Healthy Routes Column: Choosing a High-Quality Protein

by Gladys Kublik

You probably know one or two people who are very enthusiastic about the protein shake they are using or the protein meal supplement they have just ordered. Many people think of it as the “healthy” fast food. With so many choices and so many high-pressure sales people online it is sometimes hard to separate the powders that are healthy from the ones that are anything but. You need to remember that a lot of these very enthusiastic people are themselves part of the multi-level marketing program (what we used to call pyramid scheme).

At Neighbors Vitamin Shop / Morinville Health Foods, we also sell protein powders and meal replacement powders from a few trusted brands. We have whey protein, hemp, rice, some vegan formula proteins and several meal replacement formulas, and several weight loss formulas. So what makes our line of products different? Quality.

Whey protein is considered the best because it is a complete protein, containing all nine of the amino acids necessary for human dietary needs. The very best whey protein comes from New Zealand. The New Zealand Dairy Industry is perhaps the most advanced dairy producer in the world, and this is reflected in their very high standards for product safety, environmental sustainability, and humane treatment of livestock.

One of the reasons for this high regard is that New Zealand dairies are held to some of the most stringent standards in the world. In New Zealand, the Dairy and Plant Products Group (a division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry-MAF) provides assurance to consumers, both domestic and international, that New Zealand’s dairy products are safe and true to label. And, the government mandates that all dairy products must be free of antibiotics, chemical residues and hormones (rBST is illegal in New Zealand). Grazing practices, the treatment of cattle, collection and storage methods, and processing all affect the quality of whey protein. When choosing a whey protein supplement, it is important to keep these points in mind.

Pasture-fed cattle are exposed to a wide variety of soil-based pathogens, which means they will naturally develop more antibodies. Healthy green grass also provides Vitamins, Minerals, and beneficial enzymes (aiding in its assimilation). Intensively managed, year-round pastures in New Zealand furnish nearly 100% of herd feed requirements, so the cows need little or no supplemental grain. In New Zealand-style grazing systems, the animals are frequently rotated to fresh, small pastures and produce more milk per acre.

It is important to preserve the integrity of the nutrients in the whey during processing. Instead of using destructive chemicals, low-temperature cross-flow microfiltration (CFM) uses filters to separate protein from undesirable fat, cholesterol and lactose, based on molecular size and shape. The low-temperature process isolates the native protein of whey at its biologically natural pH, carefully preserving its biological activity.

Glycomacropeptide’s and other immune-boosting components remain intact. Whereas ion exchange keeps only some of the whey’s biologically active components, CFM sustains a more complete protein profile-one of optimal balance, as found naturally in whey. There are no denatured proteins, a superior amino acid profile, and more calcium and less sodium.
Not everyone can tolerate dairy proteins, lactose or casein, for these people a vegan protein formula is available. Again purity, digestibility, and nutrition are important. The best vegan proteins contain all 9 of the essential amino acids; this is usually accomplished by blending different types of plant proteins. The second most important point to look for in vegan protein powders is what they DO NOT contain.

They should not contain artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, preservatives, dairy, wheat, gluten, yeast, soy, egg, fish, shellfish, animal products, peanut products, tree nuts, GMOs, heavy metals or trace chemicals associated with pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers.

We only consider protein powders to be “healthy” when they meet these criteria. Protein shakes and meal replacements can be a quick fix for a snack or even a light meal, but they do not take the place of real food. They are an important supplement for body builders and athletes providing the nutrients to repair and replenish muscle mass. They may also be an important addition to the diet of someone needing a nutrient boost such as children who are poor eaters, seniors who have trouble digesting meats and individuals convalescing from serious illness.

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