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Protein Powder Without Artificial Sweeteners – My 8 Best in 2022

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This article shares 8 of the best additive-free protein powders I could find during my latest research project; 3 are vegan & 5 are whey-based.

You see, after many years together I broke up with my whey protein: it has an artificial sweetener I was no longer comfortable consuming.

And in an effort to boost the vegan side of my diet, I also decided to start taking pea protein powder in addition to a new cleaner whey powder.

So I did the research in order to determine what the cleanest protein powders on the market are.

I combed through the ingredients and manufacturing practices of dozens of protein powders & taste-tested over 20 of them. The products I share in this article were among the cleanest I came across.

 

Table of Contents

* Summary: Best Clean Protein Powders

* What’s Not In Clean Protein Powder

* Reviews: Best Protein Powders Without Artificial Sweeteners

* FAQ

Science resources included

As is my custom here on heydayDo, I will provide links to all of the relevant sports science & medical resources, clinical studies, and nutritional data used in this article.

 

Top 8 protein powders without artificial sweeteners

Here are (what I think are) among the best protein powders that are free of artificial junk out on the market now, and I separated them into those made out of whey protein and the three plant-based vegan protein powders.

 

Best plant-based protein powders

Last update on 2022-10-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

 

Best whey protein powders

Last update on 2022-10-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

 

After all my snooping around I found relatively few whey protein choices free of artificial sweeteners, compared to all that’s out there.

On the plant-based protein side of things the products were generally cleaner of course. Though I did come across a few brands listing mystery guest Natural Flavors” further up their ingredients list than their vegan sweeteners.

Also, many vegan protein powders have lower branched chain amino acids per serving as compared to whey products, as expected. (Not the Folona organic pea protein powder that I’ve included here, though.)

 

What’s next

Later on I’ll go into the individual product features, nutritional and ingredient details for each of these eight protein powders.

Next I want to discuss my criteria for choosing these particular products above the rest.

In other words, let’s look at all the things that these protein powders don’t have in them.

Woman searching with binoculars for a protein powder without artificial sweetener - heydayDo image

The search for a clean protein powder

As I mentioned at the outset, I dug through a ton of whey protein product material in my quest to find a new mate for my smoothie concoctions, and eventually vegan protein powder brands too.

Talk about a flooded market. Just look at my Amazon search for protein powder – over 10,000 product listings:

Amazon protein powder search - Protein Powders without Sucralose - heydayDo - in article image7

(There’s so much junk out there tho’…I bet 9900 of them aren’t worth swallowing if you’d really prefer a purer powder.)

 

So I made a short list of requirements for any protein powder I’d consider taking, and started weeding out all the products that had ingredients I don’t want in my protein powder or in my body.

 

What’s NOT in a clean protein powder

  • No artificial sweeteners
  • No “natural flavors”
  • No other artificial/synthetic ingredients
  • No proprietary blends
  • No fillers
  • No sugar 
  • No soy
  • No hormones
  • Non-GMO

All of the protein powders in this article can tick all of the boxes on this list.

 

No artificial sweeteners

Ingredients in this category include sucralose, acesulfame potassium, aspartame, and any other synthetic sweetener they’re cooking up in the lab these days.

 

But make no mistake: controversy and sharp disagreement surround every one of these artificial sweeteners. 

 

One one hand these artificial sweeteners are considered totally safe by the government.

I mean look, the FDA has approved them for mass consumption, and many health authorities agree with them.

One the other hand, there’s a loud chorus of physicians, nutritionists, scientists, and other concerned public interest organizations who consider one or more of these artificial sweeteners unhealthy if not poisonous.

 

No “natural flavors”

This veil is used to protect proprietary recipes/formulas made from natural things like herbs, fruit, plants, etc., and I get that…Colonel Sanders’ secret recipe and so on.

But it’s also used as a cloaking device for things like MSG and other synthetic things I am definitely not into.

Plus by the time the lab team is done morphing it into a taste bud seducer of some sort, it’s pretty far removed from the pristine wilderness they say they originally plucked it from.

 

(Note: I’m very familiar with the FDA’s policy on the term Natural Flavors (1). I wrote about it in a research article I published here on heydayDo: Misleading Food Labels, if you’re interested in the topic.)

 

No other artificial/synthetic ingredients

This is a catch-all category for any other artificial, processed junk that’s not a sweetener that’s separately listed on the product’s Ingredients list (vs. being lumped in under Natural Flavors).

This could include an ingredient mysteriously named Artificial Flavors, or synthetically-produced vitamins and minerals thrown in to beef up the Nutrition Facts label numbers, etc.

Many proprietary artificial flavor formulas are in fact artificial sweeteners, but instead of a brand name like Splenda or category like sucralose, they’re known by a number like US368298A.

 

This also includes lab-derived (and non-essential) amino acids that are added to whey protein products in order to boost the amino acids stats on the label, a sneaky marketing tactic known as amino spiking. (2)

(I’ve never come across any vegan protein company that’s resorted to those shenanigans. That behavior’s reserved for the companies making a cheaper, mass-produced whey protein typically marketed towards younger male weightlifters.)

 

A high-quality protein powder will have an excellent amino acids profile without any help from chemical additives. Just look at the amino acids numbers of any 100% pure whey protein product or pure pea protein powder; they’re plenty sufficient.

 

I’ll go through the rest of this What’s Not Included list following the product reviews, which I’d like to get to now.

protein powder jug red - heydayDo icon

Best protein powders without artificial sweeteners

OK, time to take a closer look at these eight contestants vying to become your favorite.

I sincerely consider these to be among the best protein powders available these days in their respective classes, be it whey or vegan.

I’ve taken two of them on a daily basis for quite some now since getting acesulfame potassium out of my diet, and my faves have been:

  • Folona Solo Organic Pea Protein;
  • Muscle Feast Grass-Fed Whey Isolate.

Let’s start with the vegan protein powders.

 

Top 3 vegan protein powder without artificial sweeteners

 

1. Folona Solo Organic Pea Protein

Solo Organic Pea Protein Powder, Low in...

What I like:

* 100% pea protein powder, nothing else

* Grown on organic farms in Canada

* 30g protein per serving, great for vegan source

*5.5g BCAA per serving, also great for a vegan product

* Tastes & smells cleaner than the Big Brand pea protein powders

* 4.6 ⭐ – 500+ reviews on Amazon

 

My notes

* This is the pea protein I chose as the vegan protein supplement source for our home. I love the fact that it’s both organic & that the peas are grown in Canada.

* I like that the company was transparent & put the amino acids profile right on the label. At 5.5 grams per serving, that’s worth bragging about.

* It tastes clean & earthy, like what I thought a pea protein powder should taste like. And it also smells earthy in a clean way too, unlike the larger pea powder brands.

* Mixes easily in my blender or shaker bottle.

Folona Organic Pea Protein powder Supplement Facts label

 

 

2. Orgain Organic Protein

Orgain Organic Vegan Protein Powder, Creamy...

What I like:

*21g protein per serving, 4g net carbs;

*4.6 ⭐ – 60,000+ reviews across the internet;

*Protein sources: organic pea protein, chia seed protein, brown rice protein;

*99% organic ingredients;

*Soy free, gluten free.

 

My notes

* Note that it does have the sugar alcohol erythritol in it, as well as that infamous flavor lab favorite Natural Flavors. On their label Orgain still openly lists their plant-based protein blend as vegan, which I take as somewhat reassuring.

* My wife & I used to drink this off & on via Amazon’s Subscribe and Save list, until I switched us to the much purer Folona organic pea powder.

* To me Orgain has the best taste and texture of the “flavored Big Brand” vegan powders compared to:

  • Garden of Life
  • Vega
  • KOS
  • Naked

(I compared everybody’s Chocolate flavors).

* Costs about the same as Garden of Life.

* Most** of the time (no surprise) Amazon is the cheapest place to get it.

 

**- Note to Costco shoppers

If you shop at Costco do be aware that Orgain supplies them with an odd-sized 2.74 lb. tub that occasionally has a big discount offered that usually makes it cheaper than even AMZ’s Subscribe and Save price (but this deal is only available in their warehouses, not online).

Orgain Organic Protein Nutrition Facts - heydayDo image

 

3. Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein

Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein Vanilla...

What I like:

*22g protein per serving, 4g of plant-based BCAAs;

*4.4 ⭐ – 25,000+ reviews on Amazon;

*Plant-based protein powder made from 15 plants, mostly organic pea protein, brown rice, and amaranth; some chia seed protein too;

*Additional plant-based probiotics and digestive enzymes added;

*Soy free, gluten free;

* Unlike Orgain, it doesn’t have any Natural Flavors in it.

* Like Orgain it uses the sugar alcohol erythritol.

 

My notes on texture

*To me it was the grittiest of the three vegan powders here. No surprise really, given the amount of sprouted grains used in their protein blend, and it wasn’t a big deal.

Digestive enzymes added

I’m no expert on digestive enzymes. So I can’t weigh in on them being included in Garden of Life’s powder other than to say that I do know that bromelain — which is derived from pineapples — is considered one of the effective (and natural) digestive enzymes in cultures outside the US, notably in Central and South America.

Garden of Life Raw Protein Powder Nutrition Facts & Ingredients - heydayDo image

 

 

Whey’s 5 best protein powders without artificial sweeteners

The dairy industry is huge & there are questionable practices that affect the quality of milk-derived products, whey included.

Fortunately, the products listed below are made by companies who are much more transparent than Big Dairy & many other popular protein powder makers as well.

 

1. TGS – All Natural 100% Whey Protein

TGS 100% Whey Protein Powder Unflavored,...

What I like:

*25g protein per serving, 5.5g BCAAs;

*4.6 ⭐ – 3,000+ reviews on Amazon;

*2 ingredients: whey protein concentrate and sunflower lecithin (for mix-ability);

*American cows, made in USA. (Note: does not list itself as a grass fed whey protein);

*Un-denatured filtration process;

*Gluten free, soy free.

TGS Protein Powder without Sucralose - heydayDo - in article image1

 

 

2. Pure Label Nutrition – Grass Fed Whey Protein

Pure Label Nutrition 100% USA Grass-Fed Whey...

What I like:

*24g protein per serving;

*Excellent amino acids profile (as you’d expect from whey protein);

*Uses whey protein concentrate;

*4.5 ⭐ – 2,000+ reviews on Amazon;

*1 ingredient: 100% grass-fed whey protein concentrate. Not even an emulsifier like sunflower oil is in it.

*Premium American dairy cows, made in USA;

*Gluten free, soy free.

Pure Label Nutrition Protein Powder without Sucralose - heydayDo - in article image2

 

 

3. Opportuniteas Grass Fed Whey Protein Isolate

Grass Fed Whey Protein Powder Isolate -...

What I like:

*29.7g protein per serving, great amino acids profile;

*4.5 ⭐ – 3,500+ reviews on Amazon;

*Only 2 ingredients: grass-fed whey powder and sunflower lecithin (to improve mix-ability);

*Cold-processed;

*American cows, made in USA;

*Gluten free.

Opportuniteas protein label - heydayDo - in article image3

 

 

4. Muscle Feast – Grass Fed Whey Protein Isolate

Muscle Feast Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate,...

What I like:

*4.5 ⭐ – 3,500+ reviews on Amazon;

*20.5 g protein per serving, 4.5g branched chain amino acids;

*Excellent essential amino acids profile;

*4 ingredients: grass fed whey protein isolate, cocoa, sunflower lecithin, & stevia;

*Kosher certified, gluten free, soy free;

*German cows, made in USA.

My note: I can only drink their Unflavored version. My taste buds tell me that Muscle Feast is using WAAY too much stevia than they can tolerate in both the Chocolate & Vanilla versions.

Muscle Feast Protein Powder without Sucralose - heydayDo - in article image4

 

 

5. Levels Nutrition – Grass Fed Whey Protein

Levels Grass Fed 100% Whey Protein, No...

What I like:

*24g protein per serving, 5.4g of BCAAs;

*4.5 ⭐ – 12,500+ reviews on Amazon;

*3rd party tested for heavy metals;

*American cows, grass fed whey concentrate, made in USA;

*Un-denatured, cold-processed;

*Gluten free, soy free.

Levels Nutrition Protein Powder without Sucralose - heydayDo - in article image5

 

Here’s a video featuring another science-based opinion on artificial sweeteners.

 

(Pt.2) What’s not in a clean protein powder

These are the other undesirable ingredients that were not allowed in this article’s protein powder team.

 

No proprietary blends

Anything listed as a Proprietary Blend is an unwanted ingredient in a clean protein powder — for me anyway, so I excluded those products from this review.

The fact that the manufacturer might instead give it a name like Super Amino Matrix Bomb, Yo! should not impress you either.

As the consumers of this concoction, we don’t know how much of each ingredient is in those formulas, since the FDA lets the manufacturer keep that information to themselves. (3)

I researched this supplement industry practice in detail and wrote about it in this article: All About Proprietary Blends here on heydayDo.

 

No fillers

This is pretty self-explanatory.

Adding useless weight to a protein powder (when all we want to pay for is the protein) benefits the manufacturer, not us.

Some fillers are chemicals used in the manufacturing process to make the production more efficient, or to make the product more aesthetically pleasing, i.e. improve its texture or appearance.

I used to rock chocolate flavored protein powder where even the cacao or cocoa powder in it is technically a filler, albeit one designed specifically to alter the taste.

There are some unwanted/unneeded ones though.

Consider a filler as any ingredient that isn’t from the protein source in your powder.

Here’s a non-exclusive list of unneeded fillers:

  • Carrageenan
  • Konjac
  • Maltodextrin
  • Cellulose
  • Gelatin
  • Magnesium stearate

Sugar cubes in a glass and sugar spilling from a Coke bottle - heydayDo image

It has to be a sugar-free protein powder

I know sugar comes in natural form, well some of it anyway. But I don’t think we need anymore of it than we’re already getting in our diet.

Protein powders were left out of this article if they had any kind of sugar product:

  • cane sugar
  • organic cane sugar
  • high glucose/fructose products, etc.

And I’ve also excluded simple sugar products like honey or tree syrup, no matter if they’re raw, organic, or scraped from the hooves of unicorns.

I consume plenty of naturally-occurring sugar in my diet & I bet you do too (4).

 

** Regarding sugar…

Not sure if you’re aware of this, so thought I’d mention it. I’ve excluded any products with any type of added sugar of course, but did you know that milk products contain a very low amount of natural sugars in them?

 

There’s natural sugar in whey

The natural sugar that’s in milk is called lactose. Good news is, the best whey protein supplements have very low amounts of lactose in them.

Most of the naturally-occurring sugar in milk gets removed in the process that converts the whey from a milky byproduct of cheese manufacturing into a super-duper powder used as a fitness supplement.

 

No natural sugar in plant-based protein

Folona’s powder is 100% peas, and there’s no meaningful sugar in peas. Except for sugar snap peas, but they’re not the type used for all the plant-based protein powders on the market.

The other two vegan protein powders in this article are considered a protein blend. This is simply because they each use a handful of ingredients to boost the powder’s protein content.

And since those sources are all grain or vegetables — pea, rice, chia, amaranth, etc. — there isn’t any natural sugar in them at all.

Some vegan powders try and boost the sweetness of their powder by adding powdered apple, cherry, monk fruit and/or beet root, depending on the flavor of the powder.

Apple and cherry being fruit will have small amounts of fructose in them, so you will see a few grams of natural sugar listed on their supplement facts label.

 

Soy free

This means no soy lecithin, which is one of the most common emulsifiers used in protein powder manufacturing.

In case you don’t know, an emulsifier like lecithin – usually soy or sunflower oil – is added to protein powders to help it dissolve and mix with liquid better, an anti-clumping agent if you will.

The good news is that there are a number of soy-free alternatives available to manufacturers who want a non-clumping powder, like the aforementioned sunflower oil.

They might cost a little bit more, but no biggie.

 

My beef with soy products isn’t the same as the main reasons many people give for avoiding eating anything with soybeans in it.

 

Why some believe soy is bad

Common reasons people think soy is bad for them is due to research studies they heard or read about that showed that:

1) soy contains phytates which reduce mineral absorption – specifically iron – as determined in one study from 1992 (6);

2) soy has compounds that interfere with thyroid function, from a 1997 clinical trial (7);

3) soy’s phytoestrogens can throw our hormones out of whack, including reducing testosterone levels in men, discussed in the German Medical Science Journal in 2014 (8).

protein powder jug orange - heydayDo icon

But more thorough research has disproved these theories

All three of those “soy is bad” claims have been proven dubious or flat-out inaccurate by science.

Regarding:

#1 Phytates – More recent studies have shown that simply cooking, soaking, de-hulling, or fermenting the soybeans significantly reduces any negative effect from their phytates (9).

 

#2 Thyroid – A scientific review of 14 research studies on soybeans’ influence on thyroid function stated that

“the findings provide little evidence that…soy foods, or isoflavones adversely affect thyroid function”, and that even “hypothyroid adults need not avoid soy foods.” (10).

 

#3 Hormonal Imbalance – Multiple studies debunk that theory. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s analysis of 47 research studies concluded that

“neither soy foods nor isoflavone supplements alter measures of bioavailable T concentrations in men” (11).

 

And another meta-review of 35 more clinical trials found that

“(For) women in Western countries, pre- or post-menopausal, there is no evidence to suggest an association between intake of soy isoflavone and breast cancer.” (12)

 

My “no soy in my protein powder” reason

As I said earlier, I don’t want soy in my protein powder for a different reason than those mentioned above:

 

It’s that I’m not comfortable with eating genetically-modified food, and most soybeans grown here in the US these days are genetically-engineered.

 

Here’s the USDA chart showing that approximately 95% of all soybeans grown in the US are genetically-modified. (13)

Graph showing percent of crops that are genetically modified in the US with soybeans at 95% GMO - heydayDo image

I know that no damning evidence exists that proves GMO products are bad for us. And I’ve looked around at a lot of GMO data and opinion. (14)

I guess it’s just a personal choice of mine, like me preferring shorts, a tank top, and flip flops over a Lauren polo shirt, khakis, and Sperry Docksider shoes.

Something just bugs me about genetically-engineered food, so I’ll politely decline until the government goes Soylent Green on me, and makes me eat GMO food.

 

Hormone free

The U.S. meat, poultry, and dairy industries have a long history of hormone use, as dairy farmers and beef cattle ranches are always trying to boost their milk and meat production efficiency. (15)

As early as 1954, the FDA allowed the use of synthetic growth hormones in dairy and beef cattle, ignoring scientific evidence that showed harm to humans and the animals involved too.

Research studies have consistently shown that the synthetic hormone residues make their way into the meat and dairy products US citizens consume, as stated by the American Public Health Association. (16)

Except for the Monsanto-funded studies, their Policy Statement adds.

“Now there’s a surprise.”

😄

And for the last 27 years now, the dairy industry in the US has been allowed by the FDA to shoot up their cows with the growth hormone rbGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), AKA rbST (recombinant bovine somatotropin). (17)

 

This, despite those hormones being banned for use in both the European Union and in Canada, due to their cancer-causing ability in humans who eat the meat and drink the milk. (18)

The Center for Food Safety states that

“Canadian and European regulators have found that the FDA completely failed to consider a study that showed how the increased IGF-1 in rBGH milk could survive digestion and make its way into the intestines and blood stream of consumers.”

 

The FDA’s decision to side with industry gets worse:

These findings are significant because numerous studies now demonstrate that IGF-1 is an important factor in the growth of cancers of the breast, prostate and colon.” (19)

 

This is important information to me because after all, whey protein powder comes from milk of course.

 

So if I’m going to drink a milk product, I’d definitely like to see the “rbGH-free” label please.

Cows feeding on non-GMO grain - heydayDo image

GMO free

Truth be told, the non-GMO label on food products has its own set of loose interpreters (20), controversies (21), and shortcomings (22).

On top of that there’s what I said earlier, when talking about soy: no hard evidence exists proving GMO food is bad for you.

 

But again: I’m just not comfortable eating genetically-modified products, and I don’t want any in my protein powder if I can avoid it.

 

And so, since something like whey protein powder is a finished product from a long line of dairy industry processes, I’d prefer a brand that both displays the label AND is transparent with their customers about where they source their milk from.

 

Be aware: Some giant food companies use the non-GMO label on their milk even if the cows are eating genetically-engineered grain. (23)

 

So in response, many smaller non-GMO dairy product companies (including protein powder makers) have taken to tooting their own non-GMO horn in their product marketing material, bragging up their non-GMO status while disclosing their clean sourcing practices.

I’m OK with their pride of ownership; it helps me make a more informed purchasing decision.

 

FAQ

Here are answers to a couple of common questions asked about protein powders & artificial ingredients.

Do all protein powders have artificial sweeteners?

There are many whey & plant-based protein powders that do not use artificial sweeteners. Opportuniteas, TGS, Levels & Pure Label Nutrition use whey. Vegan brands include Orgain and Garden of Life.

Is protein powder with sucralose bad?

No conclusive scientific evidence exists proving sucralose poses a serious health risk to humans. One study on rats taking sucralose found that it eventually destroyed their beneficial gut bacteria.

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Wrapping Up

In my search for clean protein products, I researched a few other product categories and wrote about them here on heydayDo in case you’re interested:

7 Best BCAA Without Sucralose or Artificial Sweeteners

Top 24 Protein Bars Without Artificial Sweeteners

Vegan Mass Gainers

 

I hope that this article on protein powders without artificial sweeteners is useful to you, and that the info on the supplement and dairy industries’ production practices is helpful too.

I wish you well on your fitness journey; let’s go.

– greg


About The Author

heydayDo author Greg Simon

Hi! I’m Greg Simon.

Fitness training & nutrition researching since 1982. Over 60 & active. Surfer. Organic food grower. Congenital heart disease survivor (so far).

heydayDo.com is my Fitness After 50 blog that’s about encouraging a healthy lifestyle as we age.

I share my fitness training experience as well as the sports science research I’ve done on the many benefits strength building, exercise, & good eating habits offer us older adults.

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