First off, 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, we 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, here’s some bad news:
99 percent of plant based protein powders we analyzed (even the “best” organic protein powder brands) have chemical additives, fillers, gums, and/or sugars.
If you want to find the ideal plant protein powders for your health, our 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).
- Why most vegan protein powder reviews you find online are biased.
- What several top health experts (including a world renowned cardiologist) look for in their protein powders.
- How 20+ of plant protein powders compare in terms of ingredients, nutrition, and cost.
This review is massive at nearly 3,000 words … so we broke it up into three sections. Scroll down or click/tap the green and grey boxes below to navigate to each section.
Note: We do sell our own organic plant-based protein powders, which of course means we’re biased. That’s why these reviews are NOT based on subjective criteria like taste; rather, we will look at how our products compare to the competition when it comes to:
- Protein Sources
- Nutrition (calories, protein, and sugar per serving; sweeteners used)
- Ingredients (gums, flavors, fillers used; organic ingredients)
- Cost Per Gram of Protein
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. We’re 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: [bctt tweet=”Avoid all protein powders with more than 1 gram of sugar.” username=”nutritionguy”]
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:
- 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. Organic monkfruit extract that doesn’t contain extra fillers is a good sugar-free sweetener (the taste can be extremely bitter when companies use too much though, which is often the case).
- 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!).
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.
Bottom line:[bctt tweet=”Avoid vegan protein powder with flavors, gum, or lecithins if you have a sensitive gut.” username=”nutritionguy”]
4. What types of protein do they use?
Whey has long been considered the gold standard for packing on muscle.
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 for many folks.
If whey works for you, that’s great. Regardless of whether you choose a whey or plant protein, I recommend sticking with a protein powder with organic ingredients though.
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:[bctt tweet=”If your protein powder isn’t organic, you’re likely drinking chemical pesticides with that protein shake.” username=”nutritionguy”]
5. How are their ingredients processed?
This is a tricky one because protein manufacturers rarely disclose this information.
These high-heat, chemical methods destroy vital nutrients in the plant and are definitely not things you want to be ingesting.
A small handful of protein manufacturers will disclose how they make their proteins. Most won’t though. When in doubt, ask. If they don’t know or don’t tell you, this is a big red flag.
Bottom line:[bctt tweet=”Always ask the manufacturer how their proteins and other ingredients are processed.” username=”nutritionguy”]
Why Most Vegan Protein Powder Reviews You Find Online Are Unreliable
Most plant protein reviews you see online have a vested interest in selling more products.
If you visit the manufacturer websites, you’ll see a cherry-picked selection of 5-star reviews. But these don’t tell the whole story.
Amazon used to be a good source of unbiased reviews. But companies have figured out how to manipulate these and reward consumers for buying their product and leaving a good review, so these aren’t the best source of unbiased information anymore either.
As a consumer, it’s up to you to review the ingredients, the nutrition facts, and the company to judge for yourself if it’s worth your investment. It’s no easy feat, and most people just don’t have the time to do the level of research required to make sure you’re not getting a tub full of junk ingredients from China.
So with that in mind, let’s talk about how some health experts choose their vegan protein powders …
How to Find the Best Protein Powders: What Health Experts Say
I asked several health and wellness gurus, “What are the top things you advise people to look for when choosing protein powders?” Here’s what they said:
America’s Holistic Heart Doc, University Professor, Founder, The Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity
“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“!”
Licensed Naturopathic Physician
“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.”
TV Host & Media Personality, Celebrity Vegan Chef, Holistic Nutritionist
“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 ; )”
“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.”
Founder, The Happy Health Freak
“I look for vegan protein powders with very few ingredients, no soy or gluten and sweetened naturally without chemicals.”
Vegan Coach and WNBF Bikini Pro
“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 our plant protein comparison chart to see some of the best 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
Click/tap the numbers below to skip to each section or just scroll down to compare 20 vegan / vegetarian protein brands.
|PlantFusion Chocolate||Pea protein isolate, artichoke protein, organic sprouted amaranth, organic sprouted quinoa|
|Vega One||Pea protein, sunflower seed protein, pumpkin seed protein|
|Aloha Chocolate||Organic pea protein, organic pumpkin seed protein, organic hemp seed protein|
|Skoop Chocolate||Organic pea protein, organic rice protein, organic hemp protein|
|SunWarrior Warrior Blend Chocolate||Organic pea protein, organic hemp protein|
|Orgain Organic Protein Powder – Chocolate||Organic pea protein, organic brown rice protein, organic chia seed, organic hemp protein|
|Garden of Life Organic Chocolate Protein||Organic sprouted brown rice protein|
|Sprout Living||Pea protein isolate, hemp protein powder, rice protein concentrate|
|Lifetime Life’s Basics||Pea 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|
|Healthforce||Organic sprouted brown rice protein, organic hemp protein|
|Kachava||Organic sprouted brown rice protein, organic hemp protein|
|Yuve||Pea protein isolate, rice protein concentrate|
|Philosophie||Organic hemp seed protein, organic reishi mushroom|
|Sann||Pea protein isolate, rice protein isolate, artichoke protein|
|22 Days Nutrition||Organic pea protein, organic ﬂax, organic sacha inchi|
|Growing Naturals Chocolate Power Rice Protein||Organic brown rice|
|Boku||Organic brown rice, organic cranberry|
Calories, Protein, Sugar (g) Per Serving and Sweeteners Used
|Vega One Chocolate|
|Stevia leaf extract|
|Organic coconut sugar Monk fruit extract|
|Organic stevia extract Organic coconut sugar|
|SunWarrior Warrior Blend Chocolate|
|Erythritol Organic rice dextrins Organic stevia extract|
|Orgain Organic Protein Powder – Chocolate|
|Organic stevia extract|
|Garden of Life Organic Chocolate Protein|
|Organic stevia leaf|
|Organic red banana Organic baobab fruit Organic stevia leaf powder|
|Lifetime Life’s Basics|
|Fructose Xylitol Stevia|
|MRM Veggie Elite Chocolate Mocha|
|Stevia extract Monk fruit extract|
|Body Ecology Fermented Chocolate Protein Shake|
|Organic whole stevia leaf|
|Erythritol Oligosaccharides Stevia|
|Stevia leaf extract|
|22 Days Nutrition|
|Organic stevia leaf extract|
|Growing Naturals Chocolate Power Rice Protein|
|Organic brown rice syrup solids Organic stevia|
|Vermont maple syrup Organic lucuma fruit|
Free of Natural Flavors & Gums/Thickeners
|PlantFusion Chocolate||No (natural chocolate ﬂavor)||No (silica, xanthan gum)|
|Vega One Chocolate||No (natural chocolate ﬂavor)||No (xanthan gum)|
|Aloha Chocolate||No (xanthan gum, organic sunﬂower lecithin)|
|Skoop Chocolate||No (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)|
|Lifetime Life’s Basics||No (natural chocolate flavor)|
|MRM Veggie Elite Chocolate Mocha||No (natural chocolate mocha ﬂavor)||No (konjac gum, guar gum, tara gum)|
|Body Ecology Fermented Chocolate Protein Shake||No (natural cocoa ﬂavors with other natural ﬂavors)||No (natural cocoa ﬂavors with other natural ﬂavors)|
|Kachava||No (natural chocolate ﬂavors)||No (alkalized cocoa, xanthan gum, guar gum)|
|Yuve||No (natural ﬂavors)||No (corn starch powder, guar gum, xanthan gum)|
|Sann||No (natural ﬂavor)||No (glycine, guar gum, lecithin)|
|22 Days Nutrition||No (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)|
|Boku||No (organic guar gum)|
Organic Ingredients, Probiotics Added and Cost Per Gram
|Vega One Chocolate||No||No|
|Skoop Chocolate||Lactobacillus plantarum Lactobacillus bulgaricus|
|SunWarrior Warrior Blend Chocolate||No|
|Orgain Organic Protein (Chocolate)||No|
|Garden of Life Organic Chocolate Protein||No||Bacillus subtilis Lactobacillus bulgaricus|
|Lifetime Life’s Basics||No||No|
|MRM Veggie Elite Chocolate Mocha||No||No|
|Body Ecology Fermented Chocolate Protein Shake||No||Lactobacillus, Saccharomy ces, Biﬁdobacterium longum|
|Kachava||No||Lactobacillus rhamnosus Lactobacillus acidophilus|
|22 Days Nutrition||No|
|Growing Naturals Chocolate Power Rice Protein||No|
*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. Find out 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 sugar, 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).