A good protein supplement is a healthy addition to the family’s diet, to assist in meeting daily protein needs. 

However, with so many brands on the shelves nowadays, choosing a good products seems to be a tough mission.

One of the ways to shortlist good brands is to read the ingredients list and spot some additives that are best to avoid. 

Here we look at 4 such additives to watch out for

Additive 1: Artificial Sweeteners

Most protein powders are sweetened with artificial sweeteners because they do typically have very high sweetening power and do not contain calories.  

Commonly used sweeteners powders are cyclamates, aspartame, acesulfame-K, saccharin and sucralose.

Among the artificial sweeteners, sucralose has the best safety rating and a product containing it as a sole sweetener is okay to use. Otherwise, look for a protein powder that has been sweetened with stevia.

Some protein powders are often sweetened with sugar alcohols like xylitol. However, it is recommended to avoid xylitol-sweetened proteins, which are quite rare, as they come with potential side-effects.

Additive 2: Artificial colourants

Colourants are used in protein powders as they give an attractive look to the product.

Some protein powders contain artificial colourants like Ponceau (E144) for red colouration and sunset yellow (E110) for a yellowish colouration. Interestingly, some of these colourants are banned in the US (e.g. Ponceau) but used in other countries.

Furthermore, artificial colourants can lead to hyperactive behaviours in susceptible children, as covered in our article.

When in doubt in the shop aisle, a quick google search may be necessary to check on these ingredients.

The best thing to do is to select a protein supplement with either no colourants or one that has been coloured with natural food colourants like beetroot juice powder, beta-carotene or cocoa powder.

Additive 3: Fat powders/ creamers

With competition in the protein powder space being fierce, many brands resort to taste as a key selling point. This often entails the use of sensory enhancers like creamers.

The latter increase the creaminess of the shake for a more pleasant mouthfeel. Fats present in the creamers are what give the creaminess. However, these fats are often the partially hydrogenated type (e.g. hydrogenated palm oil) which contain harmful trans-fats. 

If you consume several shakes a day on a daily basis, the numbers can add up.

Additive 4: Thickeners and gums 

These are used to increase the viscosity of a shake.

Commonly used thickeners are xanthan and cellulose gum because they do their intended job without contributing to calories. 

However, thickeners may cause gut irritation in susceptible individuals and it is best to avoid or minimise the intake of products containing them. 


Author Bio
Veeraj Goyaram, MSc (Med) Exer. Sci (UCT) cum laude, BSc (Hons) Biology with Human Nutrition research project

Veeraj’s passion revolves around researching and developing nutritional products for optimal health and performance, with a particular interest in sports, child and diabetic nutrition products. Veeraj was previously based as a graduate student at the University of Cape Town, where he examined the effect of exercise and nutrition on the function of genes in muscle. His research was published in renowned scientific journals and medical textbooks on Diabetes and Exercise (PubMed listing). Veeraj keeps healthy by regularly lifting weights and taking daily walks.




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