Nutrition and Fitness with Randa

Protein Powder: What To Look For

Some protein powders contain harmful heavy metals

A while ago I posted on Facebook about an investigation that Consumer Reports had done revealing that some of them may pose health problems over time, especially at a consumption level of three or more servings a day, due to the potential to consume harmful heavy metals and excessive protein.

All of the protein drinks tested by Consumer Reports had at least one sample containing one or more of the following contaminants: arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, which can have toxic effects on the body, including several organs.

As I, and many of my clients, use protein powder on a regular basis, this was worth looking into. Studies found that "levels in three of the products were of particular concern because consumers who have three servings daily could be exposed to levels of arsenic, cadmium or lead that exceed the maximum limits for one or two of those contaminants in dietary supplements proposed by the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP)." These three products are ones that are very commonly used:

  • Ready-to-drink liquid EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate Shake
  • The samples of Muscle Milk Chocolate powder contained all four heavy metals.
  • Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème

The concern regarding excessive protein consumption is also valid - I find that people either eat too much protein (think an 8 oz steak) or not enough (think bagel and cream cheese for breakfast). A general "rule" to follow in determining how many grams of protein you need is to multiply your body weight by .4.  For athletes, the general rule of thumb is about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day.  So for an average, 130 pound woman, 52 grams of protein a day would be a sufficient baseline protein consumption.

So what protein powders are safe? Until more reports are released to tell us otherwise, many of my clients enjoy cost-friendly Designer Whey Protein Powder*, Jay Robbe's Whey, Egg or Soy based powder, or plant-based Life Basic Plant Protein Powder in vanilla, chocolate or non-flavored. Two things to look for when choosing a protein powder are: 1) I should have at least 15 grams of protein per serving and 2) It should contain 5 or less grams of sugar.

*After looking at the more extensive list, I need to clarify that the Designer Whey 100% Whey Protein in Chocolate is on the list, though the amounts are very minimal. They did a study on 15 powders, and this was one of them. Whether that means because it made the list it should be avoided, or it was simply chosen at random, I don't know. It does not mention the vanilla.

Please share this information with anyone you know who uses protein powder, especially those who consume three servings daily. And if there is a protein powder that you love, please share it with us.

Source: Consumer Reports Investigation: Tests Reveal Contaminants in Many Protein Drinks- Release Date: 06/01/2010

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Secret Super Smoothie

You would never guess what two super healthy ingredients are in this protein smoothie. My kids like to call it Molly's Smoothie, because our friend and babysitter recommended we try it and now they are hooked - they ask for it. Thanks, Molly!

As with any smoothie, you can change the ingredients based on what you like - so you use milk or juice instead of water, or add a banana or some mangoes if that pleases your taste buds!


Smoothie with two super ingredients

  • 2 cups frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (or 2 scoops)
  • 1 cup water (you may need more or less depending on the consistency you prefer)
  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 tbsp organic sugar, splenda or natural sweetener (optional)
  • Secret Ingredient #1 (2 cups)
  • Secret Ingredient #2 (1/2 -1 tbsp)

Blend together first six ingredients in a blender. When blended, add in secret ingredients and d continue to blend for 10-15 seconds. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Nutrients per serving-2 servings: 218 Calories, 2g Total Fat, 0.5g Saturated Fat, 26g Carbs, 11.5g Fiber, 20g Sugars, 13g Protein

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Sassy Chicken Salad

This is a simple, go-to chicken salad that is packed with protein and flavor. I love to make a big batch of it and keep it in my fridge to eat for a healthy snack or  lunch. Put it over a salad, sandwich between your favorite bread, or simply eat it out of the bowl with a spoon!

Of course, you can adapt it any way you choose - for example, you could add chopped apples or grapes instead of the dried cranberries, and and some fresh parsley or dried oregano for a varied flavor. Nix the cranberries and almonds, and add cashews, pineapple bits and curry powder for a Thai twist. The sky's the limit!

Serves 2
  • 1/2 cup non fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup raw celery, chopped
  • 1/4 cup slivered, raw, toasted almonds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries or craisins
  • 8 oz canned chicken in water (low sodium, if possible)
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Nutrients per serving (makes 2): 283 Calories, 9g Total Fat, 0.6g Saturated Fat, 18.8g Carbs, 2.6g Fiber, 5g Sugars, 20g Protein

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