If you’re plant-based, you’ve no doubt been asked where you get your protein from. Today we’re going to provide a definitive answer to this annoying question. We’re going to give you all the info you need on different types of vegan protein, their uses, and their important factors.
5 Factors to Consider When Choosing Vegan Protein
Getting protein from plants is easy enough, but if you’re looking for an extra boost you’re going to benefit from a high-protein supplement.
There are a few important factors you need to look at when weighing up your options and choosing the best supplement for your needs:
- Protein content
- Amino acid profile (completeness)
- Nutritional information
- Taste and blend
- Key uses
We’re going to compare some of the most common vegan protein sources for these key factors. Informed choices are the goal, and we’re going to make sure you can choose the right product for your goal.
4 Types of Vegan Protein Powder
Soy protein is the most common form of plant protein supplement on the market, being well-known for its complete amino acid profile and relatively high concentrations of protein per serving. Soy is a common ingredient of many plant-based diets and this partially explains its popularity.
Aside from the protein content, however, soy is hit and miss. On one hand, it contains useful compounds like Iron and manganese which are essential for blood health and enzyme function. Contrastingly, the value of Soy is dependent on your gut microbes and if you have the right environment.
Soy protein is also a great choice because it tastes fairly neutral (as we’re going to see, this isn’t always the case) and takes well to other flavours. It blends well, doesn’t taste too strong and is versatile: you can use it for almost anything you’d use any other protein powder for.
Pea protein is another popular protein source on the plant-based market but has a less-complete amino acid profile than soy. It is lacking in the essential amino acids necessary for human function and muscle repair. Peas lack the methionine and cysteine that can be found in their dairy and soy counterparts.
This makes peas an inferior protein by itself when compared to alternatives. Pea protein also has a very distinctive taste and smell which has put many people off. Even with the addition of classic protein flavours (such as strawberry or chocolate), the unmistakable flavouring of dried pea is obvious.
Pea protein does, however, have great benefits to heart health and high arginine content can help with the management of diabetes when combined with exercise.
In many ways, pea protein comes out pretty badly in a comparison. The distinctive flavour can be unpleasant, making it unpopular as a baking or shake ingredient. It may be a good choice for green shakes and vegetable soups, but the applications are much narrower than Soy and niche at best.
One problem you’re not going to have with super pea protein, however, is mixing or bioavailability. If you’re looking for a distinctive flavour and a plant protein that packs extra nutrients then be brave and go for the best. Super pea is the best pea protein on the market: I know it, you know it, everybody knows it.
Hemp is a better choice than pea but hasn’t achieved the same popularity that soy has seen, despite being a complete protein source. It also has excellent bioavailability and digestibility, unlikely to cause any discomfort or bloating.
Initial research on the nutritional components of hemp protein also seem to suggest benefits for immune system function and energy transfer. Animal trials also suggest the possibility of improved kidney health and cardiovascular health markers.
Hemp is also versatile because of the gentle flavour that it naturally possesses, making it an excellent choice for baking and shakes. In many ways, the difference between hemp and pea proteins are down to personal preference on the taste of the two sources.
Rice protein is not a complete protein, with a reduced content of Lysine compared to other plant sources. Like pea protein, this puts rice protein at a distinct disadvantage compared to market alternatives.
Unlike pea protein, however, brown rice protein has a relatively pleasant taste. Unfortunately, it has an unimpressive nutritional profile outside of the protein count. This means that you’re going to need a very well-balanced and nutrient-dense diet if you’re going to choose rice protein.
The pleasant and mild taste of brown rice protein is also a great choice for use in baking, as it is a gentle and pleasant flavour.
Blends: The Solution?
Blending incomplete proteins is one of the easiest and most effective ways of increasing your protein completeness and negating some of the more common problems associated with single-source proteins.
Rice & Pea Protein Blends
Rice and pea blends are the best example of this. While they’re both incomplete proteins, they’re incomplete in different ways and the combination of the two cancels out any deficiency in amino acids. It is also well-known that the tastes of brown rice and pea proteins balance well, reducing the prohibitive “aroma” of pea proteins.
The blend of these proteins is also going to counter-act the nutritional scarcity of rice protein, ensuring that you are consuming enough essential micronutrients. This isn’t meant to be a replacement to a well-balanced diet, but it does increase the nutritional value of your protein shake or bakes.
Ready-Made Vegan Protein Blends
A blend of vegan protein sources can also include smaller amounts of less common, health-promoting sources. Our Complete Vegan Blend™ includes quinoa (keen-wah) as well as rice and pea, providing a greater completeness and increasing the concentration of micronutrients compared to rice or pea independently.
What’s your Best Vegan Protein Option?
Your best option for a vegan protein is going to depend on what you’re looking for and whether you prefer the taste of hemp, soy or rice/pea blend. The beauty of this is that you now have many options on the market where once it was whey or nothing.
The development of vegan protein alternatives is a great move for the industry and having nutrient-dense protein alternatives is excellent for improving your overall dietary quality.
Everyone should take these alternatives seriously: plant proteins offer distinctive health benefits that should appeal to omnivores and vegans alike.