3 Best Unflavored & Soy-Free Whey Protein Powders
A review of three of the best whey protein powders that come without soy or artificial flavors/sweeteners. Just clean and unflavored protein for smoothies.
Whey protein is one of the most widely consumed dietary supplements in the USA and around the world. Whether you put it in a shake or a cake, whey protein is a convenient way to complement your diet with a megadose of all the essential amino acids that can provide several health benefits beyond just muscle growth and maintenance.
Now, the thing with most protein products on the market, especially those aimed at athletic consumers, is that you’d rarely find one that only contains pure protein powder with nothing else. Even products that are labeled “100% whey” or “pure whey” usually come with several extra additive ingredients that include artificial sweeteners, flavors, texture enhancers, etc.
You may have also noticed that a large number of whey supplements on the market contain soy. If you are allergic to soy or want to avoid consuming it for any reason, you may be disappointed to find out that many of the top brands use soy in their products (mainly as a source of lecithin).
3 Decent Unflavored & Soy-Free Whey Protein Powders
If you are trying to maintain a healthy diet by avoiding junk fillers and additives that are commonly found in protein supplements, then just get yourself a clean, unflavored protein powder and use it as a base for a fresh fruit smoothie.
The following are three of the best whey protein brands that are free from soy, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, and any unnecessary additives. Choosing the unflavored version means you’ll have total control of flavor and sweetness, and it’s also more versatile in what you can make with it.
Promix Nutrition offers clean whey protein concentrate and isolate that are made from quality grass-fed cows’ milk produced in American farms. The unflavored powder only contains sunflower lecithin and nothing else. And if you don’t want lecithin, which makes the powder mix more easily, they also have a one-ingredient version with nothing other than pure whey in it.
Additionally, you can choose from a few flavored options that contain natural flavors (chocolate, vanilla, and peanut butter). The flavor is mild and not overwhelming, so you can still add your own flavors to make a tasty shake (Hint: mix it with vanilla/chocolate almond milk).
Both the unflavored and naturally-flavored choices make a great base for a smoothie, and it mixes instantly in milk or water (the sunflower lecithin helps with this).
No artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors or fillers are used in Promix Nutrition’s protein, which is also free from soy, hormones and GMOs.
A 2-pound container of their whey concentrate costs $39 and provides 25 grams of protein per serving.
2. NOW Foods
This is a brand known to almost every health food addict in the world. They are based in Illinois and they manufacture all of their products in GMP certified and FDA inspected facilities in the USA. They use high-quality ingredients that undergo different lab tests to verify that they are authentic, potent and safe.
NOW makes a wide range of nutritional and food products, including various protein formulations. Their NOW Sports selection includes whey protein concentrate and isolate in both plain unflavored versions as well as naturally flavored ones.
Their unflavored whey isolate only contains sunflower lecithin and it mixes well with any liquid. It contains 0 sugar and less than 1 gram of fat, while providing a generous 25-gram serving of protein in each scoop. This is one of the cleanest products that contains no soy, no GMOs, and absolutely no fillers.
If you prefer the concentrate powder instead, you’ll be consuming 1 gram sugar, 3 grams total carbs, 2 grams total fats, and a decent 24-gram serving of protein in each scoop. We’re talking about the unflavored powder here, which only has one additive: Sunflower lecithin.
You may also want to try one of the flavored formulas that come in two versatile options: Chocolate and vanilla. The other ingredients in these are natural sweeteners (stevia and xylitol), and xanthan gum to add some thickness to your shake.
The product comes in a transparent orange container that is made from recyclable material. They used to sell it in 10-pound bags but it looks like they stopped making those. The currently available size options range from 1.2 lbs to 5 lbs.
Jarrow Formulas is a trustworthy brand that offers a diverse selection of quality nutritional supplements at an affordable price point. Their California-based manufacturing facility is GMP compliant and it’s where they conduct in-house lab tests to verify the safety and quality of the ingredients used in their formulas.
This is another decent choice of the few unflavored protein powders without soy and without any additives except for sunflower lecithin. You can also find two flavored formulas that contain natural vanilla and chocolate flavors, in addition to guar gum (thickener) and monk fruit extract (sweetener).
Although Jarrow uses whey concentrate, it is ultrafiltered and contains minimal amounts of fat and sugar. One serving of the unflavored powder weighs 23 grams and packs 18 grams of protein, 2 grams total fat, and 1 gram total sugar (including 0 added sugar).
The product comes in a transparent plastic container with a plastic scoop inside. A 32-ounce tub (that’s equal to 2 pounds or 908 grams) costs $36 and has about 39 servings.
Why is Whey Protein So Expensive?
Whey protein is expensive because it is a highly concentrated form of protein. Each pound of whole, unprocessed milk contains about 15 grams of protein, which is less than the amount of protein that most whey powders contain in each single serving.
But that’s not the reason for the recent price hike of almost every protein product on the market. I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about inflation, global supply shortages, and rising shipping costs in the news lately. It’s not just nutrition companies that have raised their prices in recent years, pretty much all other businesses have done the same for similar reasons.
It’s up to you to prioritize your needs according to your budget, and you sure can do without a tub of protein in your kitchen.
Why Do Some Protein Powders Contain Soy?
Normally, there is no “soy”, as in soybean, in whey protein powder. However, numerous products contain a by-product derived from soybeans called lecithin: A fatty compound that works as an emulsifier (surfactant) and a thickener.
In simple terms, lecithin improves the mixability of whey and allows it to quickly dissolve in water and other liquids without clumping together.
Lecithin sourced from soybean may contain traces of soy protein and other soy components and may not be safe for people with a soy allergy. Luckily, soybean isn’t the only source of lecithin. Another common source of this compound is sunflower.
So, if you are looking for a soy-free whey powder, you should consider a product that either uses sunflower lecithin instead of soy lecithin, or one with no lecithin at all.
Keep in mind though that powders without lecithin often tend to clump and not completely dissolve when mixed by hand. So unless you’re going to use an electric blender to prepare your shake, you’d want to go with a product that has lecithin for better mixability.
How to Make a Healthy Whey Protein Smoothie?
There are endless ways and recipes for making a good tasting protein smoothie. Everyone has their own favorite ingredients and flavors to incorporate so this can be highly subjective.
In general, the following are the most essential components of a tasty and healthy protein smoothie.
While you can use water or a mixture of milk and water for the liquid part of your smoothie, it usually won’t be as flavorful as using all milk. You can use cow’s milk, or alternatively opt for healthier plant-based options like almond milk or coconut milk. Vanilla-flavored almond milk is a great non-dairy choice that is both nutritious and delicious.
Some of the most commonly used fruits in smoothies include banana, berries (strawberries, blueberries, etc.), mango, apple, and pineapple. Using fresh fruits would be better as these retain their natural texture and flavor, although frozen fruits are also very nutritious and more economical.
Tip: Frozen fruits contain less water than fresh ones, so you may need to add some extra liquid (milk or water) to your smoothie to avoid it becoming too thick.
You can add regular table sugar to sweeten your smoothie (in case you are using an unsweetened protein product), but if you want a more nutritious sweetener, opt for honey or maple syrup.
Another awesome way to add sweetness, flavor, and nutrients to your smoothie is by tossing in a few dates. And if you want to avoid adding more calories, you can consider using calorie-free natural sweeteners, such as stevia, although not everyone may like the taste and aftertaste of these.
Oats add soluble fiber and plenty of beneficial nutrients to your smoothie.
Nut and seed butters (e.g. peanut, almond, sunflower seed, hazelnut, and cashew butter) also make flavorsome additions, but watch out for the extra calories in these.
Chia seeds are super healthy and rich in omega-3 fatty acids, while coconut/MCT oil is a quick energy source and may be helpful in burning fat.
Finally, don’t forget to add in the protein powder! It’s actually recommended that you blend all other ingredients first and then add in the protein for a quick final whiz. This way you can reduce the amount of foam whey produces when blended at high speed, unless of course you prefer it foamy.