By Dr. Natalia Tzima, physician & Doctor of Dietetics and Food Science Department
Nowadays, organic protein powder is an important part of the diet not only of athletes who want to increase their muscle mass, but also of a number of people with different needs, such as those who are trying to lose weight or stay active, others who follow a specific diet, busy people looking for reliable solutions for a quality energy snack etc. Doctors and dietitians also include organic protein powder in balanced diet plans, as its benefits are studied in several clinical studies.
THE BENEFITS OF PROTEIN
Protein is one of the three macronutrients, along with carbohydrates and fats, and, as its name suggests, is the primary and most essential component of a diet. Protein is used by the body as a building material, especially in muscles, bones, hair and skin. In addition, it is used for tissue repair and growth, defense, production of enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, antibodies and other important elements and production of energy. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, an average person needs about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily, or more in case of regular exercise.
THE BENEFITS OF ORGANIC PROTEIN
1) Complete proteins: Many people believe that proteins of animal origin are the only “complete” proteins, meaning they contain all 9 “essential” amino acids that they body cannot produce and must intake from food. However, there are also plant foods that can be described as complete, e.g. soy. In addition, many plant foods, once combined, can provide proteins of high quality and bioavailability, which can meet the daily needs and enrich the body with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Such combinations are legumes with rice, cereals with nuts, nuts or seeds with cereals or rice. The combination does not need to be made at the same meal, as there is an availability of essential amino acids in the body, even if one food is consumed now and the other at the next meal of the day or later. Accordingly, organic protein powders can also be considered as complete.
2) Healthy digestion: Due to the fibers they contain, organic protein powders improve the intestinal microbiome, normalize the function of the digestive system, reduce the inflammation of the intestine and, in general, contribute to the better functioning of all body systems.
3) Cardiovascular health: A plant-based diet is lower in cholesterol, saturated and trans fats and higher in plant sterols, that improve heart health. On the other hand, excessive consumption of red meat is associated with inflammation, carcinogenesis and vascular sclerosis.
4) Live longer, feel & look younger: The centenarians of the “blue zone” (a number of areas including our Ikaria) follow a mostly vegetarian diet. A study by the prestigious medical journal JAMA found that those who supplied their proteins from beans, nuts and seeds had a lower mortality rate than those who ate high amounts of animal proteins.
5) Feeling of satiety: Organic proteins create the feeling of satiety and satisfaction, control appetite and thus contribute to weight and fat loss. A high-protein diet boosts metabolism by lowering insulin resistance (linked to diabetes and obesity).
6) Athletic performance: Organic protein powders contribute to the improvement of athletic performance and the strengthening of muscle mass.
7) Safe ingredients: They do not contain any hormones, antibiotics or harmful microbes that are present in many proteins of animal origin.
8) For everyone: They are suitable for all people, including athletes, children, the elderly and pregnant women.
9) Environmentally friendly: They require less land, water and other resources for their production, in comparison to animal proteins.
WHY ORGANIC PROTEIN?
Organic proteins are useful in the following cases:
1) To achieve the dietary goal by consuming smaller amounts of food in combination with the right amount of protein.
2) As a supplement or meal replacement (while paying attention to the total calorie intake) for all types of diets: mediterranean, high protein – e.g. Atkins, ketone, paleo, zone, blood type, vegetarian, gluten free, lactose free, DASH, intermittent, etc.
3) As an extra meal or snack, in cases of increased metabolic needs (e.g. athletes, the elderly who usually receive limited protein, adolescents, people with over-catabolism and malaise – after surgery or injury, long illness, chemotherapy/radiation, radiation stress) or in cases of underweight or malnourished people, who despite consuming calories, do not get enough protein.
4) For people with kidney or liver disease, who need to precisely control their protein intake. Pea protein is ideally recommended.
5) To control the craving for sweets that often “breaks a diet” and is common in obese or diabetic people.
6) For vegetarians, vegans and people with ecological consciousness.
7) For busy people who do not cook often or have lunch at work.
8) During challenging times, like the pandemic, as it is an excellent example of a high quality/small volume food that can be kept in the refrigerator for a relatively long period.
COMPARISON TO WHEY PROTEIN
Organic protein powder is the top choice for those suffering from allergies or intolerances or bloating from dairy products. In contrast to whey protein powders, the organic ones have alkalizing properties, contain a good amount of fats, vitamins and minerals, while some of them, such as pea and pumpkin protein, are rich in iron. They are also hypoallergenic (unless there is an allergy to a specific ingredient) and easily digestible, compared to purified animal proteins. In addition, they retain the benefits of the plant foods from which they come, having undergone minimal processing, so that they can be recognized by the body as high quality foods, especially when in contact with water.
Common sources of organic protein are legumes, such as peas, beans (yellow peas) or soybeans, seeds, such as sunflower, pumpkin, chia or hemp seeds, nuts, such as almonds or walnuts, and even rice. Each organic protein has its own characteristics, but when mixed, the final product combines the benefits of both proteins and contains even bigger amounts of amino acids.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR IN AN ORGANIC PROTEIN POWDER?
– Soy protein, even if it is organic, contains “bronchocellulose” substances that can deregulate the thyroid, so for many people it may not be a good choice.
– Make sure that your protein powder is free of gluten and/or lactose, if you have a relative intolerance.
– Choose a protein powder with 0% sugar, that has stevia instead, the only natural sweetener that does not affect your glycemic profile.
– Make sure it is free of artificial sweeteners, dyes, fragrances and trans fatty acids.
– Be mindful of the salt load, especially if you have hypertension.
– Look for a protein powder with additives that upgrade its nutritional value, such as prebiotic fibers-inulin, superfoods, cocoa, vanilla, etc.
– Choose a certified organic protein.
– Prefer cold pressed organic proteins, as this production method keeps the protein structure unchanged.
– Look for all the necessary indications. For example, if you are vegan, look for the corresponding verification.
– Look for a detailed composition label. The label is indicative of whether the producer values safety and quality.
– Pay attention to the packaging. It must be suitable for foods, airtight and ideally recyclable.
– Choose a mixed organic protein powder for an even more complete protein profile.
– As for the taste and texture of the organic protein powder, which was previously considered to be its weak, sandy point, now several producers have created pleasant tasting proteins, by using non-artificial flavor enhancers and adding some beneficial substances, like cocoa, vanilla, inulin, etc.
In conclusion, organic protein powders are getting more and more popular around the world. I do not recommend living only on protein powder, but combined with fresh foods, it will definitely add to the nutritional value of your diet – especially if you want to lose weight, improve your athletic performance or have more energy.
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