By: Loraine Chow
In 2020, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn’t dabbled in protein powder, the newest of which for the last few years has been plant-based. The benefits for plant-based protein seem endless, including increased energy, muscle gain, fat loss, and a boosted metabolism, plus the added bonus of being vegan, but are there drawbacks? In a word, yes.
Asides from the usual fillers added to most protein powders like guar and xanthan gums, sweeteners, and so on, plant-based protein often scores high in tests for heavy metals and toxins. The vegetables that plant-based protein is made from (peas, soybeans, hemp seeds, rice, etc) are liable to contain toxins from the soil they were grown in, according to nonprofit group The Clean Label Project. These toxins include pesticides and heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury. Unfortunately, not even organic protein powders are necessarily safer. Like with so many other supplements on the market, the FDA is ineffective in protecting consumers from these toxins and fake health foods, so it’s important to do your own research and be a conscious consumer.
While toxins in the soil, and therefore in whole foods, are unavoidable, protein powders heavy in heavy metals definitely are not. A high-quality whey protein isolate made sustainably from grass-fed, hormone-free cows (our favorite is Made Of by Kirsty Godso) is most people’s best bet for a quality protein supplement as it is the cleanest and purest form of protein; in some cases, even lactose-intolerant people can consume whey protein isolate as it contains very little lactose. However, it is important to keep in mind that a balanced, organic diet that naturally includes protein, such as lentils, nuts, lean cuts of meat, fish and seeds is ultimately the most bioavailable and sustainable option.