It is hard to deny or to avoid the plethora of high protein products out on the market at the moment! Traditionally protein was kept for the bodybuilders and fitness fanatics but it has now crossed over into the mainstream consumer’s shopping basket. Protein products can be found in nearly every food category in the supermarket from breads, breakfast cereals, bottled water, snacks, crisps, dairy (including high protein desserts), frozen meals, yogurts and has taken over the confectionery market!
So with so many high protein products on the market how do we know what is good for us and what is high quality to warrant the higher prices they command? So here are my tips on picking the right product for you.
Why do we need so much protein?
The vast majority of us who eat a normal balanced diet do not need to supplement with more protein but some groups in society realistically need to up their protein levels. If you are very active and play a lot of sports, protein is really important to help you build muscle to sustain you fitness efforts.
For people like me, who are carrying a little (or a lot) extra weight protein can fill you up for longer so you are less like to snack in between meals and keeps your muscles at their best so they burn as many calories as possible.
The most important group though that requires to take in more protein is the babyboomer generation. The rate of muscle degeneration increases as you get older and sarcopaenia is the third biggest issue with this age group today. Keeping your muscles active through protein intake and exercise can help prevent falls which can result in hospitalisation and malnourishment.
So here are my tips on chosing a protein product for you in the supermarket.
If the name of the product contains protein it does not mean you are getting much protein
I am doing tastings in supermarkets every week all over the country for my Life Kitchen high protein dessert range so I get the opportunity to look at high protein products regularly. Last week I picked up 25 different products with protein in their name and none of them had enough protein to make a source of or high in claim.
To make a high protein claim 20% of the energy value of that food needs to come from protein and to make a source of protein claim 12% of the energy value of that food needs to come from protein. So using my Life Kitchen Chocolate Mousse nutrition as an example:
|1g of protein = 4 Kcal
So 24g of protein = 96 Kcal
= 56% of the energy value comes from Protein.
What’s the scoop with protein products?
There is no legislation to cover the use of the word “PROTEIN” in a products name so once the product contains some protein the word “protein” can be used! It falls under general labelling legislation where you do not deliberately deceive the customer. In these 25 products the level of protein was the same as in the non-protein version or there was minimal protein added but there was a price premium! At Life Kitchen we believe strongly that in order to make a specific claim our products should be high in that nutrient. So that is why our high protein desserts are jam packed with high quality protein.
If there is the same level of sugar as to protein it is probable best to avoid.
A lot of products that are labelled with high protein are also very high in sugar too. This is certainly the case with the confectionary side ie bars and snacks. If you find that the sugar content is around the same or higher than the protein content it is probably the best to avoid! Even our favourite chocolate bars have now a protein version but are still packed with sugar!
Sugar also comes under many guises. Traditionally, if the ingredient ends with-ose it is a sugar. That is still true but watch out for ingredients like honey, agave, maple syrup as well as the traditional -ose sugars. The aim of these is to have the product sweet so you become addicted to it and come back again and again. While they may be ‘natural’ they are still sources of sugar. Our high protein desserts have no added sugar. We do use a natural sweetener called Xylitol which also has dental benefits, but our high protein desserts are not as sweet as other products on the market.
Choose a protein type that suits your goals
Protein is made up of a combination of 21 different amino acids. Consider an amino acid to be like a lego block and there are 21 different colours or shapes. You can join them together to make different types of proteins called peptides and these peptides when joined together form protein. Depending on your goal you may require a different type of protein.
- If you are vegan or following a plant-based diet you need to look for soy, pea, hemp proteins etc.
- Whey can be made from Irish milk so you are helping to support your local farmers. At Life Kitchen we use an Irish Whey protein to boost protein levels in our high protein desserts.
- If you are looking for protein to help you build muscle and recover after exercise you need to look for BCAAs or Branch Chain Amino Acids. These are amino acids called Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. These are essential to help you build muscle. Higher concentrations are found in dairy proteins than plant based proteins. You need 2.5g of BCAAs to help recover. Life Kitchen’s high protein desserts contain over 3g of BCAAs so are perfect for a post workout treat.
- Similarly, for older people looking to maintain muscle mass to help prevent falls or even to support their exercise routines BCAAs are really important. It is better to get your protein from a range of sources to make sure you capture as many amino acids as possible! So apart from the whey our high protein desserts also contain Egg White and Quark cheese which both are low in saturated fats.
So, there are my top 3 tips for understanding protein on high protein desserts and other protein products.
Check out www.lifekitchen.ie to see our range of high protein desserts which can be ordered online and delivered anywhere in Ireland or the UK within 24 hrs.