holistic nutritionist Joy McCarthy says when choosing a brand, it’s more about what’s NOT in it that matters.
“What happens in fermentation is that bacteria breaks down the protein so it’s much easier to digest,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how many grams of protein are printed on the label, if it’s not fermented you may not be absorbing all of the protein from that product.”
McCarthy says that a fermented protein powder is especially good for people who are sensitive to whey, which is a dairy protein, because it doesn’t cause an upset stomach.
During the process, a whole plant food like rice grains or split peas are exposed to the bacteria, which then breaks the carbohydrates (and sometimes proteins) into smaller molecules so they’re easier (and faster) for the body to digest. Most of the carbohydrate molecules are then removed, making the resulting powder high in protein.
However, unlike whole fermented foods, there are no longer any beneficial bacteria present in the finished protein powder. That is, unless they are added in (as a separate ingredient) after. To reiterate, while the process uses strains of healthy bacteria, the drying and pasteurization process that gives the powder a longer shelf life uses heat that kills all bacteria—including the healthy strains.