When I switched from whey to plant protein powder a few years back, I thought I had flipped some magical switch and attained the rank of “enlightened eater.” But after working as a consultant for some of the biggest food marketers in the world and eventually starting my own food company, I found out how wrong I was.
I’m going to share with you the secrets the plant protein industry doesn’t want you to know — so you can see through the marketing shenanigans and find out for yourself if your protein powder is healthy or not.
How Plant Proteins Are Made
Most plant protein powders are derived from soy, rice, hemp, peas or pumpkin seeds. Generally speaking, there are three methods to turn these plants into protein powder:
1. Hexane-based methods
To remove oil from plants, most soy protein and some of the others mentioned above are processed using hexane, a chemical neurotoxin derived from petroleum that can damage your central nervous system.
2. High heat methods
There are various high temperature processing methods used to make protein powder from plants. Unfortunately, heat destroys the healthy nutrients in the plant and makes it harder for your body to digest.
3. Enzyme-based methods
Natural enzymes are added to (preferably sprouted) plant seeds to remove the protein. This preserves the most nutrients in the plant and is the cleanest and least processed method.
Let’s say you’ve identified a plant protein powder that uses method 3 above. This is a good start, but now you have a bigger problem to deal with: the other ingredients.
Even “healthy” protein powders contain highly-processed ingredients, including:
1. "Natural" flavors
These are one of the most common ingredients you see on food labels today. The FDA says as long as an ingredient originated from a natural source, food corporations can call it a “natural flavor”. The disturbing part is that they’re allowed to add harmful chemicals and other nasty stuff to their “natural” flavors after the fact without telling you. Here are a few stomach-churning examples of ingredients lurking in natural flavors: