It’s not often you find a protein balls recipe that’s vegan, grain-free, Paleo / keto-friendly, has no added sugar, requires no baking, and still tastes delicious.
But that’s exactly what we’re bringing you with this new recipe. As you’ll see on our recipes page, we’ve made several variations of protein balls before but this one is quite unique.
It has a combo of several “superfood” nuts and seeds, including pistachios, walnuts, flax, chia, and coconut. Toss in some Pure Food Vanilla Protein Powder with Probiotics and you get a nutritious, guilt-free snack or dessert that kiddos will enjoy too (my 6-year-old had a blast preparing and eating these, as you’ll see in the pics that follow).
Health-wise, here are just a few of the perks:
Walnuts can help you improve cognitive (brain) function and also reduce the risk of other diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, depression, and type 2 diabetes, which are risk factors for the development of dementia.
Pistachios have a high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential. Among nuts, pistachios also have a lower fat and energy content and the highest levels of K, γ-tocopherol, vitamin K, phytosterols, xanthophyll carotenoids, certain minerals (Cu, Fe and Mg), vitamin B₆ and thiamin.
Flaxseed is a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha linolenic acid, the lignan secoisolariciresinol diglucoside and fiber. These compounds provide bioactivity of value to the health of animals and humans through their anti-inflammatory action, anti-oxidative capacity and lipid modulating properties.
Coconut meat contains MCT oil, or medium-chain triglycerides. That’s the extract that people put in smoothies and coffee. MCT oil has unique benefits. It seems to lower two key hunger hormones, cueing a person to eat less. And MCTs convert more easily into energy compared with other sources of fat, like animal meat, so athletes consider it workout fuel.
Chia seeds contain healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, dietary fiber, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Aside from this, the seeds are an excellent source of polyphenols and antioxidants, such as caffeic acid, rosmarinic acid, myricetin, quercetin, and others.
Pure Food Plant-based Protein Powder contains a multi-source protein blend that’s just as effective as whey with the digestive side effects. And unlike other plant proteins, it’s 100% organic, high in fiber and contains no sugar.
Most Shakeology reviews have one thing in common: a vested interest in selling Beachbody (the parent company of Shakeology) products.
That’s because all these reviews are written by Beachbody “Coaches.” [side note: I was a Coach for a short stint at one point, so I’m very familiar with their marketing methods.]
While we do sell a plant protein powder of our own, this analysis/review of Shakeology’s products is unbiased because we use three objective criteria when evaluating their protein powders: 1.) Ingredients, 2.) Nutrition, and 3.) Cost.
Here’s the thing …
Shakeology actually has a lot of good stuff in it.
And, it’s one of the best tasting plant-based protein powders I’ve ever tried.
Unfortunately, there’s a reason for that, as you’re about to see.
Scroll below to see our Shakeology review …
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Similar to my other plant-based protein powder analyses, I am judging Beachbody’s Shakeology protein powders based on health and nutrition … NOT taste. It tastes freakin’ great, as I’ve already mentioned. If taste is your only criteria when choosing protein powders, then this one’s a winner.
But if you also care about what’s in it then read on, because in the next section I’ll provide an analysis of Shakeology’s products as a whole and tell you the 5 things that concern me most about it.
Then we’ll look at the complete nutrition facts and ingredients for each product separately.
Let’s jump in …
Shakeology Nutrition Summary: All Products
Grams of Protein
Regular Shakeology: Whey protein isolate, pea protein, sacha inchi, flax, chia, quinoa
Shakeology has “natural” flavors. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has an awesome web resource that evaluates the safety of the most common food additives. In its “Safety Ratings,” CSPI says natural flavors “may trigger an acute, allergic reaction, intolerance, or other problems.”
Next we’ll break down the nutrition facts and ingredients for each of Shakeology’s products/flavors separately.
Shakeology Protein Shakes Nutrition and Ingredients
Alrighty, let’s start with the good. I actually love a lot of the ingredients in Shakelogy:
Seeds: chia, flax, and quinoa
Greens: moringa, chlorella, kale, spinach, and spirulina
“Adaptogenic blend”: ashwagandha, maca, etc.
However, like I said above, there are 5 major issues I have with Shakeology’s products:
They’re not organic. Any “superfood” that’s not organic may be sprayed with cancer-causing pesticides and other chemicals. The only way to find out if a protein manufacturer’s ingredients contain these chemicals is to ask if they’ve done independent testing.
Sugar content. 6-8 grams of added sugar is just too much for a 160-170-calorie protein shake for non-athletes. If your body isn’t using that sugar during exercise, it will get converted into fat.
Price. At $.10/gram, Shakeology is one of the more expensive protein powders on the market. It retails at $130 for 30 servings.
Whey protein. For people sensitive to dairy, whey is not a good protein choice. Read my article Whey Vs Plant Protein. Shakeology does make several vegan proteins, as you’ll see below … but they all have 6-8 grams of sugar, depending on the flavor.
“Natural” flavors. Natural flavors can contain hundreds of different substances–many of them chemicals–and still be called “natural.” Here’s what the EWG has to say about them:
Consumers may be surprised to learn that so-called “natural flavors” can actually contain synthetic chemicals such as the solvent propylene glycol or the preservative BHA. Flavor extracts derived from genetically engineered crops may also be labeled “natural,” because the FDA has not fully defined what that term means.
Shakeology has four different flavors that are available in both whey and plant-based options: chocolate, vanilla, cafe latte, and strawberry.
Let’s have a look at the nutrition facts and ingredients for each, starting with the vegan ones, which I recommend over the whey protein based shakes.
Shakeology’s Chocolate flavor is rated 3.1 out of 5 stars by reviewers on Amazon.
Here are the most helpful positive and negative reviews:
Most Helpful Positive Review:
5.0 out of 5 starsSome people love it, some hate it. We Love it!
I had been wanting to try shakeology for a long time. But the price was just too high for my budget. I have a few friends who are “coaches” and have tried to sell to me. But again, it’s just been too expensive. My financial situation has improved a little and I was encouraged by a friend to at least give it a try. The sample box is $29.95 +shipping and tax. I live in a state that doesn’t have sales tax, luckily, so that saved me a few bucks.
5 days passed and I got my package in the mail. At this point I was really excited to try it and see how it tasted and how it affected my eating habits throughout the day. Let me share with you that I love food. I’m over-weight, but I’m not terribly over weight. I’m 5’5″ and weigh about 160lbs. My ideal weight is around 135-140.
The first day, I tossed a packet of the regular Chocolate flavor in my blender bottle with 16oz water and 4oz 1% (cows) milk and about 5 ice cubes and blended the holy hell out of it. I had read some reviews prior to purchasing about how it smelled better than it tasted. This kinda worried me when I smelled the powder and it smelled gross. Uh-oh, I thought, this is going to be a bust.
BUT IT WASN’T! For a meal replacement shake, it was pretty good! I took a couple drinks to really get a feel for the shake. This is something I could stand to drink everyday. I had my boyfriend try it, he really enjoyed it as well, which is surprising because he is relatively picky AND doesn’t like many healthy foods. So the fact that Mr. Picky also stated he could stand to drink a shake everyday, says something.
The only thing we both noticed was the artificial sugar after taste. It’s not terrible, but you notice it.
I have also tried the Strawberry, Vanilla and Vegan Chocolate. They’re all good. I haven’t tried any of the fancy recipes that you can find on the Beachbody website or Pinterest, I’ve blended them all plain.
As far as food cravings and my food intake throughout the day. I used to eat upwards of 2100-2200 calories per day. I’m a avid snacker and again, I love food. Since starting Shakeo, I’ve been able to keep my calories around 1400-1500 each day. It hasn’t done much in the way of energy, but that could be due to the fact that I’m trying to cut down on my coffee intake and replace it with Shakeo. I will try to come back in the end of June and post an update on if I’ve had any significant help with losing weight from Shakeology.
Most Helpful Negative Review:
1.0 out of 5 starsNew formula ruined it
I drank Shakeology for years. I stuck with either the regular chocolate or vegan chocolate. I realize it was very pricey; but, it offered a good amount of nutrition and did a great job curbing cravings so I was willing to pay. I loved it for a long time. In fact, I looked forward to drinking a shake each day. It took care of any cravings for sweets that I had and filled me up. It was a fantastic meal replacement when I was on the go. However, a few months back, I noticed a much different taste to the shakes. I called to see if I had gotten a bad bag or something. I was informed that there was a new formula and that is why it tasted different. The new formula makes the taste so bad that I can’t stomach a couple of sips of it (that is why I cannot give this product more than 1 star). I can’t even describe it, it is just horrible. I am so disappointed in this change. I have yet to find something else that take care of my cravings and fill me up like Shakeology used to.
Bottom Line: Is Shakeology Good for You?
Even though I have strong opinions about protein powders, I tried to remain as unbiased as possible in my Shakeology reviews.
From a nutrition standpoint, there are some really nice ingredients in Shakeology: quality protein sources in their plant-based ones along with a nice mix of adaptogenic herbs, mushroom powders, and other superfoods.
However, the problems I have with Beachbody’s Shakeology shakes is they a) are not organic; b) have 6-8 grams of sugar per serving, c) contain flavors, and d) are not cheap.
There are definitely worse protein powders you can buy, and the Chocolate Vegan flavor is the “cleanest” of the bunch when it comes to ingredients, based on my analysis.
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:
Nutrition (calories, protein, and sugar per serving; sweeteners used)
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:
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.
[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.
[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.
Most whey protein is made using a high heat, acid-flushed process. Many companies that use plant-based / vegetable proteins also use high temperature processing methods, and some even use hexane.
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.
[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.
“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.”
“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.
*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).
Dairy and gluten are two of the most common food allergens. 65% of U.S. adults are lactose intolerant and up to 3% are allergic to dairy … so it comes as no surprise that demand for protein powders that are gluten and dairy free has went up in recent years.
1.) The abundance of hidden junk ingredients to be wary of (for example, most of the so-called best dairy free protein powders are loaded with added sugar and mystery chemicals and additives that may be doing your body more harm than good).
2.) Most people are relying on highly biased online reviews, which are cherry-picked by brands. I’ll share my “secret” for making sure you understand the pros and cons of each protein company you consider.
Long story short, just because you buy a protein powder without dairy or gluten, doesn’t mean it’s “healthy.”
In this guide, we’ll share our 5-step checklist you can use to objectively find the healthiest and best gluten free and non-dairy powders for you.
Why 99% of Gluten Free / Dairy Free Protein Powders Are Complete Junk (Even the Organic Ones)
Most of the time, the best selling protein powder brands are highly processed, pseudo-health foods with very good marketing.
So how do you see through the marketing hype and objectively assess which powders are worthy contenders?
First, you consult the only two pieces of objective information on the food label: the nutrition facts panel and ingredients list.
Most of the time, protein powder manufacturers will add chemical fillers, sugar, thickeners, fillers, and/or other unhealthy ingredients to make the product taste and mix better.
Here are the “Big Five” questions you should ask to find the healthiest dairy free and gluten free protein powder (or any high protein plant-based foods, for that matter):
5 Steps to Find the Healthiest Protein Powder Without Dairy and Gluten
Check the sugar content. Sugar—no matter if it’s from cane honey, maple syrup, molasses, or coconuts—turns to fat in your body. Eating too much sugar increases your risk of dying from heart disease too. I recommend avoiding all protein powders with added sugar. If your protein is gluten-free and dairy-free yet contains a bunch of sugar, that pretty much defeats the purpose of taking a protein powder. If you like it sweeter, blend your shake with a little fruit instead!
Find out which artificial sweeteners they use. You’ll often discover fake sugars like saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose in non dairy protein powder blends. To see some of the potential health effects of artificial sweeteners, check out this article from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. And there’s good reason to be wary of the supposedly “all-natural” sweeteners too. Xylitol and erythritol are highly processed “sugar alcohols” that can cause gas, bloating, and gut imbalances. Xylitol also comes from genetically modified corn. Stevia leaf extract in its natural state is okay, but the stevia most food companies use is a chemically-altered, bleached, stripped down version that’s likely to contain GMO fillers (often with allergens like corn and soy). Monk fruit is another all-natural sweetener that may be a good option for you. Again, just make sure there are no additional dairy-based fillers or additives, which is often the case. When in doubt, ask the company you’re buying from!
What types of protein do they use? Vegan protein powders made from organic pea, rice, hemp, sacha inchi, and pumpkin seed are generally healthier dairy-free sources of protein. Whey and casein proteins are milk-based and have lots of side effects so obviously aren’t good choices for those looking for a dairy free option. Collagen proteins may be another good dairy-free option (unless you’re a vegetarian or vegan). And if your protein powder isn’t organic, you’re probably drinking pesticides with your protein smoothie.
How are their ingredients processed? This is a tricky one because protein manufacturers are hesitant to disclose this information (which is the first sign they’re hiding something). Most vegan protein powders—even the organic ones—are processed using high temperature methods that destroy vital nutrients in the plant and render much of the protein useless. If you have a severe allergy to gluten or dairy, you’ll want to avoid brands that are manufactured in a facility where other gluten- and/or dairy-containing products are produced.
What other ingredients do they add? This is where most protein powders—especially the ones you may have thought are healthy—fail miserably. Here are a few common unhealthy ingredients to look out for:
Natural flavors. Up to 90 percent of natural flavors are made of allergens like dairy, soy, corn, and gluten … as well as chemical solvents and preservatives, says David Andrews, senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group. If you have a dairy sensitivity, definitely ask the company you’re buying from if they use any allergens in their natural flavors (they may not even know!).
Many protein powders that claim to be all-natural have gums like carrageenan, xanthan, locust bean. These cheap, processed fillers often have other additives and can lead to gut imbalances and be problematic for those with any GI issues.
Lecithins. To make most lecithins, oil is extracted from soybeans or sunflowers using a toxic chemical called hexane. Most are made from GMO soybeans (unless they’re organic).
The Bottom Line: How to Find the Best Gluten Free and Non Dairy Protein Powders for You
There are lots of protein powders available these days without gluten and dairy. But a lack of those two allergens doesn’t make a product “healthy” or “clean,” like most of these brands claim to be.
Learn how to read and understand the ingredients list and nutrition facts label and then use the checklist above when evaluating protein brands.
It’s the only way to see through the marketing hype and know if your protein powder is healthy.
Lastly, as we mentioned above, most folks rely on online reviews when choosing what protein to buy. This is a great approach but make sure you understand that most of the reviews you see are cherry-picked by brands.
Here’s how to make sure you’re getting the full picture:
Do a Google search for “INSERT BRAND NAME + reviews”.
Read the top 3 positive and negative reviews on each review you visit (many of the online retail sites and brand sites will not have any negative reviews so Amazon is usually a good source here).