Ditch the Protein Powder. Eat Whole Foods

proteinpowder

We all seek purity in the food we eat and the water we drink, not just for ourselves, but also for our children.  Particularly for our children.  It’s sad that in the modern world this goal has become so hard to meet.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog about micro-particles of plastic that have been found in most commercially sold bottles of  water.  Now, a new study has found “concerning” levels of heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, mercury, as well as toxins like bisphenol A, in most top-selling protein powders.  Powders that we thought were helping us to become stronger and healthier.

The study was commissioned by a Denver, Colorado-based nonprofit company called Clean Label Project.  They took 134 of the most popular protein powders, as rated by Amazon and Nielsen, and then had them tested.  Virtually all contained detectable levels of at least one heavy metal. 70% of them had detectable levels of lead, while 74% had detectable levels of cadmium.  55% also tested positive for BPA.  One protein powder had 25 times more than the regulatory limit of BPA in just one serving.

If you think that organic, or plant-based protein powders would fare better, you’d be wrong.  Organic and plant-based protein powders made from soy and hemp were even more contaminated than animal-based powders and contained, on average, twice as much lead.  “Plants are especially prone to absorbing heavy metals from soil”, says Sean Callan, Ph.D., a neuroscientist and director of operations at Ellipse Analytics, the lab that tested the protein products.  Animals also have their own detoxification systems which filter out some contaminants, which is why animal-based protein powders, made from whey or egg, tend to be cleaner.

The study helpfully provided a list of the five cleanest protein powders, as well as the five who tested the worst.  The top five cleanest brands were:  Pure Protein, Performix Pro, BodyFortress, BioChem, and Puori.  The five most contaminated were:  Garden of Life, Nature’s Best, Quest 360Cut, and Vega.

With this newest report of rampant heavy metal contamination in a large and popular market niche (consumers spent $12.4 billion on protein powders and supplements in 2016), you might be inclined to shrug your shoulders and overlook it, thinking that everything is polluted now.  Maybe it’s just not possible to find “clean” foods or drinks anymore.  However, some protein powders tested quite clean when compared to others, which shows that it is possible for these companies to do better.  A lot of it is just complacency and lack of oversight.

We should also remember that heavy metals, although ubiquitous because of excessive fertilizer use and manufacturing run-off, are not benign.  High concentrations have been linked to cancer, brain damage and reproductive issues.  Cadmium, an active component of battery acid, is particularly toxic because it can accumulate in the kidneys and cause kidney damage, as can excessive protein consumption itself, particularly among those whose kidneys are already weak.

Which leads us to a possible solution:  why use protein powders and protein shakes in the first place?  Most of us can get plenty of protein through a regular, balanced diet.  A 5 oz. container of Greek yogurt has about 17 grams of protein, and 3.5 ounces of chicken has 31 grams.  Both easily match the 15-25 grams you would get from a serving of protein powder, but are more natural, and also less contaminated with heavy metals.   Since your body can only break down a certain amount of protein per hour, it doesn’t make sense to load up with a big serving all at once.

The bottom line:  protein powders and shakes may be tasty and convenient, but most people don’t need them.  Now that we’re aware of their contamination with heavy metals and BPA, we should try to avoid them and get protein from natural, whole food sources instead.

 

 

 

 

 



About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000.  She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.

Kitsungi and the Art of Failure

kitsungi

“Kitsungi” is a form of Japanese art that I’ve always found fascinating.   Really, it’s more a method of repair than a formal art as it requires a broken ceramic object, such as a bowl or plate, that is then mended with a special laquer dusted with gold.   What makes this art form so special, is that there is absolutely no attempt made to camouflage the broken places.  In fact, they are deliberately emphasized.

This practice of accentuating damage and imperfection is related to the Japanese philosophy of “wabi-sabi”, which encourages us to see beauty in brokenness.   A similar sentiment is definitely operating at the newly opened Museum of Failure in Sweden, with a traveling exhibit currently in Los Angeles.   The idea behind this odd museum came from Dr. Samuel West, a Swedish psychologist  who noticed, and became sickened, by the modern habit of promoting success, while ignoring the importance of failure.

To his mind, it showed a lack of understanding of how crucial failure is for the creative process.  Successful innovators, like Steve Jobs, would never have achieved the wild success for which they eventually became known, if they hadn’t persevered through plenty of early failures.  Dr. West hopes that the Museum of Failure will make people comfortable with the idea of failure, and no longer fear it.   The fact is, if you want to create anything, you will fail, and fail often.  This doesn’t mean you can’t eventually succeed.

Within the Museum of Failure are nearly 100  items, many well-known, all of which went wrong in one way or another.   Select items include:  Google glasses, Sony’s Betamax VCR, New Coke, the “Bic for Her” pen,  and a Blockbuster video rental case.

Says Dr. West:  “It’s liberating to see these brand-name mega-corporations — who are perfect and never do anything wrong — and see them [expletive] up.  You think, when I try new things it’s okay for me to fail.  It’s okay, it’s inevitable. There’s something beautiful about that.”  The Museum of Failure even has a “confession wall” where you can write your own failure on a Post-It note and share it with the world.

This spring, as the trees start to bud, and the grass begins to grow once again, maybe it’s time to revisit an old dream – one that may have failed before, but with new knowledge and effort, may yet be brought to life.   Take inspiration from the art of kitsungi, or from the many items in the Museum of Failure, and see the beauty in any attempt, even if it’s botched or bungled.  As Leonard Cohen once sang, in a 1992 song  called Anthem:

“Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack, a crack, in everything.
That’s how the light gets in”.

So, give it a shot.  Let us see your imperfections, unique and precious as they are.  We also won’t miss that special glow you have, that shines through all the broken places from within.

 

 

 



About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000.  She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.