“Protein-enhanced” is the new catch-all phrase by food and beverage manufacturers. Everywhere I turn I see another product boasting that it contains protein. But is this growing trend actually beneficial? Not only is it not beneficial, it may actually be harmful, for multiple reasons. Here are nine reasons to be cautious of protein bars, shakes, and other protein-enhanced foods:
1. Adding protein to a food changes its natural composition. If it was a whole food to start with it really isn’t any longer. If it was a processed food then it goes through an additional stage of processing.
2. Most of the “protein” added to everything from bars, shakes, cereals, and even water is actually a form of protein called a protein isolate, many of which contain the harmful toxin monosodium glutamate (MSG)—a well-documented neurotoxin. Russel L. Blaylock, M.D., neurosurgeon, author of Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills, spent years researching the effects of MSG and discovered its link to many diseases.
3. Products like protein bars and cereals often contain added protein in the form of textured vegetable protein (TVP), hydrolyzed vegetable protein, or hydrolyzed plant protein, all of which usually contain MSG. Additionally, most of these food ingredients are derived from genetically-modified (GM) soy, which is drawing increasing attention as a possible contributor to health problems. Discover more about the problems of genetically-modified soy from the book Seeds of Deception.
4. Even water can’t seem to escape the “protein-enhancement” trend. As absurd as it sounds to add protein to water, it is becoming common, particularly in flavored water. Adding protein to water usually means masking the flavor with an artificial sweetener and flavor, neither of which is suitable for consumption. Water, in its natural state, should be alkaline so it can help rehydrate our body’s cells and help flush the kidneys. Flavored, “protein-enhanced” water is acid-forming, causing the kidneys to work harder to eliminate the excess acidity and chemical ingredients. There’s a reason flavored “protein-enhanced” water doesn’t flow through our lakes and rivers.
5. Most protein bars and protein-enhanced cereals contain soy protein isolate, the problems with which I’ve already discussed. Additionally, manufacturers usually add more sugar or artificial sweeteners to mask the taste.
6. Most protein bars that contain nuts or seeds already contain protein in its natural form—as a whole food. Adding more protein is redundant.
7. Protein-enhanced breads are often spiked with extra gluten and/or protein isolates. We already discussed some of the issues of protein isolates but gluten is also a problem for many people and is linked to digestive disorders, celiac disease, and autoimmune disorders, to name a few.
8. The average American eats 248 pounds of meat every year, or about 40 percent of his or her total caloric intake. Our much healthier ancestors, by comparison, ate only 5 percent of their calories from animal protein. Most nutrition experts agree that we are eating excessive amounts of protein in our diet. We certainly don’t need more added to foods and beverages.
9. And, what do you think happens with excess protein in our diet? It converts to fat. There aren’t too many protein-pushing corporations telling people that. But, it is part of nutrition 101.
While not all protein bars, shakes, and other food products are harmful, many are, so it is best to read labels and stay informed about many of the problems linked to them. There are some excellent ones that rightfully deserve their place in a healthy diet but many do not.