As high protein diets become more and more popular, we have seen a tremendous increase in the number of plant-based protein powder products and high-protein drinks in natural food markets. These products are often labeled “natural” and nutritious plant-based protein sources. Are they truly safe and healthy? Not necessarily. There are actually several facts about many of them consumers should be aware of.
First, industrial-scale protein purification and extraction is a highly denaturing process involving many chemical reagents. It is inevitable to introduce chemical contamination into the protein extracts that are used in virtually all of those protein powers and protein drinks. Over the last few years, there have been several reports indicating high levels of heavy metal presence in many of those protein powders products on the current market. A 2018 report by Clean Label Project revealed that virtually all of the 134 products tested contained detectable levels of at least one heavy metal and 55 percent tested positive for BPA. This information is never disclosed on the label of those products, but consumers should know that is a very common problem and take precaution when consuming those products.
Moreover, during the protein extraction process, the native plant protein in nuts and seeds are not only denatured, but their original compositions are often altered. Since most of those plant protein sources, such as almond and cashew, are already deficient in several essential amino acids, this process makes them even less complete and much more inferior than other unrefined high-quality proteins, such as those from soy and quinoa. This is especially important for anyone choosing plant based nutritional drinks, because many of them rely on one single source of plant protein extracts, from example, from almond or cashew, which are often low-quality proteins that do not offer a complete essential amino acid profile.
Consumers should also be aware that, unlike whole plant foods, protein extracts don’t taste very good. In order for them to be “drinkable”, a lot of “fillers” chemicals – need to be added to create the consistency, texture, color, and flavor of the protein powders and protein drinks. All of those “fillers” are exactly the same artificial chemicals that many of us have been desperately trying to avoid from processed food, and many of those never appear on the labels.
In addition to all those health concerns, we shouldn’t forget the enormous environmental cost of protein extracting. More than 95% of natural almond and 80% of natural cashew were wasted during the extracting process. Not only were those perfectly healthy and nutritious foods discarded, the protein extracting also wasted those precious natural resources needed to cultivate those plants including water, soil and fuel.
Eating more protein is not a bad thing. It could help with weight loss and is rarely harmful (except for people with kidney disease). However, over relying on protein extracts could bring many unwanted chemicals into our body without getting the high-quality protein we all desire. That is why more and more nutritional experts are advocating whole food nutrition that contains high-quality, complete, and unrefined protein. That is what Karviva believes and that is what makes us stand out in the natural food market!