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September 21, 2016
Protein supplements have been all the rage for decades now. Today you can find a large selection in your local health food store, supermarket, big box store, pharmacy, sports nutrition store as well as many gyms. Protein is an essential macronutrient and the building block of all of our cells. It makes up our muscle mass, plays a critical role in our immune system development, hormonal functioning, cellular repair and enzyme functions and more.
In the 1950’s, protein supplements first appeared. Egg protein was used by competitive bodybuilders to increase muscle mass. Whey protein came after that and caught the attention of many others who wanted to build muscle, lose weight or to use as a quick meal replacement. Whey protein is still popular today as it contains the complete spectrum of amino acids and packs a lot of protein per serving. Whey comes from dairy so it can be an allergen issue for some. The quality and form of whey protein vary greatly, depending on where it’s sourced from; how it is processed; and what additives and sweeteners are used. Whey users should read the label carefully so they know what they are really getting.
Soy protein was quick to follow and was popular at first as it provided a plant-based option. However, it has decreased in popularity because 80% or more of soy crops are genetically modified. Soy also ranks high on the food sensitivity list for many and contains anti-nutrients such as protease inhibitors and lectins which may cause absorption issues in the gut.
Pea protein also came out around the same time as soy and has enjoyed much popularity of late, however, it also contains those lectins and can often cause gas and upset stomach.
Newer to the market are hemp, pumpkin and rice proteins, along with quinoa protein – a real superfood when it comes to nutrient profile including important minerals such as calcium, magnesium and zinc! One of the little-known facts about quinoa is that it’s not actually a grain but a plant seed related to the spinach and beet family and you can even eat the leaves.
Sprouting and fermenting some of these nuts, seeds and grains can greatly improve their digestibility and absorption in the gut as well as further unlock their nutrient content. Sprouted and fermented ingredients are all great hypoallergenic options for most people as well.
Finally, the latest addition to the protein market is none other than Coconut protein which has really raised the bar with its easy digestibility, complete protein profile, healthy fats, minerals and soluble fibre which acts as a prebiotic for the gut.
Again, many of these plant proteins need to be properly combined with one another in order to create a complete protein comparable to animal proteins. It’s best to check in with your local health food store and ask for a complete, organic protein powder so that you can find the perfect option to suit your individual needs.