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).
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.
- 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.
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?
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:
America’s Holistic Heart Doc, University Professor, Founder, The Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity
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.
Licensed Naturopathic Physician
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 ; )
TV Host & Media Personality, Celebrity Vegan Chef, Holistic Nutritionist
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
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.)
Vegan Coach and WNBF Bikini Pro
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
Click/tap the numbers below to skip to each section or just scroll down to compare 20 vegan / vegetarian protein brands.
Organic fermented pea protein
Organic sprouted and fermented whole grain brown rice protein
Organic hemp protein
|PlantFusion Chocolate||Pea protein isolate, Artichoke protein, Organic sprouted amaranth, Organic sprouted quinoa|
|Vega Choc-a-Lot||Pea protein, SaviSeed [sacha inchi]|
protein, Hemp seed protein, Sprouted whole grain brown rice 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|
|Whole grain brown rice protein|
|Orgain Organic Protein Powder – Chocolate||Organic pea protein, organic brown rice protein, organic chia seed, organic hemp protein|
|Garden of Life Organic|
|Organic sprouted brown rice protein|
|Sprout Living||Pea protein isolate, Manitoba Harvest hemp protein powder, Rice protein concentrate|
|Lifetime Life’s Basics||Pea protein concentrate, Organic brown rice protein concentrate|
|MRM Veggie Elite|
|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
Organic stevia leaf powder
|Fructose Stevia glucine|
|Papaya concentrate powder Stevia leaf extract|
|Organic coconut sugar Monk fruit extract|
|Organic stevia extract Organic coconut sugar|
Organic rice dextrins
Organic stevia extract
|Orgain Organic Protein Powder – Chocolate|
|Organic stevia extract|
|Garden of Life Organic|
|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 Choc-a-Lot||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)|
|No (organic chocolate ﬂavor blend)||No (organic guar gum)|
Protein Powder – Chocolate
|No (natural flavor, organic natural ﬂavors)||No (organic guar gum, organic acacia gum, xanthan gum)|
|Garden of Life Organic|
|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)|
100% Organic Ingredients, Probiotics Added and Cost Per Gram
Gram ( $ )
|SunWarrior Warrior Blend Chocolate||No|
|Orgain Organic Protein (Chocolate)||No|
|Garden of Life Organic Chocolate Protein||No|
|Lifetime Life’s Basics||No||No|
|MRM Veggie Elite Chocolate Mocha||No||No|
|Body Ecology Fermented Chocolate Protein Shake||No|
|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. 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).