Monthly Archives: February 2016

Best Plant Based Protein Powder Reviews / Comparison Chart


First, let’s get this out of the way: the best plant based protein powder for you may be completely different than me. Your age, activity level, health goals, pre-existing conditions, and hormones all play a part in determining the right powder for you.

Generally speaking though, there are two pieces of objective data we can use to evaluate “the best” protein powders: 1.) The ingredients, and 2.) The nutrition facts.

For this review, I analyzed the nutrition and ingredients for 20+ of the (supposedly) healthiest and best plant based / vegan protein powder brands.

If you currently use (or are looking to find) a healthy plant-based protein powder, I have some alarming news:

90 percent of plant based protein powders I analyzed (even the organic protein powder brands) have chemical additives, fillers, gums, and/or sugars.

If you want to find the best plant protein powders for your health, my reviews will reveal:

  • Why most whey and vegan protein powder brands are not what they say they are (and 5 questions you should always ask to find the cleanest and healthiest ones)
  • What several top health experts (including a world renowned cardiologist) look for when recommending protein powder
  • How 20+ of plant protein powders compare in terms of ingredients, nutrition, and cost.

This review is massive at 2500+ words … so I broke it up into three sections.

Scroll down or click/tap the the green and grey boxes below to navigate to each section.

 

Why Most Plant Based Protein Powder Brands Are BAD for Your Health

Protein manufacturers spend lots of dough to convince you their products are “clean” and healthy. I’m talking millions of dollars on marketing and fancy packaging with bogus health claims.

But fear not, because there’s an easy way to cut through their b.s. and find out if a protein shake is actually good for you. The first step:

Read and understand the nutrition facts and ingredients in your protein powder.

It’s the only objective piece of information you have to judge whether the ingredients are “clean” and “healthy” or not.

Here are 5 things to look for on the nutrition panel/ingredients list:

1. How many grams of sugar do you see?

Sugar is sugar. It all turns to fat in your body. Doesn’t matter if it’s from honey, maple syrup, molasses, or coconuts (although I do enjoy raw honey in moderation).

Bottom line:

Avoid all protein powders with more than 1 gram of sugar. Click To Tweet

2. Which artificial sweeteners do they use instead of real sugar?

A “clean” plant protein should definitely not contain chemical sugars like saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose anymore. But protein manufacturers are notorious for sneaking so-called “all-natural” sweeteners that may not be so good for you into their products. Here are a few to be wary of:

best vegan protein powder
Avoid these so-called “natural” sweeteners.
  • Xylitol is a cheap, processed “sugar alcohol” that can cause serious gut imbalances.
  • Monk fruit (luo han guo) is a popular sweetener many protein powder companies use. It’s commonly made using ethanol chemical resins and often contains GMO fillers.
  • Stevia. The stevia most protein companies use is chemically-derived and loaded with fillers. Organic stevia leaf extract is the cleanest … you just need to find out how it was processed (no bleaching!) and whether or not it has excipients (ask the manufacturer!).

Bottom line:

The best plant based protein blends use organic, real food ingredients and all-natural (or no) sweeteners … not GMO fillers and junk.

And again, 1 gram of total sugar should be your limit per serving.

3. What other highly-processed ingredients (flavors, gums, fillers, etc.) do they add?

Here are a few ingredients you’ll find in the majority of the so-called healthiest protein powders:

  • Natural flavors. Up to 90 percent of “natural” flavors have chemical solvents and preservatives. If you see them on the ingredients list, make sure you ask the manufacturer how they’re made and what’s in them.
  • Gums. Many so-called clean plant protein powders contain gums like carrageenan, guar, xanthan, locust bean, konjac, and acacia. Gums make vegetable protein products easier to mix and blend … but there are some reasons for concern with some of them. Many people report gut issues and certain gums have been shown in clinical studies to produce laxative effects, gas, and bloating. I recommend people with sensitive guts and GI issues avoid protein powders that have gums.
  • Lecithins. The most common way to make lecithins involves using a petroleum-based neurotoxin called hexane. Avoid powders with this cheap soy- and sunflower-based filler … or at the very least make sure it’s organic if your powder has it.
plant protein comparison chart
This is why it’s so hard to find a healthy protein powder–you have to cut through a lot of b.s. to find the hidden junk.

Bottom line:

Avoid vegan protein powder with flavors, gum, or lecithins if you have a sensitive gut. Click To Tweet

4. What types of protein do they use?

Whey has long been considered the gold standard for packing on muscle but it may come with a price. And it’s true: whey has a lot of clinical evidence that shows it’s a good source for those looking to improve body composition. However, whey protein brands like to talk up their efficacy without mentioning the possible side effects. And there are lots of them, according to the Mayo Clinic.

If whey works for you, that’s great. I recommend sticking with organic protein powder though.

Plant-based protein blends made from organic peas, rice, hemp, sacha inchi, cranberry and pumpkin seed are a better choice for those who want to avoid whey. Again, if the ingredients in your protein powder are not organic, chances are it’s sprayed with pesticides, and most of these powdered vegetable ingredients come from countries outside the U.S., where regulations may not be as strict.

Whether you choose a plant-based or animal protein like whey, pay a little more for organic. It’s worth it for the sake of your health.

Bottom line:

If your protein powder isn’t organic, you’re likely drinking chemical pesticides with that protein shake. Click To Tweet

5. How are their ingredients processed?

how is whey protein made
Whey protein processing–yuck

This is a tricky one because protein manufacturers rarely disclose this information. Most whey protein is made using a high heat, acid-flushed process.

Most companies that use vegetable proteins also use high temperature processing methods, and some even use hexane. These high-heat, chemical methods destroy vital nutrients in the plant.

A small handful of protein manufacturers will disclose how they make their proteins. Most won’t though. When in doubt, ask.

Bottom line:

Always ask the manufacturer how their proteins and other ingredients are processed. Click To Tweet

How to Find the Healthiest Protein Powders: What Health Experts Say

I asked several health and wellness gurus, “What’s your advice for finding the best plant based protein powder?

Here’s what they said:

Joel Kahn, M.D.

America’s Holistic Heart Doc, University Professor, Founder, The Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity

no whey
“I recommend clean plant-based protein powders to my patients and use them myself in a morning smoothie. When they ask me about whey my answer is “No Whey“!”

Michelle Crowder, N.D.

Licensed Naturopathic Physician

doctor recommended protein
“In general, I recommend that my patients look for real food ingredients in anything they purchase, and avoid ingredients like artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils. If cane sugar or another refined sweetener is listed, it should be organic and one of the last ingredients listed. Look for organic, hormone-free, non-GMO products. Casein and soy tend to be more allergenic than other proteins and should be avoided in general.”

Carolyn Scott-Hamilton

TV Host & Media Personality, Celebrity Vegan Chef, Holistic Nutritionist

Carolyn-Scott-Hamilton
“For me, it must be vegan but after that I look for powders that aren’t full of fillers, sugars and extra junk. I love pure, clean powders that are non-GMO and I know how to pronounce the ingredients ; )”

Alisa Fleming

Founder, GoDairyFree

Alisa-Fleming
“Since protein powder can be a daily food, I think it’s important to be sure you are comfortable with every single ingredient. I may not be as particular about a “once in a blue moon” treat, but if it is going to be in my daily diet rotation, I want to make sure it doesn’t have any questionable ingredients.”

Myra Mingo

Founder, The Happy Health Freak

Myra-Mingo
“I look for vegan protein powders with very few ingredients, no soy or gluten and sweetened naturally without chemicals.”

Samantha Shorkey

Vegan Coach and WNBF Bikini Pro

vegetarian bodybuilder protein
“At this point in my vegan bodybuilding career, I like to think of myself as a connoisseur of the top vegan protein powders. I’ve literally tried ‘em ALL! The ones I tend to gravitate the most towards are of course, the ones that taste good, have a nice texture that isn’t too gummy, chalky or gritty and are high in protein but low in fats and carbs. I prefer to eat my calories rather than drink ‘em so texture and consistency is super important. I want my protein “pudding” to be creamy. I also try to avoid protein powders that are chalk full (no pun intended) of added sugars or fake sugars. Usually the natural sweetness of vanilla and cinnamon is enough for me (and better for staying lean.)”

Best Vegan / Vegetarian Protein Powder Reviews: Compare 20 Brands

Use this handy-dandy comparison chart to see some of the so-called best plant based protein powder and nutritional shake brands on the market.

All of these guys make claims about being “clean, “healthy” and “natural”. When you start to peel back the curtain though, you’ll see there’s a lot of hidden junk in pretty much all of most popular brands

best plant based protein powder

Click/tap the numbers below to skip to each section or just scroll down to compare 20 vegan / vegetarian protein brands.

1

Protein Sources

pure food protein

Organic fermented pea protein
Organic sprouted and fermented whole grain brown rice protein
Organic hemp protein

PlantFusion ChocolatePea protein isolate, Artichoke protein, Organic sprouted amaranth, Organic sprouted quinoa
Vega Choc-a-LotPea protein, SaviSeed [sacha inchi]

protein, Hemp seed protein, Sprouted whole grain brown rice protein

Aloha ChocolateOrganic pea protein, Organic pumpkin seed protein, Organic hemp seed protein
Skoop ChocolateOrganic pea protein, Organic rice protein, Organic hemp protein
SunWarrior Warrior
Blend Chocolate
Whole grain brown rice protein
Orgain Organic Protein Powder – ChocolateOrganic pea protein, organic brown rice protein, organic chia seed, organic hemp protein
Garden of Life Organic
Chocolate Protein
Organic sprouted brown rice protein
Sprout LivingPea protein isolate, Manitoba Harvest hemp protein powder, Rice protein concentrate
Lifetime Life’s BasicsPea protein concentrate, Organic brown rice protein concentrate
MRM Veggie Elite
Chocolate Mocha
Pea protein concentrate, Organic brown rice protein concentrate
Body Ecology Fermented
Chocolate Protein Shake
Pea protein, Mushroom protein blend
HealthforceOrganic sprouted brown rice protein, Organic hemp protein
KachavaOrganic sprouted brown rice protein, Organic hemp protein
YuvePea protein isolate, Rice protein concentrate
PhilosophieOrganic hemp seed protein, Organic reishi mushroom
SannPea protein isolate, Rice protein isolate, Artichoke protein
22 Days NutritionOrganic pea protein, Organic flax, Organic sacha inchi
Growing Naturals Chocolate
Power Rice Protein
Organic brown rice
BokuOrganic brown rice, Organic cranberry
2

Calories, Protein, Sugar (g) Per Serving and Sweeteners Used

Calories

Protein

Sugar

best vegetarian powder
134
20
1

Organic stevia leaf powder

PlantFusion Chocolate
120
21
4
Fructose Stevia glucine
Vega Choc-a-Lot
90
15
2
Papaya concentrate powder Stevia leaf extract
Aloha Chocolate
150
18
4
Organic coconut sugar Monk fruit extract
Skoop Chocolate
150
20
1
Organic stevia extract Organic coconut sugar
SunWarrior Warrior
Blend Chocolate
100
16
0
Erythritol
Organic rice dextrins
Organic stevia extract
Orgain Organic Protein Powder – Chocolate
150
21
0
Organic stevia extract
Garden of Life Organic
Chocolate Protein
90
17
1
Organic stevia leaf
Sprout Living
110
19
1
Organic red banana
Organic baobab fruit
Organic stevia leaf powder
Lifetime Life’s Basics
134
22
5
Fructose Xylitol Stevia
MRM Veggie Elite Chocolate Mocha
130
24
0
Stevia extract Monk fruit extract
Body Ecology Fermented Chocolate Protein Shake
110
15
1
Stevia extract
Healthforce
100
17
2
Organic whole stevia leaf
Kachava
220
24
8
Erythritol Oligosaccharides Stevia
Yuve
155
16
2
Stevia leaf extract
Philosophie
55
10
0
Organic mesquite
Sann
116
21
1
Fructose Stevia
22 Days Nutrition
100
16
2
Organic stevia leaf extract
Growing Naturals Chocolate Power Rice Protein
120
25
3
Organic brown rice syrup solids Organic stevia
Boku
120
18
4
Vermont maple syrup Organic lucuma fruit
3

Free of Natural Flavors & Gums/Thickeners

FREE OF NATURAL
FLAVORS
FREE OF GUMS/
THICKENERS
PlantFusion ChocolateNo (natural chocolate flavor)No (silica, xanthan gum)
Vega Choc-a-LotNo (natural chocolate flavor)No (xanthan gum)
Aloha ChocolateNo (xanthan gum, organic sunflower lecithin)
Skoop ChocolateNo (organic flavor, natural flavor)No (organic acacia gum)
SunWarrior Warrior
Blend Chocolate
No (organic chocolate flavor blend)No (organic guar gum)
Orgain Vegan
Protein Powder – Chocolate
No (natural flavor, organic natural flavors)No (organic guar gum, organic acacia gum, xanthan gum)
Garden of Life Organic
Chocolate Protein
No (natural chocolate flavor, natural vanilla flavor)
Sprout Living
Lifetime Life’s BasicsNo (natural chocolate flavor)
MRM Veggie Elite Chocolate MochaNo (natural chocolate mocha flavor)No (konjac gum, guar gum, tara gum)
Body Ecology Fermented Chocolate Protein ShakeNo (natural cocoa flavors with other natural flavors)No (natural cocoa flavors with other natural flavors)
Healthforce
KachavaNo (natural chocolate flavors)No (alkalized cocoa, xanthan gum, guar gum)
YuveNo (natural flavors)No (corn starch powder, guar gum, xanthan gum)
Philosophie
SannNo (natural flavor)No (glycine, guar gum, lecithin)
22 Days NutritionNo (organic chocolate flavor)No (organic chocolate flavor)
Growing Naturals Chocolate
Power Rice Protein
No (organic flavor)No (organic guar gum, organic gum arabic, organic sunflower oil)
BokuNo (organic guar gum)
4

100% Organic Ingredients, Probiotics Added and Cost Per Gram

100% Organic
Ingredients
Probiotics
Added
Cost Per
Gram ( $ )
protein powder review

Bacillus coagulans
0.06

Bacillus coagulans

0.06
PlantFusion ChocolateNoNo
0.04
Vega Choc-a-LotNoNo
0.08
Aloha ChocolateNoNo
0.08
Skoop Chocolate
Lactobacillus plantarum
Lactobacillus bulgaricus
0.11
SunWarrior Warrior Blend ChocolateNo
0.06
Orgain Organic Protein (Chocolate)No
0.02
Garden of Life Organic Chocolate ProteinNo
Bacillus subtilis
Lactobacillus bulgaricus
0.04
Sprout LivingNo
0.07
Lifetime Life’s BasicsNoNo
0.04
MRM Veggie Elite Chocolate MochaNoNo
0.03
Body Ecology Fermented Chocolate Protein ShakeNo
Lactobacillus, Saccharomy
ces, Bifidobacterium
longum
0.10
HealthforceNo
0.06
KachavaNo
Lactobacillus rhamnosus
Lactobacillus acidophilus
0.08
YuveNoNo
0.08
PhilosophieNo
0.11
SannNoNo
0.07
22 Days NutritionNo
0.11
Growing Naturals Chocolate Power Rice ProteinNo
0.06
BokuNoNo
0.09

Click Here to Download the Free PDF Version of This Chart!

*Note: I usually update this post at least once per month. However, if you see something that looks inaccurate or you’d like me to analyze and add another product, shoot me an email (Scott@purefoodcompany.com).

Final Thoughts: What Is The Best Plant Based Protein Powder?

“Best” is subjective and depends on your unique health goals and needs. If you value ingredients and nutrition over taste, my criteria for finding the healthiest protein powder for you are pretty simple:

1. Look for ingredients that are organic and come from whole food sources you can pronounce without any additives like fillers, gums, or flavors.

2. Research the amount of protein per serving, the protein sources, sugar content, and cost per serving in grams. 

Is Pure Food Protein a Good Fit for You?

Here’s me being (probably too) honest: if you’re looking for the best tasting plant protein powder, Pure Food isn’t it. We don’t add artificial junk and chemical-ridden flavors to make our product taste better.

But if you’re done settling for “average” protein powders and the junk ingredients that wreak havoc on your body and want to try a product that will actually have a positive impact on your health (and the world), then try

The HEALTHIEST plant protein with 100% real food, organic, vegan ingredients + probiotics. 

Not only does Pure Food have the best ingredients, it’s the best value for the money at $.06/gram (the same price as Vega, which is NOT organic and has all types of fillers, additives, and “natural” flavors).

Find Out If Pure Food Is Right for You

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Whey vs Plant Protein: Dangers, Side Effects, and Myths

Whey vs plant protein … it’s a topic of much debate. In this article, I’ll break down the science and show you some possible whey protein dangers and side effects you probably didn’t know about.

First, a quick story …

When I was a young buck I liked to lift weights (still do). After every workout, I choked down a whey protein shake. If you’re a gym-goer you know exactly what I’m talking about … that overly sweet, chemical-tasting concoction that’s supposedly the best way to gain muscle fast.

Aside from the taste, my “healthy” whey protein shakes made me super bloated and wreaked havoc on my digestive system. Fast forward to my mid-thirties and my gut was a complete mess. I saw countless doctors, including several GI specialists, and spent some time in the hospital trying to figure out what was wrong with me. To this day, I still don’t have a diagnosis. But when I gave up whey protein (and all dairy, for that matter), my gut issues disappeared.

Now, as someone who studies food science and reads clinical studies in his free time, I know this story is anecdotal. In other words, it’s just one example that doesn’t lend much credibility to the plant vs protein argument. However, once I started digging into the science, I found there are plenty of whey protein side effects and I was clueless about.

So with that said, it’s time to separate the facts from the myths about whey vs plant-based protein powder. In this article, you’ll learn what whey protein is and how it’s made; the potential dangers, side effects, and myths of whey and plant proteins; and the criteria I recommend using to find a clean protein powder.

Click on each button below to navigate to each section.

 

What Is Whey Protein?

Milk contains two types of protein: casein and whey. Whey is found in the watery portion of milk. When cheese is produced, the fatty parts of the milk coagulate and the whey is separated from it as a by-product.

Whey Protein Side Effects and Dangers

Here’s what one of the most reputable medical sources on the planet, The Mayo Clinic, has to say about the possible dangers and side effects of whey protein:

Allergies

  • Avoid in people with known allergy or sensitivity to milk or milk products, including cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, goat’s milk, and mare’s milk.
  • Allergic reactions (including diarrhea, failure to thrive, infant colic, rash, and vomiting) have been reported with exposure to whey.

Side Effects

whey vs plant protein

  • Whey protein may cause abnormal heart rhythms, changes in cholesterol levels, headache, increased diabetes risk, increased fracture or osteoporosis risk, kidney dysfunction, liver damage, stomach or intestine symptoms (acid reflux, bloating, constipation, cramps, gas, increased bowel movements, movement problems, nausea, reduced appetite, swelling of limbs, and upset stomach), and thirst.
  • Whey protein may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in people with diabetes or low blood sugar, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar.
  • Whey protein may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in people with bleeding disorders or in those taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
  • Whey protein may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver’s “cytochrome P450” enzyme system.
  • Whey protein may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people with low blood pressure or in those taking drugs or herbs and supplements that lower blood pressure.
  • Drowsiness or sedation may occur. Use caution if driving or operating heavy machinery.
  • Use cautiously in people who take medications, including agents that affect the immune system and agents that lower cholesterol.
  • Use cautiously in people with stomach or intestine disorders.
  • Avoid in people with known allergy or sensitivity to milk or milk products, including cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, goat’s milk, and mare’s milk.
  • Avoid in people who are avoiding the use of dairy products.
The Mayo Clinic says to avoid using whey protein long-term and in excessive amounts. Click To Tweet

Source:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/whey-protein/safety/hrb-20060532

Whey Protein Myths

Myth #1: Whey is a health food

Whey is a waste product of cheese-making. It was discarded for hundreds of years until some greedy corporations realized they could profit from it.

In its natural form, whey from pasture-raised cows may have some health benefits for people who can tolerate it.

However, most dairy products in your average grocery store, whey included, are anything but natural.

Most whey protein you buy comes from malnourished, stressed, diseased animals from factory farms. If this isn’t reason enough to scrap your whey protein shake, this fun tidbit might: food companies process whey so it’s cheaper and easier to make using a high-heat, acid-flushed, chemical process. Then, they add artificial ingredients, fillers, and unhealthy sweeteners to cover up the acidic, chemical taste.

Sources:

https://examine.com/supplements/whey-protein/#effect-matrix

https://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/not-all-whey-protein-is-created-equal

Myth #2: Whey is more “bioavailable”

“Bioavailability” is a scientific term used to describe the extent to which a substance is absorbed in your body.

Problem is, the standard measures don’t hold up too well to scientific scrutiny when it comes to measuring protein powders. A few examples:

  1. Biological Value (BV), which measures how efficiently your body uses protein, doesn’t take into account several key factors that influence digestion and interaction with other foods.
  2. Protein Efficiency Ratio Value (PER), which measures the effectiveness of protein based on animal growth, has only been demonstrated in animal studies—which means it doesn’t necessarily correlate to humans.
  3. Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAA) is a measure created by the World Health Organization (WHO) to more accurately measure protein digestibility in malnourished people—but it hasn’t been tested with strength training athletes so sports scientists have questioned its effectiveness.

Long story short:

Most of the evidence about bioavailability of protein powders is anecdotal. Click To Tweet

This means scientists don’t actually have large scale, peer-reviewed clinical data that “bioavailability” has any actual impact on your body.

There is NOT a significant body of evidence to support whey protein as being more effective than other protein sources.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23107546

https://examine.com/supplements/whey-protein/#effect-matrix

Myth #3: Whey is a more “complete” protein

You may have heard that plant proteins are “incomplete” and can only become “complete” when you combine them with other proteins. According to Drs. Andrew Weil and Michael Bluejay, research has shown this commonly-held belief is 100% inaccurate!

Research shows whey protein offers NO BENEFITS over other protein sources. Click To Tweet

Sources:

https://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/QAA142995

http://michaelbluejay.com/veg/protein.html

https://examine.com/supplements/whey-protein/#effect-matrix

Myth #4: Whey protein is best for weight loss and muscle gain

Not true. Examine.com offers up this conclusion based on clinical studies:

best protein powder for muscleThe influence of whey protein on weight per se is highly unreliable, and is subject to the overall context of the diet. Protein in general can aid weight loss attempts and is required to build lean mass, with whey not having any demonstrated benefit over other protein sources.

Sources:

https://examine.com/supplements/whey-protein/#effect-matrix

Plant Protein Dangers

So plant protein powders like rice, hemp, pea, and soy must be better for you, right?

Not necessarily.

Some are actually worse.

Here’s why:

  1. whey protein dangersMany of the supposedly-healthy plant proteins used in foods today are processed using hexane, an explosive chemical neurotoxin that can damage your central nervous system. Using hexane is an efficient and highly profitable way for food manufacturers to remove oil from plants.
  2. Vegan protein powders that aren’t made with organic ingredients are likely to contain potentially harmful pesticides and herbicides. Since most of these plant proteins come from countries where pesticide use is not enforced, your healthy protein shake is more likely to be a chemical cocktail.
  3. Most vegan, gluten, and dairy free protein powders are made using high temperature processing methods, which destroys the healthy nutrients in the plant and makes it harder for your body to digest.

Source:

https://www.naturalnews.com/026303_hexane_soy_food.html

The Final Verdict: Plant Vs Whey Protein

Here’s my advice based on my extensive research and personal use:

Whey protein's potential dangers and side effects outweigh its benefits. Click To Tweet

Choose organic plant-based protein powders that:

1) only have ingredients you recognize as real food,

2) are low in sugar, and

3) use an all-natural, low heat, enzyme-based method to separate their protein from the plant.

The side effects of whey protein outweigh the benefits. When in doubt, ask the manufacturer how their proteins are made, where they come from, and if their ingredients are organic. If they won’t tell you this information, it’s time to pick another protein powder.