Searching for a healthy protein shake for you or your children is daunting, with hundreds to choose from, all varying in ingredients and promises made! Life is busy and it’s easy to grab a quick protein shake as a meal replacement. Are they safe for children? Should protein shakes be considered a meal replacement?
I’ve discussed many times how imperative it is to read labels. I believe that next to our life choices, that food is our first line of prevention and contribution to health and the more we know the safer and more rewarding our choices will be.
The promises on protein powders and shakes are enticing! Lose weight, have more energy, build muscle, a complete meal replacement, all natural, scientifically proven, just for women, just for men, just for body builders and more claims are abundant in a highly unregulated industry.
Protein is one of the main building blocks for the human body. Without it, our body will begin to break down; muscle, bone and skin will lack resilience and strength. A common symptom of low protein is hair loss. So we look beyond our daily food and nutrition to Protein Shakes for that extra bit of nutrition or for that healthy fast food for ourselves and our kids.
Most people can get the protein they need from eating properly. Yet, kids are notorious for not liking the healthy foods that are good for their growth and a healthy body, namely a variety of vegetables, and the foods that provide proteins and amino acids necessary for good health. And, in this fast paced world, it’s not always a simple proposition to shop and prepare a nutritious meal for kids before school and in the evening, every day. So we hope to provide those missing nutrients through a quick shake with the greatest of intentions.
There is a lot of variety when it comes to protein shakes. Children require about ½ gram of protein per pound per day, whereas the average adult needs about 50 grams of protein per day unless excessively active or an athlete. If kids take in more protein than their body needs, it is either stored as fat or it becomes a kidney burden. Meat proteins average about 20 grams of protein per serving (a chicken breast, hamburger). Vegetable based proteins typically have between 14 and 30 grams of protein per cup based on which legume it is.
If you or your child isn’t getting enough through foods you can use protein powders to augment a healthy diet once they hit puberty. The least expensive and best tasting protein powder is whey-based protein. Unfortunately it is also the most inflammatory. Whey comes from dairy and dairy has been listed as one of the highest allergen food, see FDA ratings here. I have personally treated body builders who come in for the treatment of back pain. Often, the only thing I do with these patients is to recommend a different protein powder source – and the pain goes away.
Soy is also laden with pesticides unless it is labeled organic and is also on the list of allergens above. So much soy is genetically modified anymore. Even if soy is organic and non-GMO, soy used as a daily supplement can affect your endocrine system negatively as it is considered a goitrogen – causing enlarged thyroid. There is a lot of controversy over soy products. The mature soybean, which is a hard white bean, must be processed with high heat and solvents to access the oils. This creates an edible form of a complex fruit that is extremely processed. The compounds that give soy bad name are:
- Phytates (which prevent mineral absorption)
- Enzyme inhibitors (which prevent trypsin, a protease enzyme, from breaking down proteins)
- Goitrogens (which prevent the thyroid from incorporating the necessary mineral iodine, creating inefficient thyroid function and thyroid enlargement).
Over the past decade better protein powders have been made due to the known allergy/inflammatory issues with whey and soy. You will be able to find vegetable based, organic, non-GMO powders now that are much better for you. The bases of the better ones are brown rice, hemp, pea protein and some even have a potato protein called Solathin™. Solathin™ is extracted from the protein of potatoes and is made up of a compilation of low molecular weight amino acids, which induce satiety, and is therefore an important part of a weight loss program. One product that has this protein it is called LifeCORE Complete. You can purchase Life Core Complete from our office. My favorite over the counter protein powders are Amazing Meal and Raw Protein. They are both organic as well as vegetable based. Like anything else, too, Protein Shakes should be chosen for their quality. There’s a tremendous difference between a protein shake that is from a well-known manufacturer, which contains fillers, sugars, dyes and chemicals, and one that is truly manufactured for our health!
There are some kids that use muscle builders along with protein powders, which to me is very unnatural and unfortunate for the future of these kids. When growth plates aren’t fully fused they can become distorted if heavy weights are used for resistance. Child body builders are putting themselves at unnecessary risk for growth plate injuries. Some children use creatine as a muscle-building nutrient. I recommend kids don’t start until they are 18 years old or under the supervision of a doctor. Creatine helps your body build stronger, larger muscles. A lot of young athletes are using it to get the competitive edge. In general it is safe but do talk to your doctor first. People with high blood pressure, kidney or liver disease should not take creatine. Creatine is also known to make some people nauseous.
Please view for more information, Hungry for Change, a documentary, for more in-depth discussion about dairy. Your interest in healthy living will be launched exponentially. You can also see a study by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine for an in-depth discussion: Health Concerns About Dairy here. I also discuss the derivations of whey protein in my article: Choosing Healthy Protein Bars here.
According to Consumer Reports, a recent study conducted on Protein Shakes reveals heavy metals; lead and arsenic are found in some protein shake products! This independent group did a study in which they compared samples of common and popular protein drinks. Please view this link to see which protein drinks contain arsenic, cadmium and lead in them here. Very scary.
So, wouldn’t it be nice to find a protein shake that does the job, is safe for kids that is:
- Plant based
- Gluten free,
- Soy free
- Dairy free?
One that also provides the essential amino acids is free of solvents and artificial anything? The three I like the most are Life Core and Life Core Complete (from Orthomolecular), Amazing Meal (by Amazing Grass) and Raw Protein (by Garden of Life).
I also recommend pulling out your blender or bullet and fortifying your protein shake with greens like Kale, Spinach, Collards, Swiss Chard, and Broccoli. Use natural fruits to make it really tasty, like bananas, strawberries, and blueberries. You can experiment to find your favorite combinations. If your child is not getting enough protein in his/her daily nutrition add a small amount of the protein powders listed above to the vegetable/fruit smoothies you already make. They won’t need the whole scoop though. Calculate their intake of protein and if they are under ½ gram per pound they might need a little sprinkle.