Organic Protein Powder vs. Non-Organic: What To Choose

Organic protein powder

Verywell / Amelia Manley

When it comes to purchasing protein powders, a common consideration is whether organic protein powder is better for you than conventional. The short answer is that there may be no nutritional advantage, but quality does count.

This article will define what organic and non-organic (conventional) mean, use evidence to support why choosing organic may be worth the price for you, and provide helpful information on what to look for when purchasing an organic protein powder.

What Is Organic Protein Powder?

Processed foods like protein powder labeled as USDA organic must not contain artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors, and their ingredients must be organic, with few exceptions. The USDA seal and certification means that the product is 100% compliant with these standards.

Organic producers primarily depend on natural substances and physical, mechanical, or biologically based farming practices. Plant-based organic protein powder is made with plant ingredients that have not been exposed to prohibited synthetic pesticides and herbicides. Animals that produce milk proteins like whey and casein used in milk-based protein powders cannot be given antibiotics if they are organic. However, they are allowed to be given vaccines.

Look for the term “USDA Organic” and the seal when choosing an organic protein powder. Terms like “natural” or “organic” or anything related can be marketing terms and are not necessarily regulated. 

If protein powder indicates that it is "made with organic whey" or some other ingredient, this means it contains a minimum of 70% organically produced ingredients. The rest of the ingredients are not organic and do not have to comply with the organic production standards. These products won't bear the USDA organic seal but still have to certify with a USDA accredited certifier.

What Is Non-Organic Protein Powder?

Conventional/non-organic protein powder does not have to conform to the same regulations as organic and can be produced with prohibited substances under the organic label. For instance, the ingredients may have GMOs or have been treated with conventional, synthetic or non-organic fertilizers, pesticides, chemicals, and synthetics.

Which to Choose?

Organics are more expensive than conventional, but the investment may be worthwhile. If you are concerned about exposure to synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, choosing organic may be worth your peace of mind.

Some research shows that consistently choosing organic products over conventional is associated with a reduced risk of overweight and obesity for women and men and a lower risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma in women.

It's important to note that these associations could be due to the circumstances and demographic of individuals who choose organic foods and their other lifestyle habits and factors and not necessarily only due to choosing organic over non-organic.

When looking for organic protein powder, check for third–party testing, organic certification, and minimal ingredients, including flavorings and sweeteners. You'll also want to ensure that it covers your nutritional needs and preferences, such as vegan if you consume a plant-based only diet or dairy-based if you prefer.

Check that the protein powder has the calories and protein content to meet your needs based on your fitness and nutrition goals and aligns with ethical concerns you may have, such as farming practices and sustainability.

No matter what protein powder you purchase, it may be helpful to rotate products or try new protein sources such as whey, pumpkin seed, hemp, or pea, to expose yourself to various nutrients. As protein powders can be a source of heavy metals, rotating may help lessen exposure to certain contaminants.

Additionally, if you are plant-based, you'll want to ensure you obtain all of the essential amino acids, which are always present in dairy-based versions.

A Word From Verywell

Whether you choose organic or non-organic, protein powder is a convenient way to get your daily protein. Selecting an organic protein powder is not necessarily a clear nutritional advantage. Still, other factors may make it an ideal choice for you, despite its typically higher price tag.

Organic protein powder is made without certain prohibited substances and relies on more natural production practices. It also does not contain GMOs. If you are concerned about which protein powder is best for you, consult a registered dietitian for advice.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is organic protein powder good for weight loss?

    Organic protein powder is good for weight loss since a high protein diet is associated with feelings of fullness, meal satiety, and reduced muscle loss while dieting. Research shows an association between organic foods and less risk of overweight and obesity.

  • Is organic protein powder better than non-organic?

    Organic protein powder is not better than non-organic when it comes to protein content, amino acid content, or absorption. However, if you are concerned about additives or the use of synthetic pesticides, GMOs, or artificial flavors or colors, organic may be better for you.

  • Is organic protein powder safe during pregnancy?

    Organic protein powder is safe during pregnancy. It is a processed form of protein and when organic, ensures it is made without certain prohibited substances.

6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. United States Department of Agriculture. Organic 101: What the USDA Organic Label Means

  3. United States Department of Agriculture. Organic 101: Allowed and Prohibited Substances.

  4. Meemken E-M, Qaim M. Organic Agriculture, Food Security, and the environment. Annual Review of Resource Economics. 2018;10(1):39-63. doi:10.1146/annurev-resource-100517-023252

  5. Bandara SB, Towle KM, Monnot AD. A human health risk assessment of heavy metal ingestion among consumers of protein powder supplementsToxicol Rep. 2020;7:1255-1262. doi:10.1016/j.toxrep.2020.08.001

  6. Hansen TT, Astrup A, Sjödin A. Are dietary proteins the key to successful body weight management? A systematic review and meta-analysis of studies assessing body weight outcomes after interventions with increased dietary protein. Nutrients. 2021;13(9):3193. doi:10.3390/nu13093193

By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.