Have you ever found yourself in the protein powder aisle feeling confused? Or gone down the rabbit hole of the internet searching for the one that’s “right for you?” I did a quick search for protein powder and over 100 brands popped up on the home page. With all of that info out there, what makes one better than another and what should you look for? Here are the most common types of protein. 

Whey Protein: Whey protein comes from cow milk as a by-product of the cheese making process. If you are lactose intolerant or don’t react well to dairy this type of protein isn’t the best for you. If you select a product that is a whey protein isolate, meaning it’s gone through more of the processing leaving a lower fat and carb concentrate as well as less of the lactose, it will make it easier to digest. The third type of whey protein is a whey hydrolysate. This is a more advanced process of hydrolysis resulting in a more quickly absorbed protein, ideal for athletes. All types of whey protein can be a good selection for the average consumer. The isolate being the best choice for someone looking to maintain their weight and who is not an athlete. If you avoid dairy it may be a better choice to avoid whey protein.

Pea Protein: Pea protein is made from yellow split peas and is a great option for a plant-based protein or for those needing a more allergy friendly option. Selecting a plant-based protein like pea is typically a lower calorie option as well as a more sustainable option. 

Soy Protein: This is probably the most controversial of all the proteins. Soy has been tied to estrogen production, but before we jump to conclusions about it, we need to understand the different types and how they work. Soy isoflavones are the main type that have caused this controversy. Isoflavones are phytosterols which are weak estrogen receptors. Simply stated these are the types that have been related to cancer as it can bind to the estrogen receptors in the body and potentially stimulate them. The isoflavones are at their highest level in raw soybeans and lower in the soy isolate as the protein has been filtered and the isoflavones are eliminated and reduced. Bottom line with soy, get a soy protein that is an isolate.

A few other types of popular proteins are Collagen and Hemp. Collagen protein is derived from animals and is known to help with hair, skin, and nails. Hemp protein is a vegan plant-based protein source from the hemp plant that includes all nine amino acids. 

No matter which protein selection you make it’s always best to look for one with as few ingredients as possible. What will make any protein powder bad is added fillers and binders that we don’t need. And of course, choose one low in sugar. If you are using it in smoothies use real fruit to sweeten it up and select an unsweetened protein powder. 

Emily Countryman is a board certified health coach and owner of Ideal Wellness www.idealwellnesswa.com located at 2639 172nd St. NE Suite 104 in Smokey Point/Marysville She can be reached online at info@idealwellnesswa.com.

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