Food & Fitness

Calcium and Protein Powders

Yesterday night my dear sisterroommate Devin boarded a plane to Cambodia. She won’t be returning until winter is over, sometime about six months from now.

Since winter was so brutal last year, and since she graduated from university several months ago with her political theory degree (which is, admittedly, about as useful as a rhetoric degree. They’re like the obscure cousins to law degrees and English degrees. Five times the fun with ten times fewer career prospects!), she decided that traveling to a warm climate makes the most sense. She hasn’t seen the father dear since he left for Cambodia last November, so it’s about time she went and visited him!

We’ve gone for extended periods of time without seeing each other before due to travel, my sister and I, but it’s still tough every time to say goodbye to your best friend and know that you won’t be seeing them for months. Our friend Mladen is going to move in with me while she’s away, so I’m sure we’ll have a great time. It’ll just be a little bit different!

Powdered Nutrients

My position on protein powders and supplements has been, for a very long time, that I avoid them. When recipes call for protein powder, I instead use PB2 (the powdered peanut butter we all know and love. Or you should, if you don’t. I’m just sayin’!) or skim milk powder. With my recent decision to forgo, or at least significantly reduce, dairy, I no longer want to turn to skim milk powder for help.

The nutritionist that I went to see a couple weeks ago told me about a calcium/magnesium powder. I’ve begun using it and I find that it is a fantastic alternative to skim milk powder. The only ingredients in this powder are calcium and magnesium, and one scoop is equal to a cup of milk. I mix in a scoop with my water to drink at the gym, and there’s 1/3 of my calcium right there! It can also easily be added to just about anything- I’ve been mixing some in hot tea at night and in my morning oatmeal.

The protein powder that I’ve found is NutriBiotic Vegan Chocolate Rice Protein. It contains rice protein from whole grain brown rice and natural chocolate flavour (I’m usually wary of anything that says “natural flavour”. I’m going to have to look into that one to see exactly what this company means by “natural flavour”). One tbsp is a very respectable 57 calories, 0.4g fat, 2.4g carbs, 1g sugar, and 12g protein. I’ve been adding about 1/2 tbsp at a time to various dishes, mostly oatmeal and smoothies. It would also be a nice little “booster” in loafs or other baked goods. By my tastes, it is not good when mixed with water. I also picked up a sample pack of Vega protein powder, which I have heard much about, but I tasted a little bit of it and practically spat it out again. It is sweetened with stevia. Stevia is something which my taste buds do not enjoy at all.

The main thing about these powders is not to overdo it. I cannot stress this enough. Having too much of any nutrient is incredibly dangerous. Balance is really essential here.

That was always one of my biggest fears, when it comes to supplements and powdered nutrients. I like the idea that we can get all of our nutrients today from whole foods. Unfortunately, food today just does not pack in the same amount of nutrients that it did fifty years ago. I’ve heard that you would have to eat a dozen (if not more) peaches today to get the same amount of nutrients that would be in one peach from half a century ago. That is an enormous and terrifying difference.

I don’t want calcium powder or protein powder to take over my life. I don’t want to rely on them, I don’t want them to be present at every meal and snack, and I certainly don’t want to overdose on them. I want to use them as they are supposed to be used: to supplement my diet, not to be my diet. Protein powder is the quickest way to add some healthy proteins to a carb-heavy bowl of oatmeal. If I’m not drinking dairy, then it makes sense to mix calcium into my water. The crucial factor here is that there are many other nutrients that I could be lacking that I would otherwise have been consuming in my milk, so that’s why no matter how much supplementing we’re doing, we always must eat a balanced diet otherwise. Pay attention to your body. Consider all of the nutrients, and ask yourself if you’re getting them. If in doubt, talk to an expert! That’s what they’re there for.

As always, be sure to read those ingredient lists. If you don’t know what an ingredient is, it probably should not go in your tummy. If the ingredient list is a mile long, you probably want to put that right back on the shelf and look elsewhere. Take your time at the store to compare brands and ingredient lists; ask around to hear about what people like and to learn more about how nutritious these powders really are. Stay away from the ones with added sugars as much as possible. It is worth the effort to find the best kind of powder out there. Your health is worth it.

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway!


  1. MizFit

    it is amazing how simple it can all be huh?


    If you don’t know what an ingredient is, it probably should not go in your tummy.

    is 100% the golden rule.

    not that I dont CHOOSE TO IGNORE IT SOME DAYS (hello movies and Raisinettes!) but at least it’s a choice.

  2. The Candid RD

    I guess I missed that you were not drinking milk. Can I ask why? I agree with you that the calcium powder should not be your diet, but should instead supplement your diet. This is what I say about the fish oil and flintstone vitamins I take πŸ™‚ I wish everyone would think that way!

  3. Sagan Morrow

    Hanlie- hemp powder sounds interesting. I haven’t tried that one yet because the only ones I’ve found are super expensive.

    MizFit- exactly! It’s a choice that we can make.

    Gina- the reason I’m mostly giving up dairy is because my body doesn’t react well to it. Sometimes it makes me feel nasues, other times bloated, and it just doesn’t sit well. I didn’t miss milk or cheese or any of that during the vegan month so I’m just not going to go out of my way to eat them anymore. If it happens to be in food that someone makes for me, I’ll still eat it, but most of the time I’ll be trying to avoid it.

    Jennifer- there’s something that still makes me a bit uncomfortable about using powders. They seem convenient and… unreal? I don’t know.

  4. charlotte

    There is definitely something to be said for the convenience factor of powders! I don’t use much of them as they’re usually pretty expensive (and lots of them have weird ingredients) but I do keep a big ol’ jar of whey protein powder to put in morning smoothies etc. Glad you found a good balance!

  5. Gena

    Okay, out of curiosity, does the Ca/Mg powder have any taste? See, I apparently am very sensitive to the taste of metals and can taste the potassium and magnesium in bananas. So I have to wonder if the powder would taste like a battery to me (which is how bananas taste unless they are overripe).

    I like the idea of the vegan protein powder you found. Personally, I’m not a fan of the soy protein powders, but if I decide to go vegetarian again I’ll have to try your stuff.

  6. asithi

    I often wonder about the nutrition from produce and fruits using conventional farming techniques. Seriously, do peaches and apples grow to the gigantic size that you see today a hundred years ago? And orgainic is a little too pricey for me. So that leaves me begging for home grown produce from my mom’s garden.

  7. Sagan Morrow

    Charlotte- weird ingredients + expensive = very infrequent use of them πŸ™‚

    Gena- GREAT question and yes, the calcium powder has a very distinct taste. I’ll talk about that in a future post, perhaps (otherwise I could write an essay on the subject here in the comments!).

    Asithi- Agreed. But I think that even homegrown varieties today aren’t the same as they used to be- contamination is just everywhere. Sighs.

    Dr. J- Haven’t even heard of Maca. Do tell!

  8. Cammy

    I’m with you on the overdoing of the powders. I mainly use my protein powder on strength training days, and even then, I use only 1/2 scoop. Occasionally I’ll toss in a bit when I’m making a smoothie, but I’ve got the choco-PB2 on hand for that, too. πŸ™‚

  9. Monica Shaw

    I used to drink a daily protein shake but haven’t done so in a couple years under the hypothesis that they really weren’t necessary. Now, though, as I approach a more vegan-like existence AND start to ramp up my strength training, I’m thinking of going back. But like you say, only as a supplement.

  10. Andrew(AJH)

    Firstly, thanks for the comment on my blog, and secondly congratulations on yours. I’ve been reading it a bit today (should’ve been working), and it is very well-written and your knowledge on health and fitness related issues shines through strongly.

    I’ve never been one to use supplements, with the exception of some rehydration powdered drinks (Endura) when running longer distances.

    I have to say though, that PB2 sounds interesting. I am a peanut butter addict, but have never seen it in a powdered form in Australia. Why do you use the powdered form rather than peanut butter itself ?

    I’m adding you to my blogroll, hope that’s ok, I’m sure a lot of my readers would love your blog too!


  11. Sagan Morrow

    Cammy- God I love PB2 (hear that, PB2 marketers? ;)).

    Monica- that’s the thing, a lot of people take this stuff when they really don’t need to. I always figure that for the everyday person, taking a protein shake after a workout is unnecessary… unless you’re doing hardcore exercises, or following a diet which might be lacking in some nutrients, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

    Mia- I’m sure they will! And I’m thinking of you and your dad.

    Andrew- thanks! PB2 is something you might not have in Australia… we don’t even have it in Canada; I get it shipped from the USA (I know, it’s weird). I use regular PB as well as the powdered stuff; the powdered stuff just has lots of protein but way fewer calories/fat, and it’s better for mixing into recipes etc. It’s just something a little different! And it tastes delicious.

  12. Mimi (Damn the Freshman 15)

    I am a big fan of natural protein powder. I use whey. But as you say, it’s all about supplementation, not subbing. I might add a little to oatmeal, or put some in my coffee, just to kick the protein up some. But I much prefer to get my protein from meat, eggs, dairy, and plants.

    The biggest thing is just to make sure there isn’t any crap in it.

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