Ditch That Protein Powder

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

Protein Powder in a Smoothie is not Healthy

If there’s anything that greatly concerns me, it’s ladies who are pregnant drinking smoothies fortified with protein powder and munching on other high protein/low carb “health foods” in their quest to reach the magical number of protein grams per day recommended by their obstetrician or midwife.

When I was pregnant with my third child, I was horrified at one prenatal visit to find a basket of soy protein bars in the waiting room! This was at a birth center staffed by midwives no less!

While adequate protein intake is indeed important during pregnancy, getting this macronutrient via highly processed protein powders and high protein foods is a disastrous choice.   This is because these same ladies that are drinking high protein smoothies and protein bars are very likely avoiding saturated fat at the same time.   A diet high in protein and low in fat rapidly depletes Vitamin A stores.

Whole foods containing large amounts of protein naturally include protective amounts of fat such as eggs, grassfed beef and other meats. On the other hand, high protein processed foods are devoid of any fat in most cases making them particularly dangerous.

Depletion of Vitamin A stores during pregnancy is a dangerous problem as Vitamin A is critical to preventing birth defects such as cleft palate, cleft lip, major heart malformations, and hydrocephalus.  Vitamin A is also the “beauty vitamin” responsible for symmetry in physical and facial features.

Vitamin A deficiency from consumption of high protein foods is not assisted by prenatal vitamins either as these worthless pills do not contain true vitamin A but instead the synthetic version, Vitamin A Palmitate or the plant based version beta carotene – little of which is converted to true Vitamin A.

Vitamin A depletion when consuming high protein processed foods is also risky for the average individual as well.  Symptoms of Vitamin A depletion include:

  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Kidney problems
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Thyroid disorders

Negative calcium balance is also a risk with high protein, lowfat diets which means that more calcium is lost than what is taken in.  Consequences of negative calcium balance include bone loss and nervous system disorders.

Know anyone who drinks a high protein smoothie everyday for lunch who develops a bizarre neurological disorder out of the blue?  I personally know several.

I’ve wondered about the stories in the news recently of young, healthy, vibrant male athletes, some only in high school, who inexplicably drop dead during competition.  Could these young men be eating lots of protein, much of it processed, while on a lowfat diet in order to build muscle and strength as recommended by bodybuilding magazines?   Such misguided advice would rapidly deplete Vitamin A stores which could potentially lead to heart arrhythmia and sudden death.

Other Problems with High Protein Processed Foods

Besides depletion of Vitamin A stores, high protein processed foods contain potentially large amounts of MSG in the form of protein isolates.   Separating protein from its food source during manufacturing results in the creation of MSG – the amino acid glutamic acid gone bad.   Therefore, MSG is present in high protein processed foods but it is not on the label because it is not technically added to the final product.  It is only created during manufacturing and therefore can be conveniently unlisted on the label.

Don’t buy into the “low temperature dried” protein powder fallacy as well.   While low temperature processing and drying of protein powders is a less damaging manufacturing method, it still denatures the protein.  Whey protein in particular is very fragile and cannot be dried or powdered.

A good rule of thumb is that no protein powder is a safe protein powder!

Good Alternatives to Protein Powder

Need a protein boost in smoothies and want to avoid the protein powders now that you realize the dangers to your health in using them?   Try gelatin instead – it has 7 grams of protein per tablespoon.  Gelatin is a colloidal substance which means it attracts digestive juices to itself similar to raw foods full of enzymes.  Hence, gelatin is helpful to the digestion and contains a protein kick to boot.

Another option would be to add nutritional yeast (Frontier is the best brand as it has no additives and is low temperature dried) which has 8 grams of protein per serving.

Be aware that even natural gelatin contains small amounts of MSG, so if you are particularly sensitive, you may wish to choose nutritional yeast as the better alternative.


Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist.com

Sources:  Adventures in Macro Nutrient Land

Vitamin A:  The Forgotten Bodybuilding Nutrient

Vitamin A Saga

Picture Credit


Comments (209)

  1. Hi Sarah, I couldn’t agree more with you on how frustrating it is to have people push protein down your throat when you are pregnant! During my youngest sons pregnancy I had been at a family barbeque and had to say no to the ridiculous amounts of meat my mother-in-law kept trying to put on my plate ”to keep the baby happy’!

    I have a pretty good doctor and she recommended whey protein to me as an economical way of getting good protein without buying huge amounts of meat or having to eat bowls and bowls of beans or mushrooms. After some research I found this native whey protein which has tasted a lot better than previous brands ive bought. There is also no sugar, so no carbs!

    They say that it is a lot less processed than other proteins because it isn’t a byproduct of cheese making. I’d have it with coconut oil every day, sometimes a banana and some spinach as well. I had a much faster recovery than my first pregnancy so I don’t really feel it is right to just ‘ditch that protein powder’!

  2. Hi Sarah, I have someone asking about using whey protein and I’m referring him to this post (which i somehow remembered!) Is there any update to this that I should know? Whey protein is not on my radar at all! Thank you!!!

    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist October 12, 2014 at 9:30 pm

      Hi Sally, I have on my list to write an update to this as there are some low temp whey protein powders on the market since this post was written that people are snapping up thinking they are fine and they are not. Thanks for the reminder!!

      • Most trainers say that immediately after a workout, having a meal high in protein and carbohydrates is the most ideal for muscle repair. A lot of the recipes for smoothies that don’t use protein powders are also high in fat. You don’t want that high fat for muscle repair. Are you aware of any smoothie that is high in protein and carbs, low in fat and doesn’t use protein powder. Otherwise, I would have to eat a protein(eg, egg whites) with a fruit smoothie.

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  6. What about organic pea protein powder, which only contains pea protein & fruit protein, mixed with whole fat raw milk & raw eggs (if you are not pregnant), wouldn’t this be okay & help avoiding spikes in blood sugar levels?

    • My container of Great Lakes Gelatin says it contains 6 grams of protein per tablespoon. Google may give lots of information but it’s not always accurate.

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  25. Hi! So, what research or evidence do you have that consuming denatured proteins has no value? Because technically any heated protein goes under the denaturing process, which just means your amino acids are taking a different form, and is can cause death if the protein is living at the time. Doesn’t your body still absorb the amino acids, regardless of what form they are in? I suppose that would then lead to the question of what proteins are most beneficial to our bodies. Anyways, this is an interesting article and I’ve just been letting the internet guide my research into the subject (and of course being wary of my sources), and I was curious of what research you’ve read :)

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  29. What does anyone know regarding nutritional yeast – and whether you are better off not taking it if all you can afford is the commonly available, no doubt highly processed nutritional yeast (aka Red Star through Azure Standard, it is super cheap – compared to not taking it at all. The reason I had started taking it was not for the protein (I already use gelatin powder for that) but for wanting to increase my intake of B vitamins, as my access to things like grass fed liver is limited.

    Thank you!

  30. Hello, I am wondering what your thoughts are about Sunwarrior protein powder. Their blurb says ..
    Sunwarrior Classic Protein uses an old world process, combining the endosperm and bran from raw sprouted whole grain brown rice, to create the first completely hypoallergenic protein, containing all essential and non-essential amino acids in a perfectly balanced profile. Sunwarrior Classic Protein has the highest amount of (non soy) raw, whole-grain sprouted, vegan protein of any product available

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  37. I am wondering about a protein that I use that is derived from eggs. It is an egg white protein that is considered the healthiest, Jay Robb Egg White Protein powder. Is it just as harmful as the others?

  38. What is wrong with a denatured protein? Protein from eggs gets denatured when cooked, but that doesn’t mean they are harmful to eat. Your body has to break down proteins (denaturing them) in order to absorb them so what is the problem there? Also, throwing in cases of misinformed teen bodybuilders just serves as a scare tactic. Healthy individuals that are consuming proper ratios of macro-nutrients will have no issues using a powdered protein.

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  40. Thank you for this brilliant information! I did not know that gelatin and nutritional yeast were good sources of protein. What would you consider to be a serving of nutritional yeast?

  41. Sorry Katherine, I don’t know what you have against whey protein but I would bet you are not the most fit person in the world and I bet you have a very high body fat content. Folks, don’t listen to Katherine she seriously spouts info without any research to back it up. There has been research study after research study touting whey protein as the nectar of the gods. I am a 51 year old bodybuilder with 9% bodyfat and a 30 inch waist. Whey is the fastest and most easily digesting protein known to man and is absolutely essential to especially older men and women that wish to build or maintain muscle mass. It is the highest source of Leucine which is an absolutely essential amino acid for protein synthesis and the building and maintenance of lean muscle mass. There are so many benefits of whey protein that I can’t go into all of them here but the bottom line is a good protein powder makes an excellent supplement for especially older people that live an active lifestyle.

    • I’m agree with you, I do lift weights (I’m woman) and I refused to drink protein shakes for 2 yrs and the recovery time of my muscles was painful and kinda slow. 3 weeks ago I start drinking a protein shake immediately after my training, a scoop mixed with coconut water and sometimes a banana also, and the results? pure AMAZINGNESS, I recover so fast, and you have to see my skin and the color of my face, pink, shiny, my checks are pink again after ufffff!! long time “no see” and now they keep beautiful pinkish red; before I looked tired, dry, shady, and now my face looks ALIVE, my lips are pump and red all the time and my skin literally glows.
      I use protein concentrate that I buy in bulk. I eat plenty of fats, lots of fats actually, whole milk, almonds, p butter all the butters in the world that you could imagine LOL, coconut milk and oil, whole eggs, organic butter… and Do i gain weight? nope, I gain muscle, I do shrink in size. After a training session, I never drink fat with my protein shake because fat delays the absorption of nutrients that I need after a workout, but I pour some almond butter or coconut milk or oil on my protein shake 2 hrs before my workout. ( sometimes, because I do prefer to eat 3 whole eggs with butter, sausages and a glass of milk or homemade Kefir =) yameeee! ) By the way my waist is 26″ and I never get to this stage when I was young, I’m 43 now going to 44. I was fat 10 yrs of my life eating nasty stuff and eating “light” trash food LOL. I’m not anymore and I don’t want to be the typical Skinny FAT.

      • Hi Marian,

        Could you please reply with what type and brand of protein powder you’re getting such great results with, and where you buy it? I am so frustrated with my lack of results and I have been using hemp protein powder or none at all. I am your age and I would like to be thin again too!

        Thank you so much for posting,


  42. What about a good protein powder like raw brown rice based or hemp ptotein, im pregnant and need about 80g protein as im risk for pre eclamsia and i dont eat meat as no organic meat here and i eat fish but only once a week at most

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  43. Correction: I meant my question for Katherine Jorgensen Lewis, which was how much of the IsaLean Shake made by Isagenix is lactose? What is the percent? 5% lactose? 50% Something in between? It’s not in any Isagenix materials. Thanks.

  44. Hello A.L. Longo: I have recently completed the Isagenix 30-day program. Could you let me know what percentage of the “IsaLean Shake” powder is lactose? My understanding from the Whey Institute is that whey protein concentrate can vary from 5% to 52% lactose (another site claimed such protein is 75% lactose). This lactose info. is not in any Isagenix materials. Thanks!

  45. Not all protein powders are the same. And some, I believe, are great sources of nutrition. During pregnancy, my breakfast almost every day consisted of a homemade protein shake made with raw milk, 1-2 raw eggs (free-range from local farmer), a scoop of protein powder (free of GMO’s, artificial sweeteners, and hormones), and some fruit such as banana or berries.

    Better yet, there are even protein powders on the market now (at healthfood stores) that use milk from grassfed cows. There ARE protein powder products on the market that are healthy, convenient sources of nutrition. You just have to know what to look for and what to avoid.

  46. thankyou for this, confirmed exactly what my instincts told me. i was given a veggie soup loaded up with pea protein by a new acquaintance and have spent the last four weeks suffering both dreadful intestinal distress, wind, and a dry feeling inside. also, a blood test has shown up a previously unknown Thyroid issue with Massive THS levels, normal range .3-4.0 mine were more than 100! my belief is that the pea protein simply stripped my body of all vitamin A and stored thyroid overnight. since my GP tried to get me taking meds instantly and they made me feel highly toxic i am hoping that the slow build up of vitamin A and iodine will give my thyroid a chance to rebuild. does anyone else have any experience of this kind of problem with pea proteins?

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  48. Katherine Jorgensen Lewis via Facebook January 7, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Antonia Louise Longo, A container of Isagenix (14 servings) is $39.00/$2.78 a serving. A container of Mercola (11 servings) is around $30/$2.72 a serving. If you buy in bulk you can get it for closer to $2.00 a serving. The difference though, is that the Isagenix is considered a complete meal replacement because it has an adequate balance of carbs, protein and fat, so you don’t need to add milk or other ingredients. It also has 8g of fiber, and 8 different probiotics, so they are very easily digested. No artificial colors, sweeteners, gluten free, gmo free. Mercola is great quality as well, but is mostly whey protein, so you need to add other ingredients to attempt to make it a complete meal. Message me if you want any other info on either. I completely agree with eating foods as close to nature as possible.. so if a person is avoiding soy, and eating plenty of healthy fats with their protein or in their diet in general, it’s a great source for busy people, or picky eaters.

  49. Antonia Louise Longo via Facebook January 6, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Katherine Jorgensen Lewis, how much do you pay for a container of isagenix and how many servings is in it?

  50. Sandy Worsham Engels via Facebook January 6, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Ok, I get that not all protein powders are created equally. More personal research on this one. But I mix my protein powder with heavy cream from grass feed/ pastured cows. I buy straight from the dairy. We eat a full fat diet, nothing low fat….ever! What I get from this article is the combo of low fat with less than desirable protein powders is the problem. Which in my humble opinion low fat is the biggest problem we face these days.

  51. Katherine Jorgensen Lewis via Facebook January 6, 2013 at 3:17 am

    This is my first real disagreement with you :-)
    My family consumes as many fresh, organic, whole foods as possible, including pastured meats and raw milk. We also use Isagenix isalean shakes that contain undenatured whey protein from New Zealand, so it’s beyond the organic standards of the US ( I used to buy mercola’s but have since switched). I have truly never felt better, than when i incorporated these whey protein shakes into my diet, and my busy husband thrives on them. In our fast-paced world, many people require quick foods, and protein shakes are a great choice- if you choose wisely.

  52. Antonia Louise Longo via Facebook January 5, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    For reference id approximate that a serving of average protein powder contains about 25g of protein and costs 1-3 bucks

  53. Antonia Louise Longo via Facebook January 5, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    Most people consume protein powders because it is the fastest and most cost efficient method of consuming large amounts protein with the intent to build muscle mass. If protein powders are bad, which they seem to be, what then is the next most cost effiecient and fastest way to consume high amounts of protein? Also, what else can be done to increase muscle mass?

  54. Amy Martin McHugh via Facebook January 5, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    So does this mean that Rice protein powder is no good as well? I couldn’t do whey because of dairy, and I thought the Hemp tasted pretty bad. I think it’s obvious that going with whole foods is the best/ideal way to go, but realistically, a shake is a heck of a lot easier!

  55. Tina R Fairlamb via Facebook January 5, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    I’d prefer scrambled eggs, but sometimes it’s just so easy to use at 6am and you’re running out the door, ya know? :-/

  56. Anastasia Wildcraft via Facebook January 5, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    I’ve wondered this, too. When I was pregnant, the midwives I saw suggested I use this. I told them I preferred to use other methods… like food. One of the many signs that we weren’t a match, until I eventually dropped them.

  57. Kris Weimer via Facebook January 5, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Soy, in any form, is what I call an anti nutrient and destroys your health. Almost all Soy that is used in processed foods or condiments and even snacks is GMO as well.

  58. Kristin Sanders via Facebook January 5, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    I totally agree. They are disgusting anyways. Even the “cleanest” one I could find that was made with stevia. Gross. Most people will refuse to agree unfortunately.

  59. I find this sad as not all products are processed the same and it’s the education of the “product” that needs more attention. Kind of like throwing everything into the same basket. I have used an incredible soy protein powder for years with thousands of others and have a study that validates the incredible health for people using that and other supplemnts from a company steeped in the science of nature and humans. Before tossing all products into this category – more research should have been in this post.

  60. Roseann Ligenza-Fisher via Facebook January 5, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    I use pure liquid whey left over from making raw grassfed yogurt. No powder, and no artificial vitamins.

  61. David Naylor via Facebook January 5, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    I don’t believe that the protein in gelatin is a complete protein. Also, not all protein powders are created equal. Organically raised, grass-fed and low temp processed/non-denatured whey protein concentrate would be the way to go, but should be consumed with plenty of fat.

  62. Sarah Couture Pope via Facebook January 5, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    I think the basic issue is that protein powder is not Real Food, so why do so many folks who believe in Real Food fall for the marketing and buy it? I don’t get it.

  63. Sarah Couture Pope via Facebook January 5, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    All protein powders require a factory to produce and lots of processing. Low temp is better but still denatures the protein .. protein molecules when they are violently separated from the whole food they were originally part of. If it takes a factory to produce it, it is not a health promoting food no matter how it is cleverly marketed.

  64. Garnette Gowing via Facebook January 5, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    Opinion on vegan protein powders? ( not including soy). Ps I’m not vegan just curious how they may differ

  65. Christina Schaub Helmick via Facebook January 5, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    Chia seeds are a great way to go instead if the processed protein powders. Eat as close to whole as possible.

  66. I enjoy my protein shake with almond milk, banana, blueberries, oatmeal and flax seeds. I don’t like meat, never have ever since I was a child.
    So how do I make a shake out of this gelatin or yeast? Thank you.

  67. Well, you finally did it. I’ve been reading all kinds of things on your website, and although I have not implemented everything with my family, I at least prided myself on not being surprised at all by what I was reading-until now. I am one of those who ‘bought in’ , as you put it, to the ‘low temperature myth’. I had a protein powder shake yesterday. Heck, I gave one to both of my kiddos this MORNING! I thought it was ok because it was low temp and micro crossfiltered something or other. Thanks for helping me over my stumbling block.

  68. Can you please tell me what you think of Raw Meal by Garden of Life? I would love to hear your thoughts. That is what I have been using for a while now….but would like to stop if it’s unhealthy. Thank you

  69. I have a question what about protein powder that has the USDA Organic seal and the protein it has comes from plants, and its considered both raw and vegan? Plants have naturally occuring protein but are low in fat. Would that still be bad for you?

  70. I’m assuming you have some valid sources of information to back up these statements on low temp whey. Can you share those, please?

  71. I picture the author of this article: fat, no muscle, haha. I bet you look disgusting. I’m an athlete and on top of my health, you know NOTHING about nutrition, ignorant twit, as please abstain from spreading your misinformed “advice”.

  72. Good article, thank you for sharing it. I first heard of the vitamin depletion risks of protein powder consumption from an article on the Weston A. Price foundation site. Nearly all sources claim nothing but benefits from various types of protein powder consumption without noting the risk of the body depleting valuable fat soluble vitamin stores to process it.

  73. Sarah, Before you write an article like this, where thousands will read it giving them misconceptions, I would look at all science and facts. This article is full of misconceptions and stereo-typing. This shows your lack of detailed knowledge about proteins, whey protein concentrates and the processes of undenatured whey vs. denatured. Please do your due diligence.

    • Kjersti,

      I agree with your comment about undenatured vs. denatured. There are proteins that are undenatured such as the items from the Proserum line. I am in no way affiliated with this company/products. There are other proteins as well. I would like to hear a reply from Sarah as I feel she has researched this topic in detail.

  74. Just curious, but can you bake with Frontier Nutritional Yeast, below 400º, without triggering MSG from forming? I ask from a supplementation perspective, of course – I wouldn’t expect the nutritional yeast to help the actual baking process in any way.

  75. My protein smoothy started with what i read on mercola.com. then I added to it. 1 cup almond milk. (I can’t due cow milk allergy during pregnancy. Afraid to even try raw milk till after it’s so bad) 2 bananas, 4 Tb nutritional yeast (mine has 16 g a serving that is 2 servings) Stevia to taste, 1 T fresh ground flax seeds, (I wont due animal oils other then eggs) 2 eggs. If you have problem with white use yoke. mercola used all last i knew. Sometimes I add chocolate powder or vanilla. Depends on mood. Or apple instead of banana. About 80 g protein if using almond milk. Will need to recount if you use raw milk. over 7 months and no water retention yet. Course I drink a lot of water too. Most women I know that are preg are having problems with feet swelling by now. Not enough protein or water so I read on one site is the biggest reason. just got coconut manna. may add that but not sure as I cook with coconut oil everyday so I get the right fat.

  76. Is liquid whey from raw goat’s milk good for us? Would it be high in protein as well? I have some left over from making cream cheese. Would this be safe to add to my kids’ juice in the morning, as an added supplement? IF so, how much? Just curious.

    • I would venture to say that the whey from raw goat’s milk is good provided the goats have been allowed to forage and have access to the outdoors. In the book Nourishing Traditions, it notes many historical uses for whey in treating various conditions. I would imagine the whey would be far more beneficial than any type of fruit juice. Fruit juices especially commercially prepared are not necessarily healthful.

  77. Sarah,
    Thank you for this information. I share a lot of recipes with dieters who want to get a lot of protein. I just posted a video explaining what whey is and the difference between whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate. Because of your post I really emphasized the need to take in adequate amounts of fat if you are going to ingest protein powder. My hope is to find a middle ground and educate people who are going to stick with their protein powder. I saw you at the WAPF conference in Dallas but never got a chance to introduce myself. Maybe next Nov. in CA! Thanks for your great blog. I’ve learned a lot from you!

  78. Nutritional yeast has added B vitamins.Brewers yeast has naturally occuring B vitamins.As allways you have to be carefull of any particular product.Swanson offers a good inexspensive Brewers yeast.

  79. Please show the studies that say Vitamin A stores are depleted. I drink a protein shake every day and I have normal Vitamin A levels. This reads very much like an article that is cherry picking information in order to serve the purpose of a sponsor.

  80. I am not sure why you recommend nutritional yeast. It contains glutamine, similar to MSG. Although it is high in protein and B vitamins, it is my understanding it is not good bc of the glutamine (and therefore those sensitive to MSG minght be bothered. Besides, it is not a REAL FOOD

    • I’ve read about other issues with nutritional yeast too… more then a small amount can contribute to kidney stones I believe.

  81. Just a few notes from a guy who has consumed and will continue to consume protein powders in smoothies. First off, the MSG thing in these is bunk – yes, there is glutamine and glutamic acid, but they are not exisiting separately in the powder but rather in protein chains. The next thing is that I, and I would hope many others, consume my protein powder with an added tablespoon of coconut oil in the smoothie. No lack of fat at all in my diet. I do consume a large number of eggs – around 2 dozen a week myself, and I also eat other meats on top of that. While I am very on-board with eating as much whole foods as possible, this is not always practical.

  82. Pingback: Taking Supplements and Vitamins While Pregnant : Losing Weight Fast- Thin Me Blog

  83. Separating protein from its food source during manufacturing results in the creation of MSG — the amino acid glutamic acid gone bad. Therefore, MSG is present in high protein processed foods but it is not on the label because it is not technically added to the final product. It is only created during manufacturing and therefore can be conveniently unlisted on the label.

    ^^ Where is your source for these statements?

  84. Hi,

    Interesting article – I knew about soy, but hadn’t realized there were issues with any protein powder such as hemp or pea protein which seemed like great alternatives. I can’t help but ask about the suggestion to use gelatin though, know it’s source. Are there sources of gelatin out there that are not from factory farmed animals? I’m part-time vegetarian and really can’t stand the thought of consuming gelatin from farmed animals. Just curious what people know about gelatin as this is brand new information for me.

    This will certainly change what I consume henceforth! Thanks

    • You can make a gelatin rich broth from chicken feet, from pastured animals. Regular broth has gelatin too, just not as much as the ones made with chicken feet.

    • I am wondering also. He obviously knows his stuff. There is at least one other brand that is comparable to his brand of whey, which is what we use. My son refuses to eat meat, dairy, beans, poultry or fish – not really many other choices to choose from!

      • oh he won’t eggs or nuts either, except in baking. But not like he needs all the carbs from eating baked goods all the time.

      • I would prefer raw milk from pastured cows or goats over any type of protein powder. Why consume a processed food product if you can get the original real food product? Granted it is not always readily available in all areas however. A person refusing to eat meat, dairy, poultry and fish is going to have a difficult time obtaining all necessary nutrients long term. Basically that sounds like a vegetarian diet otherwise.

  85. My husband will add a scoop of whey protein powder to milk after a work out because he wants to build muscle mass. Is there a better alternative I can offer him that will provide the protein quickly but will be safer and healthier for him? I don’t think he believes me when I share this information about protein powders because he says he has always felt better and seen more results when using the protein powder after his workouts. Thank you so much!!

  86. I am allergic to brewer’s yeast and was wondering the same thing. Are they related brewer’s yest and nutrional yeast?

  87. I have a question about nutritional yeast. We are highly allergic to yeast… or at least the kind you find in breads and such. I guess you could call it industrial yeast. Would nutritional yeast be of benefit or would it start a spiral effect of symptoms?

  88. Sarah, I had a gastric by-pass surgery tow years ago. Since the surgery I lost 80 pounds and it has changed my health much for the better. Just after the surgery I discovered the WAP info. I am trying, with my husband, to follow WAP but because of the 7 foot bypass of the duodenum (the first 7′ of the intestine) my surgeon recommends protein powder supplements. I am hoping to get pregnant in the next few months and am concerned about maintaining enough protein intake. I do mix my protein powder with raw milk and never hesitate to use real butter, eat cheese or cottage cheese (sometimes homemade by my DH). I also take cod liver oil, and my DH makes me liver and grass-fed meats.
    What would you recommend? I want as healthy a baby as possible, of course!

  89. Pingback: How to Ditch the Protein Powder « WAPFâ„¢ Chicago Chapter

  90. Thanks for the great info. We have protein powder in our house that my husband uses in his smoothies. I will have him read your article to hopefully show him that it isn’t helping him at all. I just read that you can lightly scamble an egg and add it to your smoothie. I tried it yesterday along with plain greek yogurt, spinach and fruit and you couldn’t taste it at all.

  91. I was eating a typical low fat, higher protein diet and training a lot before conceiving my daughter. While she is healthy, praise God, she is definitely the one of all my children that I have to be most diligent with regarding nutrition. I’m sure I was vitamin A deficient. Also, during a live blood cell analysis, the chemist (PHd) said, “How much protein are you eating? It’s not being assimilated.” I was using about 2 scoops a day of high quality powder plus other lean sources of meat that did not include the fat. yikes! The non-assimilation of protein powder would not be surprising to a whole foods believer. I am so thankful to have found WAPF!

  92. Thanks for the info Sarah. As you know, even well meaning and health conscious professionals and caregivers may not have the best, most complete or current information. I have known and advised my pregnant clients for some time about the dangers of soy but have recommended plant based protein powders to supplement protein levels for those reluctant or unable to consume animal based protein. I personally believe that whole, real foods are the best nutrition sources but try to provide alternatives to moms with other dietary preferences to get the best possible nutrition where they are at in the moment. Many times the journey to health is in “baby” steps. : )

    Kindest regards,

    One of those midwives you saw… : )

    • Hey Rebecca! Thanks for chiming in! No blame at all intended .. just making a point. I figured you weren’t the one to put those nasty soy protein bars out in the waiting room! ;O

      Great point about the welling meaning health professionals and needing to do one’s own research before taking any advice especially when pregnant.

  93. Good information. Whole foods are always our best choice. I do think protein powder has its place and can be helpful in certain applications, BUT most on the market are terrible and the ideal type is not cheap. In case you are interested, here is another source of information on this subject. Dr. Mercola discusses the same concerns you mention here in your post. Thanks for all your research and great info. http://proteinpowder.mercola.com/pure-protein.html

  94. What about using something like Hemp Seed, which has a high protein content and other good nutritional value?

  95. I eat raw eggs by themselves. They then are absorbed completely by the body in around 25 minutes.
    Eaten with other foods, it can take up to 3 hours or more for the body to absorb the egg. Still good food, but if you have digestion probs. then it’s probably better to go ‘rocky style’. :-)
    I eat around 8 a day. The more i eat the better I feel. But like everyone else, I do have an ‘off’ day. Usually the body sorting itself out. Rest!

    Also, the egg was made in that proportion. Why play with natures ‘formulas?’
    I found out a while back to get the mind out of the way, and allow the magical program of the body to kick in!

  96. QUOTE FROM ARTICLE: “Know anyone who drinks a high protein smoothie everyday for lunch who develops a bizarre neurological disorder out of the blue? I personally know several.”

    Uh, yup. I did, indeed, develop peripheral neuropathy in my feet just out of the blue, while on the Fat Flush Program during the years from 2002 to 2005. Since the symptoms struck on the night my daughter had her 30th birthday, I just sorta assumed it was stress related and it would go away. It didn’t, and yes having a daughter turn 30 is stressful. Just thinking about the fact that I am now older than dirt is depressing. ;->

    It wasn’t until I read the paragraph above that something clicked in my brain. Actually, I had thought before about the fact that maybe something about that program might have triggered it, whether it was a supplement or the flax oil/flax seeds (which I now absolutely, positively detest beyond words), or the clorox food soaks she recommended. I still stay in touch with a couple of ladies who were on the program at the same time as me, so I asked if they’d heard of anyone having weird and strange medical problems which might have been a result of something to do with the program, but no one had heard of anyone with strange things going on. Mostly, everyone was losing weight and happy!

    Well . . . I can tell you I’m going to forward this information to those ladies in the hope they have changed the food requirements of the program in the years since I was on it.

    Thank you, Sarah! I think you might have put a piece into the puzzle for me.

    • This is so interesting to me. I developed peripheral neuropathy 3 months ago. From my research online it seems there can be many different reasons for it. I ran out of protein powder before it happened and wasn’t using it much, but I had started using a LOT of gelatin around that time. I wonder if the gelatin had something to do with it. Either way, my issue has been improving lately and I’ve been doing a lot of detoxes and increasing the anti-oxidants which seems to counteract whatever is causing it.

  97. Thank you for such an informative article. Pregnant women need more saviours out there willing to guide them about true health!

  98. I’ve been adding a high quality natural Greek yogurt to my smoothies. I’ve always wondered about the excessive non-food protein in pregnancy as I did the Bradley diet and grew a large baby.

  99. This was a very interesting article! I had never thought about the lack of beneficial fat in the powders and the link to Vit. A deficiency b/c of it, leading to health problems. We do not consume protein powder but we used to – it is so delicious! We used the low temp with stevia, but the cost was just too much for what we considered an easy way to get protein. I also suspected it really not being a “real” food. Thanks for this info. I will warn others about protein powders now too!

    Nickole @ http://www.savvyteasandherbs.com

  100. It is so critical to get the word out on soy and all the milk and meat substitutes rife with it! I cannot tell you how many women interested in breast feeding talk to me about their “healthy” diets full of soy milk, soy crumbles, and soy nuts. The last thing that a nursing baby and mommy need is soy!

  101. wow thank you! I have been trying to get my husband to stop drinking these expensive and unhealthy drinks after his work outs and now I have an article to tell him exactly why (instead of the wife’s advice that usually goes in one ear and out the other lol)

  102. I tried protein for a while but thought that it was generally disgusting. Also it didn’t help me to lose weight At ALL. I only started to lose the extra weight when I cut out carbs and stopped eating what I thought was a healthy (low-fat) diet. Thanks for the helpful info to share with others!

  103. Wow, I learn something new everyday, thanks to you Sarah. I didn’t know gelatin has MSG. I have Bernard Jensen’s bovine gelatin. So that would have MSG too?

    • I have been browsing online greater than three hours these days, but
      I never found any interesting article like yours.
      It is lovely value sufficient for me. Personally, if all site owners and bloggers made good content material as you did, the internet will probably
      be much more useful than ever before.

  104. Amen! Thanks for sharing, Sarah. This is such important information and SO many people are misinformed. It’s difficult when even some of the “alternative” nutrition experts recommend protein powders. We sure don’t! Now to go have a nice smoothie full of REAL FOOD! :)

  105. Peggy Niermeyer June 2, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    I love this! I too struggled with the thought of using protein powder. I add organic shelled hempseeds and chia seeds to my smoothies. In 3 Tbsp of hempseeds there are 11g of protein and in 3 Tbsp of chia seeds there are 5g of protein. I usually put a little of both, not to mention they are practically tasteless. If you do add chia the shake will thicken over time. Thanks for bringing this topic up. I love to here other ideas and these are good ones for me to try.

  106. What are you thoughts on plant based protein powders like pea or hemp?

    I’ve also heard that nutritional yeast can cause the same reactions in your body as MSG.

    Any thoughts to these?

    • Hi Mike, unfortunately, all protein powders regardless of the source of the protein are denatured. The process of separating out the protein from its whole food source is a highly factory intensive process and such highly processed foods should be avoided.

      Some nutritional yeasts have additives in them and are highly processed which is potentially why some folks have problems with them. Frontier is a good brand to try as it is low temp dried with no additives.

  107. Although I agree in general that low fat protein powder smoothies are a poor choice, I have to say that I personally found it helpful for my severe morning and all-day sickness to make a protein smoothie each day with lots of fat during my pregnancy. I used my non-denatured organic grassfed whey protein http://www.paleomeal.com which I mixed with cod liver oil and coconut milk and some frozen berries. It worked better than most other foods I tried for my nausea and blood sugar drops. All that being said, I certainly consumed plenty of extra natural Vitamin A in my diet during pregnancy from liver patée, egg yolks, and cod oil. So perhaps any potential damage from the whey protein was negated, or the fact I added so many good fats to a good quality whey protein worked out for me. My child was born super healthy at 9 lbs, and has a beautiful symmetrical face, straight teeth, very smart, and a great immune system. Good nutrition during pregnancy does pay off!

    • Hi Annika, I would worry about the msg in the protein powders as well. Protein powder is not real food and from what I have learned about whey protein, it is always denatured even if low temp dried. Perhaps gelatin or nutritional yeast would serve the same benefit for you in alleviating the nausea with morning sickness?

      • I am eager to try gelatin or nutritional yeast, and I will recommend them! However, I’m pretty sure the whey protein I use does not have MSG as I am VERY sensitive to MSG and get terrible headaches after some restaurant food. I don’t remember having any headaches after consuming this particular Paleomeal grassfed whey protein. Is it possible that some higher quality whey powder may not contain MSG? This stuff costs $60 for 18 servings which is 3-4x the price of the stuff at the health food store. Anyhow, your point is well taken and certainly, it’s not ideal to consume “fake” foods when the real thing is accessible. But I do think there are variations in quality and brands. And in a pinch, my opinion is it could perhaps be of value when mixed with plenty of healthy fats and organic berries. I will compare how the gelatin or yeast smoothies works for my clients with blood sugar issues who rely on their whey smoothies for breakfast or snack.

    • I agree with Annika, I use hemp protein in my smoothies too, and have had no effects stated above; and I make sure I eat good fats as well. I will try the gelatin and nutritional yeast though. Good information.

      • I think it might be important to note that hemp was only consumed in traditional societies during times of starvation because it was one of the few things that would grow in famines perhaps? It wasn’t highly valued at all which seems to say a lot, at least to me.

  108. This is so informative and very relevant as I regularly see recommendations to incorporate protein powders into smoothies. I’m a new reader of your blog and appreciate all this great information. Many thanks!

  109. Wonderful information, and just in time as I was contemplating using an “undenatured whey” protein powder in my smoothies for extra protein. I have a package of nutritional yeast and a bottle of gelatin both of which I have not used. What do they taste like and is their taste masked in a typical smoothie?? I tried to take nutritional yeast once in water, but I couldn’t tolerate the texture/taste.


  110. Wow I wonder if the lack of vitamin A contributes to tongue tie? The frenulum is supposed to recede before birth and is technically considered a malformation, but the question is if it falls in the same category during development. Poor diet can affect the ability to breastfeed in so many ways! Fat chance (hah) of getting most of the women concerned about tongue tie to listen to that advice though. I just tried talking about homemade formula and hoo boy, the backlash.

    • Wow, I’m wondering that too. After years of bad diet choices my 7th and 8th babies were both born tongue tied. My son had a short frenelum (#7) and my daughter was almost completely tied. I had some major issues nursing both of them. My son ended up malnourished, had uric acid crystals in his diaper, and got rsv within a month. When I asked the dr to clip his to gue she refused. She said her son had a completely tied tongue and he did just fine. Gee thanks. Obviously my son wasn’t doing fine. Guess what she recommended for his low weight (actually negative weight gain, 7 lbs when he was born. 6 lbs 4 oz at a month old)… Supplementing with formula of course. I refused to take her advice, worked really really hard to nurse him and got his weight up. I think one day his frenelum just tore on it’s own… Didn’t have a problem after that.
      My daughters tongue tie was worse but we saw a new dr and he cut it right away. No problems feeding her after that.

      • Tongue-tie is a midline issue, connected with spina bifida. While I can’t say for sure that it isn’t linked to vitamin A deficiency, it’s more likely linked to a folate deficiency. Even if you’re taking your prenatal vitamins (perhaps especially if you’re taking the typical synthetic vitamins) you could have a relatively common genetic mutation (MTHFR) that causes folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, to be unusable in the body. So if you took your vitamins and ate lots of fortified foods you would actually be deficient.

        • Rachel, Thanks.

          My DOM just did a blood test for this MTHFR marker and found me to be needing B vitamins (active) for the rest of my life. Because it’s genetic (she said possibly more than 50%of the population is now positive for this marker leading to all sorts of issues), my children take B vitamins too (active form and also nutritional yeast). She says the gene has been influenced over time by lifestyle and takes generations to change, but lots of research says that eating the right (WAPF) diet will prevent problems and hopefully “change” or influence the gene in coming generations.

          Also, exercise is a MUST for this as the body isn’t clearing toxins well without exercise.

          MY QUESTION IS: I am thankful to have four healthy children. If I conceive again, knowing about the MTHFR and a traditional diet, what is the best way to ensure adequate folate and other nutrients on a daily basis without supplementation of prenatal vitamins. We apply ALL the WAPF principles and are well-versed in the lifestyle, but want to get an extra opinion for encouragement. Thanks!!

  111. Excellent article Sarah! I often struggle with seeing people at the gym slugging protein drinks and bars and most likely avoiding good fats and real food options. Didn’t think about it for pregnancy since those days are over for me! I like the idea of adding gelatin, didn’t think of that one! I personally just add raw eggs to smoothies! I’ll be sharing this one for sure ~ Thanks!!

    • Raw egg whites can cause digestive distress for some folks (I have trouble with them myself) but certainly raw yolks are great for smoothies (with great quality eggs of course – don’t do this with supermarket eggs). The yolk is only fat though.

      • The problem with only using the yolks in smoothies, is that the protein is in the whites while the fat & vitamins are in the yolks. So, although egg yolks alone are super nourishing, they’re not really adding protein to your smoothies. I like the idea of gelatin, though. I’d never thought of it before!

        • It is my understanding that there is protein in both the whites and the yolks. There is a bit more in the whites but that the whites also contain avidin which when eaten raw, binds the B vitamin biotin making it unusable. There is biotin in the yolks but not enough to balance the two. It also is my understanding that you should use 3 yolks to each white when eating raw. So sometimes I just use 2 yolks and sometimes I add another whole egg with those to my smoothie.
          Also…… adding some coconut flour will give you more protein and fiber. I add a tablespoon to my smoothie often as well.
          These are things that I have learned and just passing on for your consideration. :-)

        • That’s right, almost half the protein is in the yolk, a little more than half is in the white. The issue with raw whites is the presence of avidin, which makes biotin (the yolk is a rich source) unavailable for absorption. The solution: always cook whites, yolks are fine to eat raw. Both halves of the egg have protein plus various vitamins and minerals. Whites are by no means “junk” that can be discarded without loss. That said, I do use more yolks than whites, but I save up the whites in a jar until it’s full, scramble them lightly, let them cool, and feed them back to the chickens. Boy, do they love eating eggs, yolk or no yolk! Occasionally I will use the whites for macaroons or something, but usually I just feed them to the chickens. Feeding them to the dogs is another option!


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