The quality of protein depends on the ingredients added to it. There are so many ingredients with fancy names which makes it harder to differentiate among the different protein mixes. We have prepared this guide to help you understand what ingredients you should avoid in general. Additionally, we have also tried to differentiate the halal ingredients from non-halal one so you can make a better choice when choosing your protein.
There are many ingredients we should avoid to get the best quality out of our proteins. Such ingredients include gluten, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, fillers, and dextrin. Let’s look a them one-by-one in details.
Gluten is a protein found in mainly grains and part of the foods such as bread, pizza, pasta and cereals. It does not provide any essential nutrients. However, it may cause a range of problems to people sensitive to gluten. Some of the health issues include hormonal imbalances, inflammation, skin conditions, fatigue, mood swings, and headaches. People suffering from celiac disease should particularly avoid gluten altogether. Given gluten does not add any essential nutrients, its addition to protein powder is questionable.
Under the broad definition of FDA, natural flavors are defined to include any flavor extracted from natural sources like animal products (meat, dairy, etc.) or plant material (fruits, roots, bark, herbs, etc.). Artificial flavors, on the other hand, are any flavors that are not defined as natural, even if they have the exact same chemical composition as flavors isolated directly from nature. Artificial flavors are made to taste and smell exactly like natural flavors, but they are usually cheap way of manufacturing a product with the required taste. Artificial flavors may cause many adverse reactions including allergic reactions, chest pain, DNA damage, fatigue, headaches, depression of nervous system, and in some cases brain damage. Adding artificial flavors in proteins provide no health benefit. Hence, its best to avoid such flavors and look for protein powders that rely on natural flavors.
Artificial sweeteners are used in almost every type of food including protein powder. They are popular because a fraction of artificial sweetener can achieve the same amount of sweetness as regular sugar. Artificial sweeteners include saccharin, acesulfame potassium or ace-K, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose. These sweeteners have been marketed as a healthy zero calories alternative to sugar with numerous health benefits. Many popular protein powders use these sweeteners as they want to keep the calories count low but provide a taste in their product.
The health benefit claims of artificial sweeteners are not exactly true. Artificial sweeteners may cause metabolic dysregulation, insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, digestive problems, and alter gut microbiota. We need to understand the potential effects of the artificial sweeteners before we include them in our daily diet. The best alternative to artificial sweeteners are natural sweeteners such as stevia and lo han fruit extracts. Additionally, honey, fruits, maple syrup, and coconut sugar can be used to achieve the required sweetness of protein powder.
Filler is an additive that help bulk up the weight of the food inexpensively. It does not occur naturally in the protein powder. Normally, a compound derived from seaweed known as carrageenan is added to many processed foods including protein powders. It generally helps improve the mixability and enhance the smoothness of a protein blend. However, it has no health benefits at all. Instead it causes several side effects such as anxiety, bloating, headaches, and intestinal cramping.
In addition to the above list of ingredients, there is a list of ingredients that are derived from non-halal sources and if added to the protein, it would make the whole mixture non-halal. These ingredients include:
To sum up, look out for the proteins free from artificial flavors, artificial colors and gluten. Additionally, in order to make sure your protein is halal, make sure it does not include substances such as, cholic acid, civet, l-cysteine, shellac, gelatin and carmine.