Let’s face it, protein is important. In fact, according to the National Library of Medicine, this nutrient is the building block of life because your body breaks it down into amino acids, and we need a certain amount of amino acids to make new cells, repair old ones, and maintain overall good health. Unfortunately, getting the recommended 10–35% of your calories from protein every day can be a challenge, especially on busy days. This is why using protein shakes or protein powders can be a quick and helpful choice for meeting your nutrient goals.
Consuming protein powder as a supplement can be beneficial for those who are working out, and for those who aren’t. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that whey protein supplementation was linked to reduced body weight and fat mass, as well as reduced risk of some cardiovascular disease risk factors, in obese or overweight patients. One meta-analysis review published in the British Medical Journal found that supplementing with protein was also helpful in building more muscle mass in those who performed endurance exercise like weightlifting. While protein powder can provide many health benefits, not all of these are created equal.
When choosing the type you want to try, make sure to look at the ingredients label to see how much added sugar, saturated fat, or sodium is used. You’ll also want to decide between a plant-based powder, with the most common type being made from pea protein, or an animal product protein powder, with the most common being made from whey. Sometimes, making these decisions can feel overwhelming, which is why we talked with a few expert dietitians to get their choices for the best protein powder to buy right now. Read on to learn what they chose and why.
“For people who love the taste of vanilla and want the benefits of whey protein powder, this Primal Kitchen Vanilla Coconut Whey Protein powder certainly fits the bill,” says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, registered dietitian and author of The First Time Mom’s Pregnancy Cookbook and Fueling Male Fertility.
Primal Kitchen’s products are known for using only a handful of ingredients, which can provide you with peace of mind as you consume. For example, this powder uses only nine ingredients.
“[It] is also paleo-approved, keto-friendly, gluten-free, and made with only 1 gram of sugar per serving,” says Manaker.
Finding a delicious, plant-based protein powder that isn’t loaded with sugar can be a challenge, but Manaker recommends this Now Nutrition Organic Pea Protein.
“It is a vegan-friendly powder that is made from the humble yellow pea. One serving of this powder provides 15 grams of plant-based protein,” says Manaker.
The Now Sports Nutrition line offers a variety of other protein powder options, like pumpkin seed protein, brown rice protein, and protein soy isolate.
A brand mostly known for its mushroom coffees, Four Sigmatic also offers a line of healthy, simple-ingredient protein powders.
“Four Sigmatic offers five different flavors of protein powders that are all delicious and packed with tons of nutrition. One scoop provides 18 grams of protein from vegan sources including pea, hemp, chia, pumpkin, and coconut protein, and it is sweetened with organic maple syrup and monk fruit,” says Sydney Greene MS, RDN. “In addition to protein, this protein powder is packed with immune-boosting medicinal mushrooms, such as Chaga, reishi, and turkey tail mushrooms.”
If vanilla isn’t your thing, you can try chocolate, cafe mocha, peanut butter, creamy cacao, or the unflavored option for a more discreet addition of protein to your meal.
“Organic and free of any additives, Sprout Living’s Epic Protein Powder is suitable for most dietary needs,” says Greene. “One serving provides 26 grams of plant-based protein, six grams of fiber, and six milligrams of iron. This is an awesome, sugar-free, vegan protein powder to add to smoothies or oatmeal.”