Protein is one of the essential building blocks of life. Every cell in the human body contains protein and consequently, it is one of the most important nutrients that we must incorporate into our diet to ensure the optimal functioning of a healthy body.
The source of the protein that we are ingesting is, however, incredibly important and in a world of artificial products and additives, finding and consuming clean, protein sources has become more complex than ever before.
The rise of the protein powder
Globally, there are thousands of protein powders on the shelves - with the vast majority suggesting that they are a healthy and beneficial product to be incorporated into your diet.
In practice, however, there is little information provided to the consumer about the sourcing of the products - particularly in relation to the protein source – where it is coming from, how it was grown, whether it is organic certified and whether the growing process incorporated GMOs (genetically modified organisms) or other less-than ideal growing techniques.
The challenges are widespread and GMO farming is commonplace - meaning it is likely to show up in your protein powder. With milk-based protein, the cows may have been fed GMO crops as part of their diet. Similarly, plant-based protein powders may be often made directly from GMO-grown crops.
The onus, however unfairly, remains on the end consumer to dig deep into the company and look behind the shiny marketing labels and cool packaging to better understand the sourcing process in order to establish the quality of the protein source.
What else should I be concerned about?
In addition to challenges with any non-organic and GMO heavy growing process, many protein powders are then further loaded with artificial preservatives, sweeteners, additives, flavourings and other unnecessary bulking ingredients and agents that further detract from the protein powder being a cleanly sourced and easily digestible product.
Low cost, low quality powders often cost more in the long run, because they’re less effective and may not even be high enough quality for your body to effectively absorb and utilize it.
The rise of the plant based patty
Similarly, understanding the processes and ingredients that were used to create your favorite plant-based burgers or alternative meat products is arguably as important as understanding the sourcing of your protein powder for your morning shake.
The explosion of the plant-based patty onto the wellness scene has likely overshadowed the question of where the protein in these patties is being sourced from and what actually goes into them.
As the initial buzz around these items starts to die down, it is now becoming more clear that many American food companies are sourcing their pea protein from foreign countries that are not regulated for safety. In fact, Beyond Meat recently signed a significant deal with Shuangta Foods to provide 85 percent of the pea protein for the Beyond Meat products.
The potential danger of outsourcing protein powder
The potential repercussions of this sourcing cannot be underestimated and while progress in the food production processes likely has been made in recent years, food safety scandals have long plagued certain regions.
Despite these scandals, foreign global dominance of food processing continues. Today, they remain particularly dominant in the protein market, creating and processing up to 79% of the soy protein isolate, 50% of the textured soy protein & 23% of the soy protein concentrate used worldwide.
What this means in practice, is that if you are consuming a protein powder or a plant-based patty, there is a high likelihood that some part of the product may have been created and processed in a foreign country that lacks safety regulations. This becomes particularly concerning when we look at a particular foreign country's track record with protein powders.
Ok, hit me with the numbers
In 2007, plant-based proteins sourced were used to produce pet food that killed nearly 4,000 cats and dogs across the United States.
In 2018, a study from the Clean Label Project reviewed the majority of the 130 protein powders sold on Amazon (and other organic food retailers) with most of these being created in foreign countries. This study found significant levels of heavy metals [lead, arsenic, mercury, cadmium and other toxins] in a majority of the powders and that these were dangerously high.
More specifically, the study showed that 75% percent of the protein powders had elevated levels of lead & 55% had elevated levels of BPA, an endocrine disruptor that medical research suggests may be linked to Type 2 diabetes, amongst other issues.
Today, while many American food companies quietly source their pea protein from foreign countries, few disclose much to their regulators on the product sourcing, quality of product creation and all/any processes applied during the growing process.
Overall, there is a significant lack of visibility and institutional transparency and this makes it increasingly difficult for the end consumer to truly understand what they are purchasing and consuming even when they want to make well informed and guided decisions.
Finding a clean, reputable and reliable protein source for you
In light of the above, understanding what you are putting in your body, where exactly it is coming from and how the produce has been grown and created has never been more important. It is these factors that ultimately determine the quality of the product you are putting in your body.
Over time, we may perhaps see increased levels of visibility around highly processed and poorly-created protein sources - particularly those coming out of China - but, until then, it is critical to commit to doing the research so that you can incorporate products into your diet that you know are high quality and cleanly sourced.
Our go-to protein powder
All of the golden peas that make up the protein powder are grown & harvested from a select number of US farms in the Midwest. Not only are they proud to support local farmers, the brand also uses peas that are the highest quality and most sustainable in the world. They are 100% plant-based, USDA certified organic, easily digestible, non-GMO and created with no fillers, blenders or artificial ingredients.
The list of benefits go on - but, we can’t forget to mention that this is one of the most delicious protein powders we have tried.
This is truly a product you can trust and at Agent, we believe that we need many, many more products of this quality in today’s society.
By Louise Rumball
***THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN APPROVED OR REGULATED BY THE FDA. WE ARE NOT DOCTORS, THEREFORE ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST.