The Low-Down on Vegan Protein Powders

by Gena on January 10, 2010

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Hey all!

It’s been a very busy weekend, so I’m just checking in quickly. It seems that my last post prompted some great questions about whey protein and protein isolates. Namely this one, from Jessica:

Hi! I’ve been following your blog for a while but never written in. I was wondering if you could tell me more about the whey protein isolate comment? I had never heard anything bad about it, I’m a workout fanatic, and of course everyone and their brother at the gym drinks it. If it’s that bad for you, I would want to avoid it, but what other alternatives (that are clean) are there? Just wondering what your take on it is.

Thanks!
Jessica

This is such an important question! Especially for my gym-going and athletic readers.

Here’s the deal: protein isolates are heavily processed, and their impact on health is a subject of some debate in holistic circles. While I don’t believe that they’re downright terrible, I do believe that there are less heavily processed and more nourishing options out there. And of course, “whey” is a dairy derivative, so it’s my hope that I can persuade you to find a vegan alternative!

The protein powders I recommend, Jessica, are these:

1) Hemp protein. Hemp is a nutritional powerhouse. Hemp oil is a rich source of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids (aka, the “good” fats). Hemp seeds contain all the essential amino acids and essential fatty acids. And hemp proteins are similar to proteins found in the human body, which makes them easy to digest and assimilate quickly, so they’re a great alternative to whey and soy proteins, which are often heavily processed. Vegan and raw athletes, take note: they’re terrific for athletic recovery and muscle repair. And don’t let the green color scare you: hemp protein is tasty, and the popular Nutiva brand comes in several flavors.

Best of all (and unlike other protein sources), hemp protein is also rich in fiber, boasting eight natural grams per serving. Drink up!

2) Brown rice protein. Many vegans rely on this allergen-free, gentle, and high quality protein powder for their workout and recovery smoothies. My fellow health counselor, Andrea Moss, uses it as a cornerstone of the morning smoothies in her level of the Spark! Wellness + Choosing Raw cleanse. I recommend the NutriBiotic or Sun Warrior brands.

3) Yellow Pea Protein. This is a favorite among raw athletes, Brendan Brazier included, and it appears in all of his Vega smoothie infusions and whole foods health optimizers.

With choices like this, why would we seek out highly processed and (often) sweetened powders? Hemp protein, which is my personal favorite, is merely powdered hemp seeds. It doesn’t get more natural than that.

As I always tell people, the title of my blog isn’t meant to suggest uncooked foods. It’s meant to suggest a way of eating and thinking that honors the most natural, untouched ingredients as possible. If you need to supplement your protein intake, these are the most organic ways to do it.

With that, I thought I’d share with you my all time favorite protein smoothie. This is hugely popular with my athletic clients, and it’s a personal favorite of mine, too: I often sip it in the late morning or as a post-workout snack. It’s relatively low in sugar, totally delicious, and features hemp protein, though you could substitute a vegan and all natural protein of choice. I hope you try it and love it!

Very Berry Protein Smoothie (serves 1)

1 cup mixed berries
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tbsp hemp protein powder
1/2 packet stevia
5 ice cubes

Simply blend all ingredients on high and serve!

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I hope you all enjoyed a terrific weekend. I’ll be back soon.

xo

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{ 149 comments… read them below or add one }

Olena @ iFOODreal.com May 27, 2013 at 1:12 am

Very informative! I’m reducing whey protein in my diet because it is causing acne. I’m OK with brown rice protein powder in shakes but I’m no so thrilled with it in baked goods. Anyone tried baking with hemp protein powder? I think I will buy it tomorrow and give it a try in my next recipe…

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Jill Skinner Nobles July 22, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Arbonne makes a very safe, vegan protein powder, chocolate and vanilla, easily digested, great for athletes/fitness, lactose/soy and gluten free. With any purchase comes a booklet of protein shake recipes, all very delicious! Contact me for more information and how to purchase at a discount
jillarbonne@hotmail.com

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Ash August 24, 2013 at 9:39 am

Hello,

Thank you for this very informative post. I’m a vegetarian and I’m looking for a good protein powder. It looks like the protein content in all the brands you recommended above is on the lower end of protein shakes (the max seems to be 15 grams). Do you know of any other good protein powders with more protein content?

Thanks again! Keep up the great work!!!

Reply

Ash Law March 31, 2014 at 3:56 am

Hi,

All of our products contain a minimum of 30g of protein per serving and all of our products can be consumed by everyone, and we mean everyone!

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Ronnie January 10, 2014 at 6:33 pm

I just want to add that rice and pea protein powder usually is really fine (like cornstarch) making it hard to dissolve and likely to powder up your air. I love hemp because it is easier to mix AND the fiber amount is huge! It could almost be a fiber supplement itself.

If anyone wants to see more choices, I made my own list of protein powders here: http://proteinpowderforvegans.com/

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Arabian foodie January 21, 2014 at 10:50 pm

Great info! I’m doing no fat vegan and wondering about fat content in hemp protein powder. Can anyone help

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Gena January 23, 2014 at 7:35 pm

I’m not sure, but I do think it’s quite low (lower than the seeds).

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Jared April 22, 2014 at 9:35 pm

Thanks for the info about vegan protein supplement options. And that smoothie recipe sounds good while still being easy enough that I can make it lol. I like the idea of using unsweetened almond milk and adding stevia for a little sweetness without any unnecessary sugar.

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