Ka’Chava is a whole-foods based meal replacement powder which claims to provide many health benefits because it’s formulated with “superfoods.” The founders suggest that the nutrient density of their formulations can improve overall health.
In this article we’ll review the formulation of Ka’Chava and determine whether we believe it’s a healthy meal replacement alternative.
Our review will analyze the different sections of Ka'Chava's formulation: protein, fiber, super fruits & super greens, adaptogen blend, probiotics/prebiotics, and finally vitamins and minerals.
Formulation Review - Protein
Ka’Chava’s protein blend provides 25 g protein per serving which is a good amount for a single meal, even for athletes looking to build muscle. 20 g of protein as a minimum appears to be optimal for muscle growth post-workout based on medical studies, so Ka’Chava’s health claim of “supporting muscle growth” does appear to be backed by science.
The formulation is vegan, so pea protein is used as the core protein source, which is a good choice because pea protein (unlike some vegan protein sources) is a complete protein which contains all essential amino acids. Beyond Meat uses pea protein as their base protein for the same reason.
Providing protein from multiple sources may be nutritionally superior to protein from one source because each food source has different micronutrients and health benefits.
Formulation Review - Fiber
Recommended fiber intake is over 25 g daily, and many Americans don’t get enough. Fiber is not only important generally for health, but also is associated with increased weight loss in those dieting because it leads to a sense of fullness while adding minimal calories.
Ka’Chava provides 9 g of fiber per serving, which is a relatively high amount for only 240 calories worth of nutrition. We believe this would benefit most Americans. All fiber in this product comes from natural sources.
Formulation Review - Super Greens & Super Fruits
Many different fruits and vegetables are added to this formulation, but the dosage is questionable. The super fruits blend contains 6.1 g, but the first listed ingredient is coconut nectar which provides the added sugars (but is healthier than processed cane sugar in our opinion).
Because these are proprietary blends, we don’t know how much of the super fruits formulation is this natural added sugar, but we can assume it’s a lot because the veggie blend is only 500 mg, or less than 10% of the dosage of the fruits blend.
If the fruit and veggie dosage minus the added coconut sugar only equals about 1 g, that wouldn’t be able to provide much nutrients. 1 g (even of dry powder) is a small amount. As an example, one cup spinach is 30 g, and is not much food.
Often companies add very small amounts of exotic ingredients like chlorella and tart cherry to make their product label seem more impressive, and that appears to be the case here.
Formulation Review - Adaptogen Blend
The first ingredient in this blend is raw maca powder, which is a sign the formulators aren’t that educated about herbal nutrition. Maca powder is very hard to digest raw, similar to potato powder (which you wouldn’t eat raw either), and is nearly always used in a gelatinized form to avoid digestive discomfort and improve absorption. Medical studies use gelatinized maca, and most traditional cultures that consume maca use a treated or cooked version.
We have no issues with the other ingredients in this prop blend, but there’s an argument to be made that adaptogenic herbs like mushrooms should be consumed in isolation to determine their effects.
Generally it can be hard to tell what’s working if five different compounds used to improve cognitive function are taken at once, but in the context of this formulation these ingredients are used for their nutrient value and are safe so we have no major issue.
Formulation Review - Probiotics/Prebiotics & Digestive Enzymes
Probiotics are almost always listed by colony forming units (CFU) on Supplement Facts labels because this is the medical standard, but are not in this case. This is another sign Ka’Chava’s formulators aren’t experts in our opinion. We’ve never even come across a formulation where probiotics weren’t listed in CFU.
Additionally, only the probiotic species but not the strain are listed. This is another sign of amateur formulators. Different strains of probiotics within the same species may have different health effects, just like a blood orange and a sweet orange are the same species (citrus sinensis) but have unique chemical composition.
The digestive enzymes section seems safe and a relatively small dosage, but we aren’t really sure why digestive enzymes are included in a meal replacement. Regardless they should cause no issue at the listed dosage.
Formulation Review - Vitamins and Minerals
The first thing to note is how extensive Ka'Chava's Supplement Facts label is overall. While some of the nutrients come from whole foods, unfortunately Ka’Chava has added many synthetic vitamins and minerals to increase the listed levels on their Supplement Facts panel.
This is a common practice in the industry; many health companies add synthetic vitamins and minerals to their formulations to make their Supplement Facts label look more impressive, like the High Voltage Detox drink we recently reviewed, because most consumers assume all of these nutrients are coming from food and that the product must be nutritionally superior to competitors.
Ka’Chava contains over 50% of the Recommended Daily Value (DV) of several vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin B1, molybdenum, chromium, magnesium and more.
We don’t agree with the practice of adding random vitamin and mineral blends to products, because we don’t believe this is safe for consumers. So many supplement and food companies are doing this that consumers taking multiple products could end up with unhealthy levels of certain vitamins or minerals without even knowing it.
Vitamins and minerals should be supplemented on a targeted basis. A patient deficient in Vitamin B-12 (as documented by a lab test) should supplement B12 with their doctor’s supervision until the deficiency is corrected. There is no proven benefit to taking random blends of vitamins and minerals that you're not deficient in, and the practice could be harmful for consumer health especially in regards to fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A and certain minerals like copper.
Low Calorie Level
Ka’Chava markets itself as a meal, but the calorie level is far too low to be considered a meal, especially for active consumers and athletes who have higher calorie requirements.
The blend provides 240 calories, which is less than 10% of what most active men would need, and less than 15% of what most active women would need (depending on weight for both genders). This is a small number of calories.
Most whole food meals provide at least 500 calories, and nearly $5 for a fraction of the calories you need in a day seems like a high price.
We would have no issue if the brand just marketed themselves as a healthy shake mix, but the suggestion that this product constitutes a meal is inaccurate and misleading in our opinion.
No Scientists or Doctors on Team
Ka’Chava has no publicly listed team, and their founders appear to be a couple with no medical credentials. We’ve seen a trend in all of our health product reviews where people with no medical background generally formulate inferior products, and the trend holds in this case.
Formulating an effective nutritional supplement requires tons of research and existing knowledge of nutrition and human biology. We recommend people consider whether there are credentialed experts behind the consumable products they’re taking, like doctors or scientists, because people with no medical background aren’t likely to understand the medical research behind herbal ingredients, or how to formulate an effective product, and that appears to be the case here.
Ka’Chava Vs. Huel
Huel is another popular meal replacement brand, and many consumers are curious about which is healthier.
In our opinion Ka’Chava has a superior formulation to Huel but we wouldn't recommend either. Both brands use flavoring agents which are just listed as “natural flavor” and provide consumers with no information on what chemicals are actually used and whether they’re safe.
Both formulations contain added synthetic vitamins which in our opinion are wholly unnecessary and potentially harmful.
But Huel also includes an artificial sweetener called sucralose which we recommend avoiding, and has far fewer whole food ingredients. Those differences lead us to believe Ka’Chava is superior from a health perspective.