Vegan Protein Powders come from many sources and each may vary in its quality and quantity of essential amino acids, so it is important to know what you are getting in a tub of vegan protein powder.
Vegan Protein Powders are a great option for vegetarians, vegans, lactose intolerant and those wanting to cut back on dairy or animal sourced proteins. However, not all vegan protein powders are created equal. Different protein sources provide a different quality of protein and contain different essential amino acids. Animal proteins are a complete protein, meaning they contain all essential amino acids, hence the popularity of whey protein that is derived from milk protein.
The secret to a complete vegan protein is to find vegan protein powders made with a blend of organic proteins. The combination of pea and brown rice protein has been shown to provide the highest quality protein which includes all essential amino acids. However, each of these protein sources on its own is lacking an essential amino acid, but combined they offer much more than other vegan protein sources such as hemp or soy.
What You Need to Know About Vegan Protein Powders
Brown Rice Protein Powders
Brown Rice Protein is 100% plant based, gluten-free, low in carbohydrates and fat and easily digested. It is high in many essential amino acids, but is low in lysine. Pea protein, on the other hand, is lysine rich and contains an impressive amount of branched chain amino acids. A vegan protein powder derived from only brown rice may not be ideal but, when combined with pea protein, it becomes a protein powerhouse. Protein made from whole grain brown rice also offers the benefits of vitamins, fiber, folate, and amino acids found in the whole grain.
Pea Protein Powders
Pea Protein is made from yellow split peas, a high fiber legume that is fat free, cholesterol free, gluten-free and easily digestible. Pea protein contains all amino acids but is low in methionine, which can be found in rice protein. Pea protein is popular as it is allergen-friendly for those suffering from common food allergens such as dairy, wheat, soy, and egg while still aiding in weight loss and muscle building, important as we age. Look for a brand that is sourced from organic, Non-GMO peas to ensure you are not getting any extras in your pea protein powder.
Soy Protein Powders
Soy Protein, made from soy beans, has been a popular plant-based protein source because it contains all the essential amino acids which makes it a complete protein. Very similar to the casein and whey animal source proteins, soy protein stimulates muscle repair after exercise which is ideal to slowing age-related muscle loss. Soy protein also contains isoflavones that have been shown to potentially reduce the risk of some cancers and cardiovascular disease. However, current research has shown that too much soy can skew hormones levels, especially in men, and they have come under fire for containing GMO’s. Discuss with your health care professional before deciding if a soy based vegan protein powder is right for you.
Hemp Protein Powders
Hemp Protein offers something the other vegan protein powders do not, as it is a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, however with this comes a higher fat content. Hemp protein also contains all essential amino acids but is a lower protein quality than other sources of vegan protein. When looking at protein quality, it is important to consider at a protein’s digestibility or how well your body can utilize the protein. This is determined using the Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score, or PDCAAS. A protein that scores 100 percent provides all of the essential amino acids. Pea protein has a PDCAAS of 85 percent, while hemp protein only scores a 46 to 51 percent. This means that pea protein is a better source of essential amino acids than hemp protein, and is a more complete protein
Make sure you take a close look at the Nutrition Facts. What may seem like a comparable brand of vegan protein on the label, can be concealing some big differences in the Nutrition Facts.
- Scoop Size/Serving Size – a 32 gram scoop provides 21 grams of protein in one brand, but a 39 gram scoop is required of another brand and 62 grams in another to similar amount of protein.
- Protein Source – make sure the first ingredients are the protein source (ideally organic pea protein and organic brown rice protein) and not fillers or sweeteners.
- Leucine is the star amino acid when it comes to muscle repair and slowing age-related muscle loss, so this is one amino acid you’ll want to ensure is in (even added to) your protein powder, especially if you are active.
- Added Sugar/Carbohydrates – look for amount and source of sweeteners added
- Added ingredients – added fruits, vegetables, minerals & vitamins make a great addition, ingredients you can’t pronounce or fillers, not so much.
- Price Per Serving – compare your price per serving, not price per container as serving size, and protein in each serving will vary.
- Taste – taste will vary among brands. Find one you enjoy the taste of. Add 1/2 a banana or 1/2 a cup of fruit for natural flavour and sweeteners and blend with unsweetened almond or rice milk.
- Protein Blend – Choose vegan protein powders that use a blend of both pea protein and brown rice protein to ensure you are getting all essential amino acids and high quality vegan protein.