Protein is incredibly essential for a healthy functioning body. From increasing the mass, health, and strength of your muscles to plumping your skin and hair, protein is the key ingredient! Yet, for those that are new to plant-based eating, finding sources of exclusively plant-based protein can oftentimes seem like an uphill battle. Well, One Green Planet is here to help!
There is actually a host of incredibly diverse, rich, healthy, and powerful natural plant-based sources of protein. Why go plant-based with your protein? They are not only just as efficient as animal proteins, but plant-based sources are also rich in vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients such as polyphenols, antioxidants, and flavonoids. Plus, if you’re looking to get your protein on the go, integrate a dose as a mid-day pick-me-up, or are looking for a protein boost for your travels, plant-based protein powders are the way to go. Simply add them to water, your favorite milk alternative, or mix them in with other plant-based ingredients and you’re all set!
Depending on your personal protein needs and food sensitivities or allergies, you can choose from a variety of plant-based sources.
Protein is one of the three macronutrients — along with fat and carbohydrates — that are essential for life. Among other crucial roles, these macronutrients “provide calories for energy” keeping us on the move. When it comes to protein, “every gram offers up 4 calories and 15 percent of your weight is made up of these grams of protein.”
Yet, what are proteins?
Beneath a microscope, protein can be broken down into amino acids, which are “organic compounds made of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen or sulfur [that are] the building blocks of proteins, and proteins are the building blocks of muscle mass.” While protein and muscle go hand-in-hand, these amino acids have more far-reaching effects on the body as well. Proteins regulate the body’s “cells, tissues, and organs,” make up a significant amount of your skin and bones, and “work as neurotransmitters.”
When it comes to keeping exercised or athletic muscles healthy, protein is absolutely the landmark nutrient to increase in your diet.
When you exercise, “you create tiny micro-tears in your muscle … [and] … when you eat protein, your body breaks it down and uses those amino acids to repair tears.” Along with repairing, protein also fills in the wound and makes it “bigger and stronger,” therefore building muscle mass, which is why many bodybuilders and athletes focus on increasing their intake of healthy protein.
Recommended Daily Intake
While many bodybuilders and professional athletes go all-in on protein intake, for those of us that exercise moderately, it’s important to not underdo or overdo your protein intake.
A protein deficiency may lead to loss of muscle mass or weakened muscles, edema, fatty liver, issues with skin, hair, and nails, increased risk of bone fractures, increased severity of infections, and a more voracious appetite leading to unwanted weight gain. On the other hand, if you are consuming too much protein on a chronic basis it can manifest in digestive discomfort and diarrhea, dehydration, exhaustion, headaches, nausea, irritability, and other more serious issues including cardiovascular disease, seizures, type 2 diabetes, and even blood vessel disorders.
So, how much is perfect for you?
While speaking with your doctor, dietitian, trainer, or nutritionist is the best way to determine your specific protein requirements, the government has issued guidelines. The dietary reference intake is “0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or 0.36 grams per pound,” which generally works out to around “56 grams per day for the average sedentary man” and “46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman.”
So, let’s get our plant-based protein on with the following 15 powder options!
1. Pea Protein
Pea protein is all the rage right now! It’s one of the newest forms of protein that happens to be one of the most powerful sources. Pea protein — also called pea protein isolate — is “made by extracting protein from yellow peas.” This specific type of protein has gained its popularity due to the fact that it is high-quality — referring to the fact that it has all nine essential amino acids — happens to be “naturally vegan and hypoallergenic,” is a great source of iron — which can be lacking for plant-based eaters — and it’s one of the more easily digestible plant proteins available.
What do you get from your pea protein?
It all depends on the brand of pea protein you go with. For example, if you choose this vegan-friendly NOW Organic Pea Protein Powder, for every 20 grams there are 15 grams of protein, 1 gram of fiber, 1.5 grams of fat, and 5 milligrams of iron.
Choose your favorite pea protein such as this 15-ounce package Naturade Plant Based Vanilla Vegan Pea Protein for $15.99, this 2.34-pound package of Pure Vegan Vanilla Pea Protein Vegan Protein Powder for $37.99, or this 2-pound package of Source Organic Unflavored Premium Pea Protein Isolate for $34.99.
2. Hemp Protein
Next to pea protein, hemp protein is also stealing the limelight as one of the best plant-based proteins on the market. Hemp protein is made by “grinding pressed hemp seeds into a fine powder.” Same as pea protein, hemp offers a source of complete proteins — including all nine amino acids — and it’s also naturally vegan, yet some prefer the taste of hemp over pea protein, which is said to be “earthy” and “nutty.” This protein option is also higher in fiber, healthy fats, and certain minerals, which may be important to certain folks.
Depending on the brand you choose, the nutrition profile changes. The Nutiva Organic Cold Processed Hemp Seed Protein brand has a serving size of three tablespoons (30 grams) that offers 15 grams of protein, 8 grams of fiber, 3 grams of fat, and 40 percent of your recommended daily intake of iron.
Choose your favorite hemp protein powder formula such as this 3-pound package of Nutiva Organic Cold Processed Hemp Seed Protein for $31.02 or this 40-gram package of Lean Hemp Flavored Hemp Protein Powder for $14.99.
3. Lentil Protein
Lentils haven’t quite met the exclusive plant-based protein powder market, yet they are one of the best sources of protein in a plant-based diet. One cup of lentils has around 49 grams of protein, 58 grams of fiber, 2 grams of fat, and 14 milligrams of iron. While they are excellent for plant-based culinary endeavors — many people use these legumes for meatless recipes — they can also be added to your pre or post-workout shake to boost the protein content.
Lentil protein powder has not gone mainstream, therefore finding the powder singularly is a challenge. Yet, many plant-based protein mixes include lentil protein such as this 3-pound package of Mike’s Mix Vegan Protein Powder for $39.99, which is a mixture of fava beans and lentils.
4. Chickpea Protein
Similar to lentils, chickpeas haven’t quite hit mainstream protein powders just yet. With that said, just because they aren’t mainstream doesn’t mean you can’t use these incredibly nutritious and delicious beans to boost your protein intake. Along with offering your daily dose of protein, chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. With that said, it’s important to note that chickpeas do not provide a complete protein, which means they don’t have all nine amino acids.
What will you get from your chickpea protein?
When consuming chickpeas in their natural state, one cup of cooked chickpea offers 14.5 grams of protein, 12.5 grams of fiber, 4.2 grams of fat, and 4.7 grams of iron. If you track down a powder form — such as this 2-pound package of Tower Guard Eden Chickpea Protein Powder for $49.95 — then the nutrition profile may change depending on the potency. For instance, the mentioned Tower Guard brand has a serving size of 42 grams that offers 16 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, 2 grams of fat, and 4 milligrams of iron.
5. Chia Protein
Chia is a well-established and well-loved protein and fiber powerhouse in the plant-based world. This minuscule seed plays various roles in a plant-based diet such as making dairy-free pudding, porridge, and yogurt, bulking up vegan baked goods with their egg-like binding qualities, and can even be used raw on salads for the extra boost of nutrition. Along with offering a complete protein source (all nine amino acids) and fiber, chia seeds are a plant-based source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fat, and are incredibly low in sugar (generally rounding out to zero grams!).
When it comes to chia seed protein powder, once again it depends on the brand for nutrient content. This Foods Alive Chia Protein Powder has a serving size of 14 grams that offers 5 grams of protein, 8 grams of dietary fiber, less than 1 gram of fat, and 8 percent of your daily value of iron.
Choose your favorite vegan chia seed protein powder such as this 8-ounce package of Foods Alive Chia Protein Powder for $9.97, this 1-pound package of Sunfood Chia Seed Powder for $12.99, or this 16-ounce package of Mattole Valley Naturals Organic Vegan Protein Powder for $39.99.
6. Quinoa Protein
Another incredibly rich plant-based source of protein that has yet to go mainstream! Quinoa has definitely made its place in plant-based diets, yet when it comes to finding a singular powder form of this powerhouse, it’s oftentimes a challenge. Quinoa gained popularity within the gluten-free world as this food is actually a pseudocereal, meaning it’s not actually a grain but a seed. One cup of cooked quinoa (around 185 grams) offers 8.1 grams of protein, 5.2 grams of fiber, 3.6 grams of fat, and 2.8 milligrams of iron.
When looking for protein powder form of quinoa, you’ll most likely find this nutritious ingredient in a plant-based powder mixture rather than a solely quinoa-based powder — such as this Organic Muscle Organic Vegan Protein Powder or this KOS Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder. Yet, there are a few brands that offer quinoa protein powder such as this OMG! Superfoods Organic Quinoa Protein Powder or this Hyphlife Quinoa Protein Powder.
With OMG! Superfoods Organic Quinoa Protein Powder for a 30-gram serving size you’ll get 4 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fiber, 2 grams of fat, and 25 percent of the daily value of iron.
7. Spirulina Protein
Spirulina is one of the newer discoveries in the plant-based world. This rich emerald-colored powder is sourced from a “type of blue-green algae that people can take as a dietary supplement.” Spirulina has made its name as a superfood due to its nutritional value, but it’s also a popular ingredient for many vegan beauty products due to its high content of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, spirulina happens to be an excellent source of protein!
In this Sari Foods Co. Organic Spirulina Powder, a serving size of 10 grams has 7 grams of protein, 0.5 grams of fat, and 4 milligrams of iron. Unfortunately, while spirulina powder is an excellent source of protein, it’s not a great source of dietary fiber, so make sure not to use this powder for that purpose.
Choose your favorite spirulina powder such as this 16-ounce package of Sari Foods Co. Organic Spirulina Powder for $24.98, this 5.2-ounce package of Spirulina Mater Protein Powder for $14.99, or this 168-gram package of Natural Elements Premium USDA Organic Spirulina Powder for $15.87.
8. Brown Rice Protein
On its own and in its natural state, brown rice is an excellent source of many nutrients: one cup of cooked medium-grain brown rice has 4.5 grams of protein, 3.5 grams of dietary fiber, 1.6 grams of fat, and a slew of vitamins and minerals, most notably niacin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. As a protein powder, brown rice is an excellent gluten-free option! Plus, brown rice happens to be one of the richest sources of protein.
This Naked Rice Organic Brown Rice Protein Powder has a serving size of 30 grams that offers an incredible 25 grams of protein, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 0.5 grams of fat, and 4 milligrams of iron.
Choose your favorite brown rice protein such as this bulk 5-pound package of Naked Rice Organic Brown Rice Protein Powder for $74.99, this bulk 3-pounce package of Nutribiotic Vanilla Rice Protein for $35.42, or this bulk 3-pound package of Zen Principle Organic Brown Rice Protein Powder for $37.95.
9. Navy Bean Protein
Navy beans are oftentimes mixed up with other white beans. What’s the difference? You can tell a navy bean by its shape — rather small and oval-shaped — as well as its ability to cook quickly and its incredibly creamy texture once cooked. Navy beans are also a great plant-based source of protein and fiber, one cup of cooked navy beans offering 15 grams of protein and over 19 grams of fiber.
Much like lentils and chickpeas, navy bean protein powder is not mainstream. With that said, the rare finds are great to try out such as this 3-pack of Terra Vita White Navy Bean Powder for $34.21.
10. Pumpkin Seed Protein
Seeds are truly understated when it comes to sourcing your major macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals, yet they happen to be some of the most powerful supplies in the plant-based kingdom. Pumpkin seeds are an incredibly rich source of protein, plus almost everything else you could ask for. One cup of roasted kernels offers 74 grams of protein, 8.9 grams of fiber, 95.6 grams of fat, 33.9 grams of iron, plus vitamins A, C, K, B6, niacin, folate, choline, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, and selenium, to name just a few.
In the powder form, pumpkin seeds shine, such as in this Body Symphony Organic Pumpkin Seed Protein Powder with a serving size of 50 grams offering 22 grams of protein, 3.5 grams of fiber, 3 grams of fat, and 40 percent of your daily value of iron.
Choose your favorite vegan pumpkin seed protein powder such as this 16-ounce package of Pumpkin Seed Protein Powder for $45.95, this 2.2-pound package of Body Symphony Organic Pumpkin Seed Protein Powder for $49.99, or this 30-ounce package of Omega Nutrition Organic Pumpkin Seed Protein Powder for $29.95.
11. Sunflower Seed Protein
If pumpkin seeds aren’t your jam, try getting a daily dose of protein from sunflower seeds! While seeds are an excellent source of healthy fats — particularly monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and omega fatty acids — they are also a great plant-based source of protein. One cup of dried sunflower seed kernels offers 9.6 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, 23.7 grams of fat, and 2.5 milligrams of iron. While protein, fiber, fat, and iron are all important for a balanced plant-based diet, you’ll also receive a neat package of other nutrients in your sunflower seed protein including vitamins A, C, E, and B6, niacin, folate, choline, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and selenium.
This Sprout Living Sunflower Seed Protein Powder has a serving size of 28 grams which contains 15 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, 5 grams of fat, and 6 percent of your daily value of iron.
Choose your favorite vegan sunflower seed protein powder such as this 15-gram package of Sprout Living Sunflower Seed Protein Powder for $22.78, this 1.22-pound package of Natures Plus Organic Sunflower Protein for $19.95, or this 1.65-pound package of SFPro Raw Sunflower Protein Powder for $29.40.
Sacha inchi is having a moment. Next to pea and hemp protein, sacha inchi is the newest kid on the block and supposedly is said to be the hottest superfood to make a splash in the health world. Sacha inchi — also called sacha peanut and mountain peanut — is in fact a seed. This seed is not only a great source of plant-based protein, but it’s also rich in omega 3 fatty acids and has eight of the essential amino acids. Due to these compounds, as well as a broad range of other favorable nutrients, sacha inchi is being processed as a plant-based protein powder.
This MRM Organic Sacha Inchi Powder has a serving size of 21 grams which offers 16 grams of protein and 10 milligrams of iron. Sacha inchi is incredibly low in fat — perfect for those looking for simple protein powder — as well as dietary fiber. So, make sure you’re not using this as a diarty supplement other than protein.
Choose your favorite sacha inchi protein powder such as this 8.5-ounce package of MRM Organic Sacha Inchi Powder for $9.95, this 12-ounce package of Terrasoul Superfoods Organic Sacha Inchi Protein Powder for $14.99, or this 2.5-pounds of Julian Bakery Pegan Thin Protein Powder for $49.99.
13. Soy Protein Powder
When looking for a soy protein powder, you’ll probably only find soy protein isolate powder. Soy protein isolate powder is made from “defatted soybean flakes that have been washed in either alcohol or water to remove the sugars and dietary fiber,” and then they are dehydrated and ground down into the protein powder that you add to protein shakes or other food recipes. While there is a lot of back and forth regarding the health of soy products, the powder form offers a few benefits that others don’t such as very little fat and zero cholesterol, as well minerals such as iron, phosphorous, copper, and manganese.
This NOW Sports Nutrition Soy Protein Isolate Powder has a serving size of 24 grams which offers 20 grams of protein and 3 milligrams of iron. Much like sacha inchi, soy protein isolate doesn’t have any fat or dietary fiber, therefore, while it’s an excellent protein supplement, it’s not great for a whole dietary supplement.
Choose a soy protein powder that’s perfect for you such as this 2-pound package of NOW Sports Nutrition Soy Protein Isolate Powder for $20.59 or this 2-pound package of Herbal Secrets Organic Soy Protein Isolate for $19.99.
14. Mushroom Blend Protein Powders
A unique source of plant-based protein that hasn’t quite made it mainstream yet is mushrooms. While mushrooms are having a heyday in the adaptogenic field, they also happen to be a great addition to plant-based protein blends. Even though they don’t offer enough protein to be singled out, by mixing mushrooms with other protein-rich ingredients, you’ll get the health benefits of mushrooms and the protein power of other plants. Plus, mushrooms are also generally rich in other nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making them a wonderful ingredient for plant-based protein powders and whole-body supplements.
This SoTru Vegan Protein Shake Vanilla has a serving size of 25 grams which offers 18 grams of protein, 1 gram of fiber, and 1 gram of fat.
One of the best companies to find vegan mushroom-based protein mixes is SoTru such as this 1.3-pound package of SoTru Vegan Protein Shake Vanilla for $40.98, which has whole-grain brown rice, amaranth, and quinoa, as well as a blend of medicinal mushrooms.
If you’re a practicing plant-based eater seeking the ultimate power punch of protein, try a blend! While certain proteins are excellent by themselves — such as pea protein, hemp protein, and brown protein — a blend will offer a higher amount of protein, while also providing a balance of nutrients such as dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
This Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein Vanilla Powder — a primary blend of pea and brown rice protein with a slew of sprouted seeds and legumes — has a serving size of 31 grams which offers 22 grams of protein, 1 gram of fiber, 2.5 grams of fat, and 6 milligrams of iron.
Try your hand at a balanced vegan blend such as this one-pound package of Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein Vanilla Powder for $32.89 or this 14.01-ounce package of Your Super Skinny Protein Superfood Mix for $41.90, which offers a unique blend of pea protein, hemp protein, and spirulina protein, along with other superfood nutrients.
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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