It seems like soy is in everything nowadays, from your breakfast cereal to the oil your sardines are packed in. Even protein powders have soy ingredients now, especially soy lecithin, which is just as bad for you as any other form of soy. Most low quality protein brands are cut with soy fillers to get the costs down and the profits up, since soy is much cheaper to use than pure whey or other protein sources like hemp or peas. If you avoid soy in the rest of your diet (you should!) then you ought to find a good protein powder without soy as well. This is especially important if you’re vegan, since many vegan protein brands use soy as their protein source, which is not really a good idea!
The table below lists the best protein powders without soy; many of them are vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free as well. A few are even raw and organic. For more information about the risks of soy in your protein shake, and for details about each category of soy-free protein, keep reading after the table.
|Pure Therapeutics Daily Vegan Protein Vanilla Flavor||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|NutraBio 100% Whey Protein Isolate||No||No||No|
|Paleo Protein Egg White Powder||No||No||Yes|
|Manitoba Harvest Hemp Pro 50 Protein Supplement||Yes||Yes||Yes|
What’s So Bad About Soy Anyway?
Soy is a well-known hormone disrupter, which imitates estrogen in your body. As the following chart displays, soy produces estrogenic activity in your bloodstream over one million times greater than an egg does.
Both Men and Women Need Balanced Estrogen Levels
Estrogen, although an essential hormone for both men and women, must remain carefully balanced with the other hormones. When estrogen is artificially raised out of balance by soy consumption, the effects can be very bad, ranging from fat gain to brain fog to increased risk of breast cancer. Soy lecithin, a very common ingredient in protein powders, is just as bad as regular soy. Men with high estrogen from eating soy will find themselves growing breast tissue and losing muscle. Although a healthy level of estrogen is important for women, when estrogen is imbalanced with other hormones thanks to an artificial boost from soy, cancer risk goes up, it becomes difficult staying trim and fit, and anxiety becomes very common. The body’s hormone system is a finely-tuned machine, and when it is thrown out of balance by artificial disruption like processed soy intake, the results can be very bad. Avoid soy!
The artificial estrogen-like compounds found in soy protein are called phytoestrogens or isoflavones. Basically, these are molecules which resemble real human estrogen so much that when you consume them in your soy protein shake, they go into your bloodstream and act like extra estrogen, causing a feminizing effect in men and a hormonal imbalance in women leading to increased bodyfat and cancer risk among other things.
Soy lecithin contains soy oil which includes the compounds, campesterol, beta-sitosterol, and stigmasterol. These compounds, called phytosterols, are also very estrogenic and block healthy testosterone production as well.
Toxic Anti-Nutrients – Soy Protein Is a Disaster!
Estrogenic effects aren’t the only issues with soy protein powder, soy also contains several antinutrients. Soy is very high in phytates, an indigestible midly toxic substance that blocks the absorption of key nutrients, like zinc, which most Americans are very deficient in. Soy also contains substances called goitrogens, which harm the thyroid affecting overall vitality, hair growth, height, and much more. According to one study, “the possibility that widely consumed soy products may cause harm in the human population via either or both estrogenic and goitrogenic activities is of concern.”
Soy Lecithin – What It Is and Why It’s Bad for You
Soy lecithin is a byproduct of the production of soy oil. It is an ingredient found in nearly all protein powders, even ones marketed as non-soy, like most whey protein brands. So why does whey protein contain soy lecithin? Soy lecithin is blended with the protein during the manufacturing process so that the finished product isn’t clumpy when you make a protein shake with it. Typically, a normal whey protein will contain between 0.5% and 1.5% soy lecithin, which is actually quite a lot considering that soy’s estrogenic effect is actually millions of times greater than most other foods. (see the chart linked above)
There are other ingredients that can be used to keep protein powder from being clumpy, but soy lecithin is the cheapest one so supplement companies nearly all use it, despite its estrogenic, antinutritional healthy dangers. You should look for sunflower lecithin instead, a much better alternative that a few higher quality protein powder makers are now using.
Sneaky “Lecithin” Labels, Beware!
While the FDA requires that protein powders declare whether or not their product contains soy lecithin (look for it on your protein powder’s label), it seems that some companies are trying to slip into a gray area and avoid this regulation. Several protein powders available on the market claim that their product contains “lecithin” and don’t mention whether it is soy lecithin or otherwise. Lecithin does not exist by itself, it must be derived from some product or other, whether it is sunflower lecithin or soy lecithin. It’s a safe bet that if your protein powder mentions “lecithin,” it is probably soy lecithin, since soy lecithin is the cheapest for manufacturing by far. Some protein powders don’t mention lecithin at all in their ingredients list. Unless your protein powder is impossibly clumpy, it is very unlikely that it doesn’t contain some sort of lecithin. If the supplement company won’t even mention lecithin on the label (which is illegal) then they are hiding something, probably the fact that they use soy lecithin! Stay safe out there and do your best to avoid this junk!
Soy-free Vegan Protein Powder – Yes It IS Possible!
Although many protein powders now have soy in them, there are quite a few high quality protein powders without soy. Our list includes a good whey isolate product without soy, but if you want to avoid whey as well as soy, perhaps because of lactose intolerance, you could try pea protein. Pea protein is hypoallergenic and great for people who react badly to other, heavier protein shakes. It’s actually one of the best vegan protein powders for weight loss. Protein shakes that contain soy will have a fat retaining effect, due to the estrogenic effect of the soy. You don’t have to worry about that with pea protein.
No Peas, Please!
If the idea of drinking powdered peas gives you the willies, but you still want a gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free protein powder (the list of benefits just goes on and on!) then another good plant-based protein powder is hemp. Hemp protein has all the same benefits of pea protein; it’s hypoallergenic, soy-free, and it’s a great protein source for vegans as well.