Are all those protein-enriched foods actually healthy? – 9Honey | Coach

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If there was a list of popular buzz words in the supermarket over the past couple of years, protein would be pretty high up there.

What was once a single section dedicated to protein powder and an occasional bar, is now a protein-based option in literally every core food including ice-cream, bread, wraps, milk, plant-based milk, crackers and chips.

But the question is, are all protein-enriched foods healthy?

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular ones.

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Supermarket shelves are full of protein-enriched food, from bars to bread and everything in between. (Getty)

Protein bread

Protein-based bread is an interesting food, as some varieties are made with a base of soy protein or even fibrous vegetables like bamboo, while others are simply a dense mix of seeds and wholegrains with a lot less wheat flour to create a lower-carb bread.

The less-processed varieties of protein bread, or the varieties with a relatively short ingredient list of recognisable ingredients are ‘healthy’, but their higher fat content overall means that they are not low in calories. 

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Black bread with sunflower seeds
Some protein bread is very processed. (Getty)

Protein wraps

Unlike protein bread, protein wraps are a slightly different story, made with a long list of refined and processed ingredients and creating a food that offers very little nutritionally other than a whack of protein, usually from soy protein and wheat gluten.

When it comes to wraps, you are much better to stick to a small, wholegrain variety than a more processed ‘protein’ rich version. 

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Protein ice cream

Protein ice cream is a tricky one, as there are large differences in the nutritional profiles of the brands available. Some are made with a base of concentrated milk, leaving the natural sugars in, and others use sweeteners and other low-calorie ingredients to create an ice cream-like taste and consistency.

While a protein-based ice-cream may sound healthier, the reality is we don’t really need to get protein from a dessert. And unless you are trying to gain lean muscle mass, you are better off enjoying a small amount of real ice cream occasionally than thinking a protein ice-cream is necessarily ‘healthier’. 

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Scoop the vanilla ice cream with an ice cream scoop.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking protein ice cream is ‘healthy’. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Protein chips

When you start to see the word protein added to packets of food that never would usually contain a lot of protein, like chips and snack food, then it is time to be a little cautious.

While these products may use concentrated proteins like soy to boost the small amount of protein that may be naturally present, ultimately it creates a more processed version of a food that would not typically be adding good quality protein to the diet.

In addition, many of these protein-rich snacks are extremely high in calories, making them more of a meal, than a snack. 

Protein milks

Dairy milk naturally contains 8-10g of good quality protein per serve, so increasing it slightly with a more concentrated blend is only helpful if you actually need more protein in your diet.

Young woman shopping in the supermarket
Dairy milk is naturally high in protein. (Getty)

In the case of protein-enriched plant-based milks such as almond and oat, while it does up your protein intake, the type of protein added is processed and not comparable in quality to naturally occurring dairy milk.

For this reason, you may be better to enjoy an egg with your almond milk latte than think that the higher protein almond milk is the same nutritionally as regular milk.

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