You’ve probably heard “eat more protein” at some point in your life, whether from your parents, your doctor or a wellness influencer on social media. There’s a reason this old adage has become common health advice: The human body requires protein to function and adapt. In fact, about 25 to 35 percent of daily caloric intake should come from protein, the Nutrition Journal
Why is this macronutrient so crucial? And how does it support your body? Here’s what you need to know about protein
along with 10 brands that will help you get more of it!
The benefits of adequate protein intake
contains organic molecules known as essential amino acids. The body cannot manufacture these compounds on its own, but you need them to maintain a healthy, strong and robust musculoskeletal system. Amino acids
combine to form protein which, in turn, builds the structural cells in your muscles, bones and tissues. This keeps your entire system functional, resilient and adaptable.†
Protein can also stimulate the repair
of torn muscle fibers after exercise. As such, athletes or people who are actively working out and building muscle, often require more protein than the average person. In addition, protein intake can boost endurance, strength and performance while decreasing the risk of potential injuries.†
On the other hand, a protein deficiency will cause the bones and muscles to weaken
over time. In severe cases, this can also lead to sarcopenia, a progressive decline in musculoskeletal mass. Even if your caloric consumption is otherwise normal, without enough protein, you can still be malnourished, according to a Nutrients Journal
Bottom line: protein is integral to a healthy diet and health experts at Mayo Clinic
suggest that 10 to 35 percent of your calories should come from protein.
Be sure to choose the right source of protein
While you can consume protein through certain whole foods, it’s often more convenient to meet your daily requirements with a protein supplement in the form of powders, shakes or bars. You can also choose between animal- or plant-based ingredients.
The global market value for protein supplements is forecasted to reach nearly $80 billion in 2023
, but not all of these protein sources are created equal. Since nutritional supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, some brands contain harmful preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, chemical fillers or refined sugars that you won’t see on the label.
To avoid this, look for a quality assurance seal from a reputable certification agency (such as the U.S. Pharmacopeia or the National Science Foundation). Better yet, let us do the legwork for you.
Here are 10 clean, safe protein supplements you can feel confident about. All of these brands contain nutrient-rich ingredients, and they’re available here at Vitacost.
Top 10 Best Clean Protein Powder Brands
With 22 grams of protein and zero sugar, Garden of Life’s RAW Protein Plant Formula is made with 14 varieties of organic sprouted grains, seeds, peas, and other legumes. This powder is gluten-free, kosher, and vegan with no soy or GMO fillers. Along with the protein benefits, it also contains enzymes and probiotics to enhance digestion. Just mix one scoop with 10 ounces of water or non-dairy milk for a nutritious, smooth and creamy treat.
The Wanderlust energy bar from Protein Puck is full of whole food ingredients such as almonds, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, cranberries and oats. The result is a natural source of protein—16 grams, to be exact. It’s plant-based, kosher, gluten-free and non-GMO verified too, so enjoy with peace of mind. This bar is a crave-able healthy snack or pre-exercise fuel. It can even stand in as a nourishing meal replacement for either breakfast or lunch.
A complete blend of greens, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, fiber, enzymes and 20 grams of plant protein makes Ground-Based Nutrition’s Superfood Protein an absolute workhorse. In just two scoops, this vegan powder combines a wide range of protein sources such as brown rice, pea isolate, maca, sacha inchi, spirulina, broccoli, chlorella, spinach and kale. Plus, you’ll find no trace of sugar, GMOs, soy, gluten or artificial colors and flavors.
Who can resist silky peanut butter and luscious cocoa? Take one bite of this Vital Performance salted chocolate peanut energy bar from Vital Proteins, and it will become one of your favorite wholesome snacks. This gluten-free, low-lactose bar contains 20 grams of whey protein, 10 grams of natural collagen, and only a minimal amount of sugar. Not to mention, the whey and collagen extracts are sourced from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows.
This 97 percent lactose-free powder from Designer Wellness packs 20 grams of both plant and whey protein into one delicious scoop. The whey has zero hormones or antibiotics, and you’ll also reap the benefits of vegetable-based enzymes, prebiotics, fiber, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, electrolytes and vitamin D. With so many nutrients (and
no sugar), this certified kosher, gluten-free supplement is ideal for post-workout recovery.
Many protein supplements contain ingredients that are unsuitable for those with allergies and intolerances. However, Olympian Labs’ Lean and Healthy powder offers 25 grams of protein from soluble, hypoallergenic peas. With just 2 grams of carbohydrates and no trans fat, gluten, dairy, cholesterol, GMOs, soy or artificial flavors, this is an excellent source of vegan protein for anyone who has digestive issues or common food sensitivities.
Sometimes you’re too rushed in the morning to blend a protein smoothie or even mix in a scoop of powder. At times like this, you need an efficient, fast solution that’ll deliver nutritious results with zero effort. Enter: Atkins Protein Plus, a gluten-free meal replacement shake with 30 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, and 20 essential vitamins and minerals. With trace amounts of sugar and net carbohydrates, this is what healthy indulgence tastes like.
Bone broth is hailed as a nutritional powerhouse, and it’s not hard to see why—this ingredient is a natural source of collagen, amino acids, healthy fats, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium and other vital nutrients. The paleo-friendly Bone Broth powder from Ancient Nutrition contains 20 grams of whole-food protein to strengthen immune function, lean muscle mass, digestive health and bone density. Plus, there are no dairy, gluten, nuts, soy or GMO ingredients.
If you love the taste and convenience of energy bars, but you’re not
a fan of the refined sugars or artificial preservatives that often come with them, look no further than Aloha Plant-Based Protein Bars. With 14 grams of protein and natural ingredients, you can pronounce, these non-GMO verified, kosher, gluten-free snacks have all benefits you want in flavors you can't resist. Think fudge brownie, chocolate mint, cookie dough or vanilla almond.
This is another beverage that’s ready to consume straight out of the bottle. Premier Protein Shakes are so rich and smooth, it might take you a few sips to believe how much nutrition is in each serving. With 24 vitamins and minerals and 30 grams of protein—as well as minimal carbohydrates, fats and sugars—this whey-based shake is also free of both gluten and soy. It also comes in flavors such as café latte, making it the perfect mix-in for oatmeal or smoothies.
Make these clean protein brands part of your wellness routine
Your body needs protein—and these brands will help you get exactly that, without wondering if the list of ingredients is actually safe or good for you. With these clean, nutritious brands, you can fuel up on essential protein with confidence and peace of mind.
†These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.