It’s very unfortunate, but many people have been convinced to believe protein shakes are great meal replacements. Billboards and advertisements with the bulky men are trendy, your friends at the gym may be obsessed, and you’ve come to believe that it’s nutritious. Essentially though I must note, I cannot generalize; there are many great companies now that produce protein powders with organic and pure ingredients. One of my favorite grass-fed and organic whey protein is Tera’s Whey. Again, I cannot generalize, but aim to simply make you aware of what’s lurking in the popular protein powders out there.
First off, all of the soy ingredients on the ingredient list should scare you away. Soy is one of the main crops that are most likely genetically engineered, unless labeled otherwise really. Why are genetically modified organisms an issue, well that needs an article of its own. To sum it up though, genetically engineered crops are said to cause numerous health effects, like cancer, intolerances, birth defects, infertility, and more. They have not been around long enough for them to be tested. Must I mention, more than 26 nations globally ban the growing or selling of any genetically engineered ingredients, while another 64 nations require labeling of any product that contains genetically engineered ingredients.
True, protein powders contain no added sugar, but instead the majority do contain artificial sweeteners; another reason you should opt them out of your diet. Artificial sweeteners have negative connotations on your health, one of the major ones being brain tumors. They are manmade in a chemical lab, not found anywhere in nature. Sure, avoiding sugar is a great habit to follow, but not by replacing it with these chemicals instead. If you see sugar alcohols on the nutritional label and no sugar, be comfortable putting that product back on the shelf. When it comes to the whey, another main ingredient in protein powders, you should question if it comes from cow or livestock that were raised with hormones, antibiotics, and genetically engineered feed. These hormones and antibiotics excessively given to the livestock undoubtedly leak into the dairy by-products they produce. Don’t doubt that these cause sicknesses in the long run, because they may do just that.
I’ll end with some good news in case I just destroyed your hope with these concerns. Today, there are companies that sell protein powders with organic grass-fed whey, pure and natural ingredients, and instead of artificial sweeteners, they use stevia extract (look for alcohol free). They may be more expensive, but they are made of pure and natural ingredients that will provide your body with optimum nutrients and benefits.
My best advice though is to skip the protein powder all together and aim for a high protein meal instead. That can include fish, meat, or chicken and vegetables, quinoa pilafs, nuts and nut butters, or even a homemade smoothie with hemp seeds for a boost of protein. Try this very delectable yet easy to prepare tuna vegetable salad. It’s full of healthy fats from the avocados, and the perfect amount of fresh lemon for a refreshing zest. I highly advise you read your tuna labels precisely; avoid anything in vegetable broth as they come with soy ingredients too. Try aiming for ones lower in sodium content, and from wild-caught fish. Tuna is extremely high in protein, which explains the great feeling of satiety it brings. It has many minerals and vitamins hard to find in a plant based diet. Staying fit is undoubtedly essential, and working out is great. Just don’t sabotage all that weight lifting by consuming these chemicals in your shake afterwards. Try a whole foods meal after your next work out, and observe your energy levels in comparison to when you take a shake.
1 can Wild Planet tuna (or any safe catch tuna)
¼ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon Himalayan Pink Salt
1 teaspoon ground mustard seed
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon turmeric, ground
½ teaspoon dill
2 cups organic spring mix (kale, spinach, swiss chard, arugula)
½ small avocado, sliced
Handful of fresh parsley
½ tomato, sliced
Place the spring mix in a serving bowl
Place sliced avocados, parsley, tomatoes, and lemon slices along the edge (see image)
In a small mixing bowl, place tuna, spices, lemon, and olive oil and mix until well combined
Place in the middle of the spring mix; serve immediately
Noor H. Salem is an author, speaker, and Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, from Michigan. Noor works with clients in better understanding their bodies and healing with natural foods through her wellness practice, Holistic Noortrition. She presents various workshops, school lectures, group coaching classes, and community lectures on the topic of holistic health. Noor recently published her book, SUNNAH SUPERFOODS, a culmination of life-changing recipes and remedies, with a foreword by Dr. Waleed Basyouni. Her book consists of prophetic hadith, modern research, and delicious recipes, and is in the process of being translated into other languages.