Protein itself is of course, sourced naturally – often from milk, eggs, beef or plant-based foods.
However, sometimes ingredients are added to make the product palatable, such as colourings, flavourings and sweeteners. Whilst these are deemed perfectly safe for consumption, the search for products that contain natural, ‘cleaner’ ingredients is on the rise.
Many (but not all) plant-based protein powders will follow the above guidelines by default, since they tie in with the underlying philosophy that’s associated with these products. However, owing to an increased demand, certain brands are choosing to produce whey protein powders, too. These are apt to contain more natural (rather than artificial) sweeteners, colouring agents, flavourings, etc. – of which are kept to a minimum.
Additionally, the whey element itself may be minimally processed – for example, mechanical or cold-pressing techniques might be used. According to research, low temperatures are thought to help preserve the health-giving properties of whey, and keep milk proteins ‘in-tact’. This is believed to maximise their biological value and purity, offering superior muscle-building nutrition.
The processing techniques themselves might also be powered by renewable energy, creating a ‘cleaner’ product all-round. The whey is likely to be ethically sourced from grass-fed cattle, which have been shown to deliver higher levels of omega-3s (compared with their grain-fed counterparts). If you choose a brand of natural whey, you’re likely to find that it’s flavoured minimally with components like cocoa powder, food-grade essential oils and fruit extracts. Synthetic colourings, E-numbers and the like will usually be swapped for things like beetroot, which gives a potent pinkish-reddish hue in berry flavoured blends (to give an example).
Sweeteners such as stevia might be used, as opposed to acesulfame-K, sucralose or other artificial substances. Stevia is classified as natural because it’s made from a herb known as the Stevia rebaudiana. This contains high levels of compounds called steviol glycosides which have a distinctive taste, and are believed to be up to 150 times sweeter than sugar! Whilst opinion varies on stevia – how ‘natural’ it is, and the possible health benefits it may offer, it’s become a valuable product in recent years. Unlike sugar, it doesn’t contain any carbs or calories, so it’s suitable for those following a weight-control regime. It could also be appropriate for those with blood sugar imbalances (check this with your GP if this is applicable to you).
Natural whey and other, similar protein powders are suitable for all active individuals, and those interested in leading a healthy lifestyle. Use them to boost your protein intake, in support of your fitness goals. Alternatively, a protein shake can be consumed as a healthy snack, or as part of breakfast.