The 3 Best Natural Protein Powders
Free of any questionable ingredients, the best natural protein powders offer a simple way to increase your daily protein intake while knowing exactly what you're putting into your body. But here's the thing: There are so many options out there.
To find out more about natural protein powders, I reached out to Registered Dietician Nutritionist and author of The Superfood Swap DJ Blatner. "The biggest issues with protein powders," she tells me, "are the artificial flavors, sweeteners, and colors," adding that it's a good idea to choose proteins from reputable brands that test their products. You can opt for plant-based or animal-based proteins, and while they each have their own specific advantages, Blatner notes that one is not superior to the other — it all depends on your dietary and personal needs.
According to a 2016 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, increased protein intake plays a vital role in retaining muscle mass and aiding in recovery. That said, it's great to consume "right after a workout," but you can really take it whenever to reap its benefits. And if you're wondering how much to consume, Blatner recommends "taking your weight in pounds and multiplying by .5" for an estimated range in grams.
Based on Blatner's guidelines, I've compiled a list of the best natural protein powders, below. I've included a mix of whey- and plant-based proteins, so you won't have trouble finding the right fit for you.
1. The Best Natural Whey Protein Powder
NOW Sports Grass-Fed Whey Protein Concentrate
If you're after a quality whey protein, this non-GMO, grass-fed concentrate from NOW Sports comes highly-recommended by Blatner, as the brand is known for its "clean ingredients, product safety testing, third-party verification, and price point." This powder — which comes in a 19-ounce canister and is available in both vanilla and chocolate — contains a hefty 30 grams of essential amino acids and 19 grams of protein per serving. It also contains xylitol and stevia leaf extract for a touch of sweetness. The best part? It was tested and approved by a third-party verification service called Informed-Choice, so you can trust that it's made with clean ingredients.
2. The Best Plant-Based Protein Powder That's USDA-Certified Organic
Garden of Life Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder
Garden of Life's plant-based protein is vegan and, unlike other options on this list, USDA-certified organic (warranting its slightly higher price tag). With no added sugar, artificial flavors, or sweeteners, this gluten- and soy-free powder is made with a blend of pea, lentil bean, and cranberry seed protein. And since, Blatner says, "mixed plant protein powders tend to be very well tolerated," this is a solid pick for sensitive stomachs. Each serving is loaded with probiotics and 15 grams of protein, ensuring it digests without issue. And like the NOW Sports powder, above, this one also holds a third-party certification by Informed-Choice. The pictured 28-ounce canister is available in your standard protein powder flavor variety: vanilla and chocolate.
3. Also Great: Another Plant-Based Protein Powder That Comes In Indulgent-Sounding Flavors
MRM Veggie Elite Performance Protein
For an even cheaper plant-based protein powder that's still highly effective, check out Veggie Elite's Performance Protein. While it's not USDA-certified organic, it is gluten free, vegan, and made without artificial sweeteners and GMOs. The blend of pea protein isolate and brown rice protein concentrate is easy to digest — despite the fact that it contains a whopping 24 grams of protein per serving. (Thirty grams is the most Dr. Blatner recommends consuming at once, because "your body can't use more than that at one time.") Even better? Its flavor options, available in 16-ounce canisters, are pretty much desserts: chocolate mocha, cinnamon bun, and vanilla bean. Yum!
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