Whether you believe protein builds muscle and should be added to drinks or not, I think we can all agree that it’s necessary.
I mean, it’s one of the three macronutrients and proven to optimize brain function, as well as its normal tasks of building and repairing bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and bones. It can’t be stored in the body for later, either, which is why my list of high-protein foods and snacks is a good one to keep close at hand. Sources: 1, 2
If you’ve ever done the Bradley Birth method for pregnancy/labor, you’ve had to try to get 140g of protein per day. I used to win the “competition” among ladies in my class a lot, because it can be difficult to get that high (and I’m kinda competitive). I wish I had know back then about the discovery we made while testing protein powders for this post; it would have been even easier to be the champion! 😉
My husband works out fairly regularly and has always done the protein shake thing to build muscle afterward. Over the years I’ve stuck my nose in and asked him to try many protein powders that were more natural than the conventional ones found on the shelf, and we’ve certainly had some successes and some failures!
Along with recommendations from readers and my team, here are hubby’s personally tested reviews of some natural (and not-so-natural) protein powders – and we do think we found the best one, hands down, without question.
The Natural Protein Powder Reviews
Just so you know, my husband always loved the off-the-shelf protein powders with vanilla flavoring and plenty of sweetener (the one time that artificial sweeteners often got past him without him hating it!). So it’s a challenge for an unsweetened, unflavored protein powder to score decently at all with him.
I asked him to try each one in the exact same way, with a cup of milk and nothing else added.
Here are the results, in no particular order:
Miessence Complete Protein
Details: Unflavored, organic, raw, vegan, hypo-allergenic, soy-free, 20 g. protein/serving ($2.83/oz.)
Taste: Healthy…but not terrible.
Texture: Can be a little grainy; left a little residue on the bottom of the glass when finished.
Dissolvability: Mixes well with a spoon (which can’t be said about all of them and is a nice break from having to get out a power tool).
Growing Naturals Pea Protein Powder
Details: Chocolate option (although we had the plain), vegan, allergen-friendly, 15 g. protein/serving (~$1.30/oz.)
Taste: Yuck! Tastes like peas – we even tried mixing it into chili but it just soaked up all the liquid and made the entire batch taste like…peas. Another test time he wrote, “Tastes and smells like animal food.” It would be interesting to try the chocolate version, but I can’t imagine anything the company could add could hide that pea flavor!
Texture: Fine. But since it’s so hard to mask the flavor, who really cares?
Dissolvability: Must be shaken; only dissolves so-so.
Mt. Capra Goat Milk Caprotein
Details: Vanilla, unsweetened, soy-free ($2.81/oz.)
Taste: It’s “ok” in coffee and deemed downright “not drinkable” in plain milk. Hubby always preferred it like this.
Texture: A bit chalky in straight milk.
Dissolvability: Must be shaken, but really good and smooth after that!
Mt. Capra Double-Bonded Goat Milk Protein Powder
Details: Chocolate, stevia-sweetened, soy-free ($2.04/oz.)
Taste: Better than hemp or pea proteins, but still not delicious. Always in coffee.
Dissolvability: Must be shaken but does get smooth.
Nutiva Hemp Protein Powder
Details: Unflavored, unsweetened, soy-free, 15 g. protein/serving (~$.50-$.55/oz.)
Taste: Better than pea protein. Has a “healthy” taste that I like to hide in coffee.
Dissolvability: So-so, must be shaken.
Perfect Supplements Perfect Plant Protein
Details: Unflavored, unsweetened, plant-based, soy-free ($.54/oz.). Save more by buying 3 (25% discount).
Taste: A pleasant surprise! My husband had thought all hemp protein powders were pretty gross, but the vanilla flavor on this one worked to overcome most “hemp-y” taste and smell. It got a “pretty good!” rating from him.
Texture: Somewhat gritty with some floaters; a little chalky but “not bad chalky.” (‘Cause that’s how you have to rate these things, to be honest!)
Dissolvability: He had to shake it multiple times, and there weren’t any huge chunks left but some small ones. This brand might be better with a quick whiz in an immersion blender or a real blender if you’re willing to dirty appliances for your protein drink.
Note: There’s a code in my email for 20% off just the protein powders! Use PPP20 to get it, but I’m not sure of the expiration date. It worked on 4/19/16.
Vital Whey Protein Powder
Details: No sweeteners, minimal pasteurization and processing, grass-fed cows, no soy, 16 g. protein/serving (~$2.40/oz.)
Taste: Good – on par with the old conventional powders hubby was used to.
Texture: Needs to be shaken well or whizzed with an immersion blender, but fairly smooth after that.
Dissolvability: Mixes well.
Our Control? MET-Rx Protein Plus
I wasn’t sure whether I should title this one “control” or “oops.” We ordered it from a “natural” online shop and I guess I didn’t scour ingredients like I usually do! It’s totally a conventional protein powder but made for a good comparison since it happened to be in the house.
Details: ChocolateUnflavored, unsweetened, 18 g. protein/serving ($2.05/oz.)
Taste: Great – likely due to all the artificial ingredients such as Acesulfame Potassium and sucralose. This is a conventional product that many people grab.
Texture: Of course, perfect and smooth.
Dissolvability: Mixes really well.
But we wouldn’t – couldn’t! – recommend it because of artificial sweeteners and unnatural protein sources.
Best Natural Protein Powder? And The Winner Is…
The winner is the one that had no taste, mixed in perfectly smooth so that we couldn’t even tell it was there, is perfectly natural from trusted sources, and packs a punch with massive amounts of protein per serving.
It came out of nowhere as a surprise addition to our list, because it’s not something often billed as “protein powder.” In fact, I am glad now that I didn’t put this review together last year when we started working on it, because I would have totally missed this and ended up giving you only a handful of mediocre choices instead of a clear conqueror!
The best natural protein powder award goes to…
The one at the top left:
is the protein from bone broth once it’s been sort of over-boiled so that the gel part of the breaks down, but all the proteins and health benefits for joints, skin and hair are still there.
It can be mixed into cold or hot liquids as I detailed here, and check this out:
It totally disappears.
There’s no taste.
No change in consistency of the milk (or whatever liquid you choose).
My husband said with a bit of awe and wonder in his voice, “If this is an option, why are we even bothering to test out all those others? This is obvious!”
You can find well-sourced collagen from a couple brands, including:
By well-sourced, I mean that the cows are grass-fed and sustainably sourced, very important when you’re using animal products in my opinion.
Perfect Supplements Hydrolyzed Collagen
Details: Unflavored, unsweetened, 10 g. protein/11 g. serving – 97% protein ($1.67/oz.) Save 25% by buying 3! 100% satisfaction guarantee!
Texture: No change in starting liquid.
Dissolvability: Perfectly with a spoon – the bonus to collagen peptides over gelatin is that they dissolve in cold liquids as well, and do NOT make them gel.
Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides
Details: Unflavored, unsweetened, 18 g. protein/serving ($2.05/oz.)
Texture: No change in starting liquid.
Dissolvability: Perfectly with a spoon.
What to Consider if you Try a Protein Powder
I strongly encourage you to look for real food sources of protein if you are looking to increase your protein intake by supplementing outside of regular meals.
Between my husband, my team here, and reader feedback, here are some items to note:
- Read your labels regarding refrigeration after opening. Many of these more natural ones require that but it wasn’t something I realized.
- Stay away from soy protein – too many questions about its safety, especially for women.
- Consider how the protein was processed – many “whey” based proteins are spray dried at high pressure and can cause oxidation and create free radicals.
- Always check your sweetener – look for NONE, fruit sources, stevia, monkfruit, etc. Stay away from the artificial ones like sucralose, Nutrasweet (aspartame) and acesulfame potassium.
- Do you recognize the ingredients?
- If animal-based protein, were the animals well-sourced?
- Protein from whole foods cannot go unmentioned.
More Options for Natural Protein Powders
We could only try so many varieties, so I’ve simply listed out several others that were recommended we try in case you are looking for more options (as far as I know these are pretty darn whole-foods based!):
- Juice Plus+ Complete – vegan, stevia-sweetened (contains soy; my dad tried these out while he was taking Juice Plus+ during his cancer battle. He blended them with a stick blender in milk and liked both flavors, but I couldn’t get any more details out of him.)
- Shakeology – vegan options, stevia-sweetened (if you try this one, which comes highly recommended from quite a few real-foodies, it’s via Beach Body – and you gotta check out my dear, dear friend Liz’s home biz. Her weight loss story, which is ongoing via her Facebook page, is inspiring and I hope you love her as much as I do!!
- Green Smoothie Girl – vegan, unsweetened, allergen-free
- IsaPro from Isagenix – stevia-sweetened, soy-free
- Sunwarrior Warrior Blend – vegan, soy-free
- Slender FX from Youngevity – unsweetened
- Plant Fusion Natural Unflavored – stevia-sweetened
- edited to add: Vega Protein and Greens mentioned by a few folks after I posted! Ingredients look clean to me. 🙂 (found at Costco)
- More options can be found in our Facebook discussion.
The three winners of last week’s EnviroKlenz giveaway are:
- Jess M.
- Kathy D.
- Tammy B.
Winners have been emailed with redemption instructions. Didn’t win? You can still get 20% off your entire purchase at EnviroKlenz with coupon code ks2016. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: We here at Kitchen Stewardship are not doctors or nutritionists. Please do your own research and consult your doctor when adding supplements to your diet.