If you’re vegetarian or vegan, it can be a challenge to get enough quality protein. Taking meat, fish, and other seafood off the table makes it difficult. Removing eggs and dairy on top of that means you really have to get creative to get complete proteins (more on that in a minute).
Fortunately, plant-based protein powders are widely available to help you supplement your protein intake. And plant-based proteins aren’t just for vegans. They’re a convenient (and tasty) way to meet anyone’s protein needs. There are a few things you want to look for in a clean plant-based protein powder. Here’s what you need to know.
In this article, you will learn:
- The benefits of plant protein
- The problem with most plant-based protein powder
- 7 tips for choosing a high quality plant-based protein powder
- How to choose the best plant-based protein for your body
Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids. There are 20 different types of amino acid in proteins, and of those 20, humans can produce 11 on their own. The remaining 9 are essential amino acids – your body can’t make them, so you have to get them from food.
Most plants are incomplete sources of protein – a single plant won’t contain all 9 essential amino acids that you need. That’s why many vegans and vegetarians make sure they mix and match their protein sources to make “complete proteins”.
Now, however, you can just turn to a well-designed plant-based protein powder for all your protein needs. The best plant proteins are complete – they have the full spectrum of essential amino acids. Your body can’t tell a good plant protein apart from animal protein. It uses the amino acids just the same. That means you can use a 100% plant-based protein powder that’s just as good as animal protein.
This also makes a well-balanced plant protein perfect for meat eaters looking to cycle their protein sources. Food cycling is important. Eating the same kinds of foods day in and day out can lead to food sensitivities. Plus, cycling your food sources will give your body an array of nutrients.
That said, many of the plant proteins on the market aren’t great. Some of them aren’t complete. Others aren’t organic. Some have GMOs, and many plant-based protein powders rely on crappy grain-based fillers, artificial sweeteners, or heaps of sugar to improve taste and texture.
If you’re looking for a high-quality plant-based protein powder to help your body build and repair, use these tips to help you choose:
If you’re reading this, you’re probably a careful consumer. You want the cleanest, most nutritious plant protein available. Well, you’re in luck. We’ve made a checklist for you.
Make sure your plant protein is organic. You don’t want the plants your protein comes from drenched in pesticides. This is an especially big concern with conventional soy protein – it often comes from GMO soy that was bred to withstand huge pesticide loads. And even if none of those pesticides make it into your food, they’re destroying the planet. Go organic. It’s worth it.
2) Complete protein
A lot of single-source protein powders (rice protein, pea protein, and wheat protein, for example) don’t contain the 9 essential amino acids you need. Other vegetarian protein sources (like ground chia seeds) are complete, but don’t contain very much total protein.
Opt for a complete protein powder to make sure you’re getting essential amino acids. Complete plant protein powders often have carefully chosen blends of different plants to cover the full spectrum of amino acids.
It so happens that Natural Force Plant Protein is organic, non-GMO, and contains a blend of sunflower, pea, and pumpkin proteins to cover all your essential amino acids. So, look for something like that!
3) Sustainably sourced
Look for a sustainable protein source. Some ingredients are harvested at a detriment to the environment or the people that grow it. We only get one Earth. It’s worth a little extra diligence to take of it. There are plenty of sustainable plant proteins on the market. Most will say “Non-GMO certified” or “sustainably sourced” on their packaging. If you’re unsure, just write the company and ask. Most of them are happy to talk about their sourcing!
4) Quality ingredients
It can be difficult to make plant protein taste good. Most plant protein powders are gritty, bitter, or have an off-putting color. Some companies fix the problem by adding a bunch of synthetic sweeteners, flow agents, fillers, artificial flavors, and/or artificial colorings. Or they’ll just load it with sugar (yes, honey, agave, and coconut sugar count as sugar).
Always check your labels for suspicious ingredients. Common sweeteners to avoid are:
- Acesulfame-potassium (acesulfame-K)
- Brown rice syrup (a fancy source of sugar)
- Coconut sugar
Instead, choose a plant protein powder that uses all-natural stevia and natural flavors.
Not all proteins are created equal. Opt for protein powders that are rich in micronutrients. Pumpkin protein, for example, is rich in magnesium and potassium, and pea protein is packed with calcium, zinc, iron, and vitamin E. You might as well get some extra vitamins and minerals with your protein.
Honestly, we don’t know much about the long-term effects of GMO crops. They haven’t been around long enough for us to say what kind of health problems they’ll cause down the line. On top of that, the majority of GMO crops are modified to withstand extraordinary levels of pesticides – pesticides that kill everything else and leave the GMO crop.
Jane Goodall said it well: “Someday we will look back on this era of agriculture and shake our heads. How could we have ever believed it was a good idea to grow our food with poisons?”
Avoid the question of genetic modification and the issue of synthetic pesticides. Choose a non-GMO protein powder.
If you’re Paleo, Primal, or just sensitive to gluten or grains, opt for a grain-free protein powder. You have a lot of solid options: hemp protein, pea protein, spirulina, and more. For more, check out our article on the 5 best grain-free plant proteins.
One of the main criteria for choosing a plant-based protein is that you’ll actually use it! Make sure it tastes good and that it’s convenient for you to use. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, make sure to add other protein-rich plants to your diet like legumes, rice, almonds, broccoli, and spinach to your diet as well.
Natural Force’s Organic Plant Protein meets all the points in this article, and we think it’s the best on the market. Or, feel free to take the above checklist with you next time you’re shopping to make sure you get the most out of your plant-based protein.
Are you using a plant-based protein you like? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
Also published on Medium.