Your Diet Questions Answered: Are Protein Powders Safe?
Sure, you know protein is important, but do you know why? Along with fats and carbohydrates, protein gives us the fuel we need to be active and enjoy life. Protein is found in every cell in our body and is used for cellular repair. But Americans eat just barely enough protein, and we tend to eat it primarily at dinner, rather than spreading it out from morning to night. Because our bodies don’t store protein, we have to consume it daily.
This is the advantage of protein powders, which are easy to add to pancakes, muffins and casseroles, but work really well in protein shakes. Larissa Shain, chief dietitian of the Metabolic Health and Weight Management Program at Henry Ford Health System, recommends protein shakes for her patients who don’t want breakfast. They’re quick and easy to make, and because of their high protein content, they keep you feeling satisfied all morning. Even better, you can pop in fresh or frozen produce to up the nutritional benefits. Just blend the powder with water or unsweetened soy or almond milk and berries, bananas, kale and spinach for an easy way to get your five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. “Having a protein shake for breakfast is a matter of convenience,” says Shain.
Some experts caution against eating too much protein. And, in fact, some protein powders contain up to 80 grams of protein per serving. The amount of protein the average adult needs to eat is about half of their body weight (in grams). For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should eat around 75 grams of protein daily. This is especially important if you’re trying to lose weight so as to avoid the loss of muscle mass.
All excess protein over what your body needs is just extra calories, so it’s best to divide up the protein throughout the day and stay within your range. Choose a brand of protein powder with 25 or 30 grams, and make sure it doesn't have many added sweeteners or preservatives. The best forms are made with whey, casein or pea protein. If you have chronic kidney disease, ask your doctor about the right level of protein for your diet.
Of course, there are plenty of other sources of protein. Some that Shain suggests are:
• Greek yogurt with berries and nuts
• Greek yogurt mixed with hummus as a dip for veggies
• Hard-boiled egg whites
• Three-bean salad
• Lean cuts of beef, chicken and fish
But if you need a quick and easy breakfast and you know you’re not going to cook, whip up a protein shake, says Shain.
Our overnight oats recipe
Mix once and enjoy all week for a yummy, customizable good-for-you breakfast. Not only does it taste good, it has protein, calcium, fiber, and probiotics and prebiotics for gut health.