Product Review: Clean Lean Protein

Clean Lean ProteinOne thing I’m constantly working with my patients on is getting adequate protein throughout the day (not just at dinner). For many people, breakfast is the most challenging meal from a protein point of view, especially if they can’t eat or don’t like eggs or Greek yogurt (two frequent go-tos). That leaves my third go-to: protein powder.

When I suggest protein powder, that generally leads to two questions:

  1. Isn’t protein powder really processed? (I generally endorse a whole-foods, minimally processed way of eating.)
  2. What brand should I buy?

Yes, protein powder is a processed food, but as I’ve written about at length in Today’s Dietitian, there’s processed and then there’s processed. There is definitely a place for minimally processed foods with a short ingredient list and nothing weird added. That’s why, although I’ll throw out a few brand names of protein powders I’ve used and liked, I generally advise my patients to look for two things in a protein powder:

  1. No added vitamins/minerals/other nutrients (I feel it’s best to get nutrients from food first, then from carefully chosen supplements if necessary–not from whatever some company decides to throw into their protein powder.
  2. A sweetener that they feel OK with. Generally this means stevia, but I recently learned about an interesting new option (keep reading).

I was recently offered some samples of NuZest’s Clean Lean Protein, a pea protein powder. I’d been hearing about pea protein for a few years, and new vegan-friendly protein powders (hemp, rice, pea) are all over the marketplace. I went to the NuZest website, looked at the ingredient list, decided that this was something I would mostly likely feel good about recommending (I don’t accept product samples if I’m pretty sure I will NOT feel good about the product!) and decided to give it a whirl…literally, in my blender.

There’s A New Protein Powder in Town

I generally use protein powders in my breakfast smoothies (and had run out when my NuZest samples arrived, which was fortuitous). NuZest comes in different flavors, but I started with the Smooth Vanilla (other flavors are Rich Chocolate, Wild Strawberry, Creamy Cappuccino and “Just Natural”). It has three simple ingredients: pea protein isolate, vanilla bean (not vanilla “flavor”!) and thaumatin, a protein from the katemfe fruit that tastes sweet, about 2,000 times sweeter than sugar.

NuZest was founded in Australia, and the Clean Lean Protein is relatively new to the U.S. market, but is now available at Whole Foods in Seattle. The powder had a different texture than I’m used to (I usually use whey protein), but this is typical with vegetarian protein powders, and I’m told that NuZest’s pea protein is one of the smoothest out there.

It’s a great protein powder for anyone, but especially for those with certain dietary limitations, as Clean Lean Protein is gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free. It’s suitable for vegans as well as people who eat a paleo diet. It’s GMO-free, if that’s a concern, and NuZest tests for pesticides and heavy metals (something that was a concern with a major protein powder brand a few years ago!). If you’re looking for a protein powder for post-workout or to give you a protein boost in your morning smoothies, this is a quality product. (And if you are visually oriented, it doesn’t hurt that the label design is miles above the other protein powders on the shelf!)