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Demystifying Protein Powders: Hemp, Whey, Soy, or what the heck is the difference?

There’s an abundance of protein powders on the market today, more than I can ever remember. Here is my “behind the counter” history of protein powders. Years ago, we used to have only whey and that was all the rage, all the body building folks were buying it and that was about it, maybe a few people who were very ill and had to consume liquid protein. Then soy came around and women were sent in by their doctors and nutritionists to buy it for phytoestrogens and their hormone balance and anti-cancer properties. Then tables turned and soy was no longer good for you, so in came the rice protein. This one was and still is considered the best for people with allergies and digestive issues, as it is easy to absorb and gentle on the stomach. Later on, came the hemp revolution when everything hemp was suddenly desirable and popular. People figured out how to sell the idea of doing something elicit that can be consumed legally while feeling hip. But this blog is about protein, right? Today when everyone is paleo-crazy, grain-free and low carb, a new kind of protein has become popular, a super plant protein made with artichoke, pea and sacha inchi seeds (another new “superfood”)!  Some whey has cleaned up its act with organic and grass-fed versions of itself. Plant based proteins are “hot”, with ingredients like quinoa and millet, amaranth and chia, they meet the need for vegetarians looking to increase their protein intake, body builders, who are tired of whey but still want to have a protein with good absorption and excellent amino-acid make-up, also suitable for those who are dairy intolerant and people with soy, wheat and gluten allergies.

So what is the verdict? I say most importantly read the ingredients and make sure your protein powder is clean, does not contain artificial colors and flavors, does not contain GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms – those banned in most countries, but not here, because Monsanto is in charge) and/or Certified organic, and watch the sugar content. Buy unsweetened if you will put it in a smoothie, and flavor with fruit instead. A frozen banana does wonders for any smoothie, I peel and freeze mine as they start to turn, and Saran wrap them individually for easy use. The second thing to pay attention to is the protein content per scoop. You want to make sure it meets your needs, whether you are trying to lose weight, or build muscle mass, or simply are vegetarian and feel you need more protein in your diet.  Know the difference between protein and a meal shake, a simple protein provides just that, protein, while a meal shake will include various vitamins, herbs, probiotics, green foods etc. and will be more of a complete meal replacement shake, contain more nutrients and calories. At this point I suggest that you stay away from Soy, too controversial and too many other choices to even bother. Hemp, Plant or clean Whey (many whey protein powders are filled with added “dirty” ingredients, read your labels)  are all good selections for an individual looking to add protein to her/his diet.

And of course, once you get your protein, set your intention for what you want it to accomplish, be it muscle mass, perfect weight (notice, I do not say weight loss), or specific healing. Speak it out loud. I cannot emphasize enough the power of our minds over our bodies.

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