein, as they are some of the richest proteins available. It is important to remember that the human body is not static. It changes regularly due to environmental factors, nutritional intake and even aging. And despite that adulthood has long been treated as a single period of life, our bodies actually require different nutrient balances at different stages of life, including different stages of adulthood. Still, exactly how much protein should be eaten at which stage of life remains a topic of debate. Because there are so many factors to consider, it is important to consult your naturopathic doctor before starting a new protein regimen.
Protein: Moving Closer to Center Stage. Harvard School of Public Health.
Marz, Russell B. 1999. Medical nutrition from Marz: (a textbook in clinical nutrition). Portland, Or: Omni-Press.
Gaby, Alan. 2011. Nutritional medicine. Concord, N.H: Fritz Perlberg Publishing.