Following that line, we all agree vegans have it hard in the food department: what is vegan; what is not vegan; what is a good vegan substitute, and what is terrible for a recipe. More often than not, they have to make things from scratch, which is especially difficult when they do not have enough of the right ingredients. Similarly, they struggle to have a proper, balanced diet that is made up of entirely vegan materials. With their sources of vegan protein limited, they look around for other sources, and this is where vegan protein powders walk in.
Unlike your average protein powders, vegan protein powders do not have animal products in them. They are manufactured by isolating protein from the other nutrients (fats and carbs) from vegan sources (like rice). Below is a list of ten of the best vegan substitutes for protein powders out there.
Soy Protein Powder
When it comes to being vegan or having a vegan diet, soy is one of the top list names you will find. You even get the high lister vegan food, tofu, from soybeans. Let us see some of the nutritional values soy proteins have for you:
- it can help you lower your cholesterol levels
- aids in strengthening your muscles
- supports growth
- some studies suggest that soy protein may have benefits that involve suppressing potential cancer activities in the body
- other plant compounds in soy protein have shown a positive impact on overall body health
Soy protein isolate also has some negligible negative points:
- Some studies revealed that it could be as harmful as to cause breast cancer, although these claims have no basis since the testing was performed on animals.
- Since soy protein is usually genetically modified, it has fallen out of favor with many protein powder consumers — you can still find soy protein powders that are not genetically modified.
- Using soy protein powders that are not genetically modified every day is not recommended.
How Do You Use Vegan Protein Powders?
Vegan protein powders are mixed with, usually, water or plant-based milk. They can also be turned into smoothies or smoothie bowls. Protein powders come in different flavors, too — although it is up to you if you want to choose a plain protein powder or a flavored one. You can also mix protein powders with a bowl of oatmeal or other foods.
Hemp Protein Powder
This certain protein powder, at first, can make you raise an eyebrow in skepticism. After all, if you have the knowledge and awareness, you will surely think that hemp is dangerously linked with a notorious plant intoxicant, cannabis.
Have no fear: while hemp is related to cannabis, it is a variety entirely differently bred with the least amount of the addicting and intoxicating nature you normally find in cannabis.
So, What Are The Benefits Of Hemp Protein Powder?
- First of all, hemp is high in fibers, and fibers, as we all know, do loads of good for us.
- It also has a lot of iron in it, and iron is essential for those who are vegan or have a vegan diet because iron is harder to absorb from simply eating vegetables and fruits than it is from eating a non-veg diet.
- Thirdly, zinc is also found in abundance in hemp, and zinc is crucial for our appetite and sense of taste.
- Hemp also contains a lot of magnesium.
- As vegans or those following vegan diets, obtaining omega-3 fatty acids can be quite difficult, considering they are found mainly in animal products. Lucky for us, science has discovered a vegan equivalent of omega-three fatty acids, which is known as ALA. It can help you avoid the risk of heart diseases and inflammation, slow down the aging of your skin, and improve your ability to retain memories.
- It also contains compounds that can come in handy when you need to lower your blood pressure
Aside from all the goodness they have to offer, hemp protein powders also come with one small downside:
- Hemp protein is not a complete protein — which means it is unable to provide you the full potential of proteins. It also means that you will have to go along with a diet of proteins (beans, quinoa, edamame, tofu, legumes, etc.) to reach the level of protein intake your body requires.
What Is The Difference Between Normal Animal (whey) Protein Powders And Vegan Protein Powders?
The first difference is in the names itself: whey protein is derived from cow milk — hence it is an animal product — while vegan protein is isolated from a variety of plants. The second difference lies between the proteins: whey protein is a complete protein with all the nine essential amino acids, and the case with vegan proteins is that most of them, depending on the type of plant they are derived from, are often missing an essential amino acid (mostly lysine).
When compared to each other in the field of sensitivity, whey protein contains lactose — and lactose intolerance is not an unknown or rare matter. Protein powders isolated from plants often contain allergens like gluten or soy.
What Happens If Your Intake Of Proteins Is Too High?
When you exceed your daily amount of required protein intake, you will face health repercussions just like you would if you consumed too much of any other nutrient. Eating too much protein for too long, particularly when you are someone who shouldn't be indulging in a protein-rich diet, can have the following disadvantages:
- Protein, when in a surplus amount in your body, is stored as fat. It leads to weight gain, especially when you consume too many calories. So make sure you get a professional consultation before indulging in such a diet.
- The lack of fibrous elements in your diet, along with too much protein (usually animal protein) intake, can cause diarrhea. To avoid this, you should consume food items that are rich in fiber and increase your fluid intake.
- Although high protein intake does not have damaging effects on your kidneys, some sources claim that it can still have a negative impact on those who have a history of kidney diseases.
- The increased possibility of cardiovascular diseases has often been linked to high animal protein intake. Using protein sources like fish, poultry and plants has been observed to lower the risks.
- Consuming too much animal protein has been associated with an increased risk of cancer. However, having proteins from different sources like nuts, grains, and other plants, decreases the possibility.
- Constipation is often observed with diets that are high in protein. Drinking more water and eating more sources of fiber can cease the problem.
- Another problem people with high-protein diets can face is the issue of bad breath. If you are facing the same problem, you should increase your water intake and use some mints or gum to combat it.
Pea Protein Powder
Pea protein is isolated from yellow peas because, unlike how it is in green peas, yellow peas are high in proteins. Yellow split peas are rich in potassium folate and iron and low in fat. Below is a list of benefits pea protein powder has to offer you:
- Aids in making you feel full so you do not go overboard with eating and can help when you are watching what you eat to prevent weight gain
- Normal protein has animal products in it — whey — and pea protein powder is said to be just as influential to our health as whey protein is
- It can assist in gaining and building up muscles by working your muscles and pushing your body into producing muscle proteins (like actin and myosin). This is because pea protein is densely packed with branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)
- If you suffer from high blood pressure, a diet with pea protein powder can aid in lowering your blood pressure and providing relief from its symptoms
What Happens If You Are Chronically Low In Protein?
Long term absence of protein in your body causes a lot of harm to you and puts you at the risk of a lot of health issues:
- Not consuming enough protein in your diet can slow down your metabolism. A slowed metabolism can lead to abrupt changes in weight (there is a higher possibility of gaining weight, but you can lose it as well). You are likely to get tired easily and might feel sluggish often. Loss of hair can also be a sign of slowed metabolism.
- You can also experience edema (commonly known as swelling) — although swollen limbs are not concrete evidence of the lack of protein.
- The absence of protein plays a major role in the production of chemicals in your brain that provides you with your daily dose of chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. The lack of these chemicals (also known as neurotransmitters) can change the way you feel on a day-to-day basis.
- You might also face repercussions such as brittle nails, flaky skin, and thinning hair because they are mostly made up of proteins (like collagen and keratin, for example).
- As it is with the lack of any crucial nutrient, fatigue and weakness become your constant companions when you lack proteins in your diet, and it gets worse with older age.
Protein is a crucial component of our diet, and just like skipping vitamin C for months can give you gingivitis and other issues, not taking enough protein can cause you a lot of trouble.
Brown Rice Protein Powder
This fourth recommendation in the list is a cheaper product compared to the others and easier to obtain as well. Brown rice protein powder contains a lot of good for you.
- Some studies show that brown rice protein is nearly or just as effective as whey protein when it comes to aiding in muscle development, especially when combined with a physical workout involving weights
- Although its level of lysine (an essential amino acid) is low, brown rice protein is rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAS)
- A serious problem that comes along with choosing brown rice protein powder is that some brands of the protein powder may possibly be contaminated with metal arsenic. So, when you are buying brown rice protein powder, make sure that it is from a trusted brand and is free from arsenic contamination.
Sunflower Seed Protein Powder
Sunflower seed protein powder was introduced comparatively recently to the other protein powders in this list.
- It is rich in essential amino acids such as leucine, alanine, valine, and methionine
- Like most of the other protein powders on this list, sunflower seed protein powder also provides you with BCAAs, which can help you build muscles
- Although it is low in essential amino acid lysine, if combined with another vegan protein powder with a complete protein (like Quinoa protein powder), sunflower seed protein powder works just as well as other protein powders
Little else is known about this specific protein powder since there have not been many studies about its impact on human (or even animal) health.
Chia Protein Powder
When it comes to diets and vegan menus, chia seeds are never overlooked. They are a staple ingredient in many vegan meals and the benefits they have to offer are greatly appreciated by those who are opposed to non-veg.
- Compared to other plants and plant-based foods, chia seeds are very high in protein
- Chia protein powder is high in fiber and can help in reducing the risk of developing heart diseases like coronary heart disease — it can also provide protection from various kinds of cancers
- Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants and have anti-aging effects as well as anti-cancer properties like hemp protein, chia protein also contains a high amount of ALA
- It has essential minerals like phosphorus, manganese, copper, calcium, etc. — all of which are crucial for metabolism, bone health, muscle growth and development, and the health of your heart
- Some studies say that chia seed protein can be easily digested and absorbed, meaning you can gain nutrition far more easily than with other plant-based products
If there is a downside to chia protein, it is that just like many items in this list and like other seeds, chia protein is lacking in lysine, the essential amino acid.
Pumpkin Seed Protein Powder
- Pumpkin seeds have a whole lot of fat (the healthy type) in them, but when they are turned into protein powder, the fat is reduced considerably, and that, in turn, decreases the number of calories you take with its protein powder
- It is rich in nutrients like magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, selenium, manganese, and vitamin K
- Pumpkin seed protein has been said to have antioxidants
- Some evidence suggests that anti-inflammatory properties have also been observed in it
- It can help reduce the risk of developing bladder problems and urinary tract infections
- A study done on rats implies that pumpkin seed protein may help reduce symptoms of liver diseases and may also aid in decreasing LDL cholesterol levels
- Like other seeds, yet again, pumpkin seed protein is an incomplete protein, lacking in both lysine and threonine.
Here is a quick and easy recipe to make with the vegan protein powder of your choice —
You will need:
- some plant-based milk or yogurt
- strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or other fruit of your choice (they should be frozen)
- frozen bananas
- your choice of vegan protein powder — preferably vanilla flavored
- honey or maple syrup
What to do:
- grab a blender and toss in your ingredients
- make sure everything is perfectly blended before pouring it out into a bowl
- top with more fruit — blueberries, sliced strawberries, and bananas make it look all the more appealing
- if you want, you can also add some granola on the top
Sacha Inchi Protein Powder
Hailing from Peru is our next top pick of the best vegan substitute of protein powder, a nut (mostly considered a seed) known as Sacha Inchi. Although it is costly in comparison to other sources of vegan protein because of its limited supply, Sacha Inchi protein powder has a lot of benefits to offer for its worth.
- This particular protein is known to be rich in an essential amino acid called arginine, which produces nitric oxide in your body that makes your arteries widen for better blood flow. This, in turn, provides aid in lowering blood pressure.
- As study shows that sacha inchi protein powder might just be as influential on your health as soy protein powder when it comes to producing protein in your body like chia and hemp protein powders, sacha inchi powder consists of ALA too
Quinoa Protein Powder
Quinoa protein powder is one of the few plant proteins that is not an incomplete protein, and that is where its greatness lies. It has all the essential amino acids and is often used along with other vegan protein powders to make up for the missing essential amino acids in them.
- Quinoa is packed with protein elements that encourage muscle growth and strengthening — especially in children
- It is rich in mineral content such as magnesium, and it is a stepping stone toward a preventative measure against heart diseases
- The protein in quinoa and the presence of the nine amino acids are crucial in the development of important tissue in growing children
- It is a good choice for people who have diabetes since it has a low glycemic index and aids in regulating blood sugar levels in your body
A Blend Of Vegan Proteins
Many times, to cover up for missing nutritional elements that are crucial to your well-being, your dietician may recommend buying a protein powder that is a blend of various vegan proteins.
- It is easier to use because you do not have to buy different powders and make combinations yourself to make up for the lack of certain nutrients
- Some of these blended protein powders have fermented protein, which increases the number of vitamins, minerals, and other essential plant compounds in the powder
- Nowadays, enzymes, to aid in digestion, are being added to blended protein powders, and it is a bonus
- The increase in their nutritional value can make it easier for you to absorb amino acids and other nutrients
Although the list of vegan protein powders compiled above contains the best and the most recommended protein powders for vegans and those following vegan diets, it is important to acknowledge the fact that, sometimes, even the best of the best might not sit well with you. When it comes to matters regarding your health and diet, it is best to take heed of what worked for others with a pinch of salt. Our list of vegan protein powders has been produced based on what worked in general for ordinary people.
Suppose you are trying to follow a vegan diet and implement a vegan protein powder in your lifestyle due to a health issue you feel can be solved by abandoning animal protein and products. In that case, it is highly recommended that you seek medical advice from professionals before doing so. By asking for professional help, you will receive a better insight into the type of vegan powder that would work best for you. A consultation may also help you figure out how to make up for any other missing elements of nutrition that the protein powder of your choice is not able to make up for.
In addition to this, another warning you must heed is that vegan protein powders — or even the average whey protein powders — can not be used as a substitute in place for medicine and treatments for your health issues. If you think you have problems with your health and that it could be brought about by the lack of protein in your diet, it is best that you check in with your healthcare provider or a dietician for advice and a diagnosis.