Nowadays there is a growing concern for the natural world, and the well-being and rights of animals. Many people have rejected animal products and have begun to look for more sustainable sources of food. But is it possible to have a balanced plant-based diet?
The below guide and review will serve as your introduction to the wide world of vegetable protein. Regardless of whether you’re a vegan, a vegetarian, or have an omnivorous diet, these are great complimentary supplements, and help incorporate necessary vegetables and greens into your diet.
- 1 Key facts
- 2 Ranking: The best vegetable protein supplements on the U.S. market
- 3 Shopping guide: Everything you should know about vegetable protein
- 3.1 What is vegetable protein?
- 3.2 What is the difference between animal protein and vegetable protein?
- 3.3 What problems can arise with a low protein diet?
- 3.4 What benefits does a protein rich diet provide?
- 3.5 What foods are sources of vegetable protein?
- 3.6 How can I get the most out of vegetable protein?
- 3.7 Who might benefit from vegetable protein supplementation?
- 3.8 What kinds of vegetable protein supplements are there?
- 3.9 How to take a vegetable protein supplement?
- 3.10 What side effects come with vegetable protein powder?
- 3.11 What warnings do vegetable protein come with?
- 3.12 How much do vegetable protein supplements cost?
- 4 Purchase criteria
- 5 Summary
- Vegetable protein is that which is acquired through the consumption of vegetables, legumes, dried fruits and cereals.
- It forms an indispensable part of vegan and vegetarian diets, providing the amino acids necessary for a high functioning body
- Many sources of vegetable protein are “incomplete,” lacking one, or several essential amino acids. In this case, it is necessary to combine a number of different vegetable food sources to build a balanced diet.
Ranking: The best vegetable protein supplements on the U.S. market
After carefully analyzing the vegetable protein supplements for sale on Amazon, the below list has been compiled with respect to quality-price relationship, composition, and consumer opinion. The following list containing the five best products on the market in 2019.
No. 1: Vegansmart – Plant Based Vegan Protein Shake (22.75 Oz)
Vegansmart’s Plant Based Protein Shake gives you 20 grams of certified non-GMO, certified vegan plant-based protein. It is free of gluten, soy, and cholesterol, making it a great option for those looking to cut animal protein from their diet. This all-in-one shake is low in calories, contains necessary probiotics, and is meant to be taken pre and/or post workout.
Vegansmart’s plant protein is made using 9 different fruits and vegetables, and is an excellent source of polyphenols, falvanoids, and antioxidants. Whether you need something to combine with your breakfast, or a reliable source of protein, vitamins, and minerals on the go, Vegansmart’s Plant Based Protein Shake is a quality product.
No. 2: NOW Foods – Pea Powder Sports Nutrition (2 lbs)
NOW Foods Pea Powder Sports Nutrition mix is made by one of the most trusted names in vegan and vegetarian supplements. This is plant-based protein at its purest. The only ingredient is pure pea protein, one of the best sources of vegetable protein out there. Each scoop contains 24 grams of easy-to-digest protein, and more than 4,200 mg of highly important branched chain amino acids.
This product is made with athletes in mind, and the sports seal assures you that this product is absolutely free of any banned substances. It also contains no dairy, soy, steroids, or artificial sweeteners. NOW Foods is a family-owned company based out of the U.S. that has been making quality supplements for athletes since 1968.
No. 3: Orgain – Organic Protein Powder (2.03 lbs)
Orgain’s Organic Protein Powder (fudge flavored) gives you 21 grams of organic vegetable protein per serving. Its protein is derived from pea, rice, chia, and pea protein, giving it a superb amino acid profile. You also get 7 grams of dietary fiber and 150 calories total per serving. This is a USDA-certified organic product that contains no added sweeteners, sugars, or artificial ingredients.
One of the cleanest, best-tasting products on the market, this is a vegetable protein that is easy to make, easy to drink, and gives your body what it needs to function. A great product for hardcore athletes, and healthy lifestyle aficionados alike. With 20 servings per container, this is a great vegetable protein to have with you on the go.
No. 4: Garden of Life – Raw Organic Meal (2.6lbs)
Garden of Life’s Raw Organic Meal is as much of a total meal replacement as a protein powder can be. Designed for those with busy lives and constantly on the move, each serving gives you 20g of pure plant protein, made from a staggering 44 superfoods to keep your body energized and nourished. You also get 21 vitamins and minerals with each scoop, and a boost of probiotics.
This naturally filling vegetable protein powder is especially made for vegan and vegetarian diets, as well as those with low-carb diets. It is also a great option for people with gastrointestinal issues, and who have dairy sensitivities. This product also, importantly, comes with the trusted by sport certification, so athletes can rest assured it’s free of any banned substances.
No. 5: Evolve – Cytosport Vegan Plant Protein Powder (Vanilla)
Evolve’s Cytosport Vegan Plant Protein Powder is a two-pack vanilla-flavored vegan-certified protein powder that packs 20g of plant protein per serving. It also gives you 10g of dietary fiber to keep your digestive system functioning and healthy. Whether you are already following a vegan or vegetarian diet, or are simply looking for animal-protein alternatives, this is a great-tasting, high quality product.
Based out of Colorado, Evolve’s methodology seeks to replicate the simplicity and harmony of the state itself. With just 11 pure and simply ingredients that go into their Cytosport Vegan Plan Protein Powder, this is a fantastic option for those who insist on having the cleanest of diets. No dairy. No Soy. No Gluten. Just pure vegetable protein.
Shopping guide: Everything you should know about vegetable protein
Whether for health reasons, or for a love of nature, every day more people are deciding to incorporate more vegetables into increasingly plant-based diets. If this kind of diet includes enough vegetable protein, there is not reason it can’t be a healthy and balanced one.
What is vegetable protein?
Proteins are organic compounds which form the foundation of the human body. Their myriad functions are fundamental to your physiology, and include plasticity (muscle and bone formation), bioregulation (hormone and enzyme formation) and defense (antibody and protective compound formation).
At the same time, proteins themselves are made up even simpler elements, called amino acids. Your body uses 20 of these different elements to make a range of proteins. By understanding the origin of these amino acids, you will know whether they are plant or animal-based.
Vegetable proteins are synthesized using the amino acids available in vegetables, dried fruits, and cereals. Generally speaking, a diet rich in vegetable proteins will contain less fat and more fiber, as well as antioxidants, making it a good option for people who are looking to manage their weight.
What is the difference between animal protein and vegetable protein?
Of the 20 amino acids necessary for protein synthesis, nine are considered essential. That is to say, the human body must get them directly from the food it takes in, because it is not able to synthesize them from other amino acids.
Any food or nutrient that has all nine essential amino acids is called a “Complete food” ”.
Animal protein (milk, eggs, fish, meat) are complete foods. On the other hand, vegetable proteins are usually lacking in one or more essential amino acid. This makes it necessary to strategically include various other nutrients in one’s diet in order for it to be balanced.
On the other hand, vegetable protein is often considered healthier than that of animals. Diets that contain a lot of animal products are often higher calorie, while high vegetable protein diets are associated with a lower incidence of hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and type 2 diabetes.
|Animal protein||Vegetable protein|
|Foods provide all essential amino acids||Lacking in one or more essential amino acids (except for quinoa and buckwheat). It’s necessary to combine various proteins to achieve a complete diet|
|Animal protein is higher calorie, and high in fat and sodium||Vegetable proteins are lower in calories, provide fiber, antioxidants, and B vitamins|
|Animal proteins also provide vitamin B12||Vitamin B12 is not adequately available in vegetable proteins|
|Diets with a high amount of animal protein have been associated with an increased risk of lung cancer and cardiovascular disease (compounded by risk factors like smoking and a sedentary lifestyle)||Diets high in vegetable protein appear to protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease|
|Animal protein is associated with greater muscle growth compared with vegetable protein||A strategic combination of various vegetable proteins will provide satisfactory results for most athletes|
What problems can arise with a low protein diet?
Whether you are consuming animal or plant protein, it is an essential part of a balanced diet and good health. Processes like hormone synthesis, wound healing and regeneration, and muscle growth are dependent on having sufficient amino acids available.
It is recommended that adults consume 0.8-1 gram of protein per 2.2 pounds of body weight per day.
Therefore, someone who weighs 132 pounds must take in around 56 grams of protein daily. Fortunately, the human body is capable of dealing with protein deficiency, and is able to survive with less (up to 0.5g/2.2 pounds/day).
While your body is able to handle insufficient amino acid intake in the short term, as time goes on, insufficient amino acids and end up decreasing your ability to fight disease and repair after injury. The following list will lay out some of the primary symptoms of a low protein diet.
- Hair, skin, and nail problems
- Poor healing and scarring of wounds
- Loss of muscle mass
- Difficulty increasing muscle mass
- Increased likelihood of muscle injury
- Difficulty healing muscle injuries
- Higher likelihood of bone fractures
- Increased likelihood of osteoporosis in older adults
- Stunted growth in children and young people
- Increased risk of infections
- Difficult recovering from illness
- Fat accumulation in the liver, with changes to cholesterol metabolization
- Difficulty controlling appetite or complete loss of appetite
- Weight gain (if proteins are substituted with carbs or fat) or unhealthy weight loss (if one is malnourished)
- Liquid retention in the abdomen and extremities (edema)
What benefits does a protein rich diet provide?
A diet rich in vegetable protein comes with a number of desirable health benefits. The amount and number of amino acids found in vegetable protein promotes a body equilibrium that is able to prevent degenerative diseases. This comes with the following benefits:
- Lower prevalence of arterial hypertension
- Lower LDL cholesterol levels (bad cholesterol)
- Lower body mass index or BMI (in relation to height and weight)
- Combats the development of osteoporosis (arterial fat deposits)
- Lower incidence of cancer
- Lowered insulin resistance, lessening the likelihood of diabetes mellitus type 2 and making managing the disease easier
- The body builds and accumulates less fat
Vegetable protein often has lower levels of the essential amino acids methionine, lysine, and tryptophan.
Having limited levels (within healthy limits) of these substances will prevent the excessive formation of cholesterol transporters, acting as a preventative measure against cardiovascular disease.What’s more, plant-based diets are rich in other vegetable-derived nutrients, like antioxidants (polyphenals), vitamins (folic acid and vitamin E) and fiber. These substances work against the aging process, increase energy levels, and improve digestion.
What foods are sources of vegetable protein?
There are a wide range of sources of vegetable protein. The majority of these have been a part of the Mediterranean Diet for some time, although more recently they have become popular as exotic foods, such as soy derivatives and quinoa. The following list will provide you with some of the richest sources of vegetable amino acids:
- Legumes: These include lentils, garbanzo beans, and green beans. Legumes are rich in vegetable amino acids and contain up to 23 grams of protein per 100 grams. In addition, they also provide fiber and healthy carbohydrates. Save for some kinds of garbanzo beans, legumes lack the essential amino acid methionine.
- Vegetables: Vegetables typically contain small amounts of protein (around 3 grams per 100 grams). Some, such as spinach, are considered complete foods, although it would still be necessary to take in an extremely high quantity of vegetables to get your daily recommended protein.
- Dried fruit: These little explosions of nutrients have up to 25 grams of protein per 100 grams (in the case of peanuts). They are,however, often low in lysine and methionine, which is why it makes sense to consume them with other foods that do have the essential amino acids you need.
- Cereals: Whole wheat cereals (which haven’t been refined or de-shelled and which keep all of their nutritional value) can contain 13 grams of protein per 100 grams. Cereals like oats, wheat, and rice, while rich in methionine, are lacking in lysine.
- Soy derivatives: These include soy beans, edamame beans, tofu, and tempeh. These food items contain a large amount of complete protein (up to 20 grams per 100 grams, in the case of tempeh), iron, calcium, and antioxidants.
- Seitan: This food is made using wheat gluten, making it not recommended for celiacs. Notwithstanding, it provides up to 75 grams of protein per 100 grams, making it a great protein addition to a diet rich in vegetables. It if hasn’t been combined with soy or other supplements, it is lysine poor.
- Quinoa: This food has grown in popularity in recent years for being a good source of complete proteins, combing the advantages of both cereals and legumes. 100 grams of cooked quinoa provide up to 13 grams of protein.
- Spirulina: This cyanobacteria (also known as “blue algae”) contains up to 25 grams of protein per 100 gram serving. It has all of the essential amino acids, making it a complete food. It almost always comes in powder form or as a supplement.
Lysinse is the hardest amino acid to get from a vegetable protein-based diet. Foods rich in this amino acid (such as legumes) must be added to your diet to avoid a lysine deficiency. It is also possible to accomplish this by adding lysine fortified foods, or supplements to your diet.
How can I get the most out of vegetable protein?
Recommendations for protein consumption are often made with the assumption you consume an omnivorous diet.
Vegetable protein has a specific amount of amino acids and their absorption is different than that of animal protein.
It is important to keep that mind when trying to maximize the benefits of vegetable protein.Some experts maintain that daily vegetable protein recommendations are defined by which amino acids are most lacking or hardest to acquire (such as lysine), instead of the total amount of protein available, as is the case with animal protein. Therefore, the daily recommended intake of lysine would be between two and three grams.
It is also recommended that you combine various different vegetable proteins in order to achieve a balanced diet that provides all of the essential amino acids. Below you will find a table that gathers the primary sources of vegetable protein,each one’s lysine content, and the recommended combinations for building a complete diet.
|Food||Protein per 100g||Lysine per 100g||Completeness?||Recommended combination|
|Lentils||9||1.6||No – Deficient in methionine||Cereals: Whole grain rice, Whole wheat bread, Whole grain oats|
|Garbanzo beans||19||1.5||Some varieties are complete foods.Others are deficient in methionine||Cereals: Whole grain rice, Whole wheat brea, Whole grain oats|
|Tofu||8||0.7||Yes||Vegetables (broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms), whole grain cereals|
|Tempeh||20||0,8||Yes||Vegetables (broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms), whole grain cereals|
|Peanuts||26||0.3||No – Deficient in methionine||Cereals: Whole wheat bread, oatmeal, “granola”.|
|Almonds||21||0.5||No – Deficient in lysine and methionine||Legumes, cereals, and greens (salads, whole wheat bread, “Buddha-bowls”)|
|Seitan||75||0.4||No – Deficient in lysine||Soy derivatives (soy sauce dressings). Legumes.|
|Quinoa||13||0.7||Yes||Vegetables, dried fruits|
|Whole grain rice||3||0.2||No – Deficient in lysine||Legumes: Garbanzo beans, lentils, green beans.|
|Oats||14||0.4||No – Deficient in lysine||Legumes: Garbanzo beans, lentils, green beans.|
|Whole wheat||13||0.3||No – Deficient in lysine||Legumes: Garbanzo bean or lentil hummus|
|Spinach||2,5||0.1||yes (in high quantities)||Combinations of cereals and legumes (rice with garbanzo beans and spinach)|
Who might benefit from vegetable protein supplementation?
Incorporating a vegetable protein supplement into your diet is a good idea for anyone. These supplements typically have all of the amino acids necessary for healthy functioning, and to ensure you avoid a protein deficiency. Taking one of these supplements could be highly beneficial to anyone who belongs to one or more of the following groups:
- Those with sensitive digestive systems: Vegetable protein-based diets require you to eat legumes almost every day. Some people suffer from flatulence and discomfort after eating these foods. Supplements are easier to digest.
- Those will life styles that don’t allow for a balanced diet: People who eat out or order take out often will find it hard to achieve a complete, nutritious diet through plant protein. Using a supplement could be the perfect substitute.
- High level athletes: People who want to increase muscle mass or increase athletic performance have higher protein requirements, which makes a supplement a useful compliment to their diet.
- People recovering from injuries or illness: Protein is the most important part of physical recovery. Depending on the severity of the injury or illness, it might be necessary to take in extra protein.
- People who are new to vegetarian or vegan diets: Although these diets can be just as balanced as omnivorous ones, inexperienced people might not eat correctly and end up suffering deficiencies. A supplement will help combat fatigue and weakness while you acclimate to your new diet.
- People over the age of 65: Older people need to take in more protein (1.1-1.3 g per 2.2 pounds of body weight) in order to prevent osteoporosis and a loss of muscle mass. A supplement will provide the necessary protein and beneficial amino acids for older adults, such as L-arginine.
Vegetable proteins have a high amount of the amino acid L-arginine. This compound facilitates vasodilation and the antioxidants work to keep
hypertension and cardiovascular disease at bay. That is why vegetable protein supplements are advised for any person, vegan or omnivorous, that wants to augment their diet.
What kinds of vegetable protein supplements are there?
It is important to keep in mind that not all vegetable proteins and supplements are the same. The different ingredients and processes used to make them mean they each have their own unique protein and nutrient profile. Taking into consideration your current diet, which amino acids are most important to you, and what you want to achieve, you should review the following products:
- Soy protein: Supplements made from soy protein offer a complete protein rich in branched amino acids (necessary for the growth of muscle tissue). Taking these products has been associated with reduced levels of cholesterol, although many of these supplements are derived from transgenic soy.
- Pea protein: Pea protein is rich in protein and high in calories, making it a good option for people who want to gain weight healthily. Peas are, however, low in methionine, so they should be taken alongside a diet that is rich in whole grain cereals.
- Hemp protein: This supplement is derived from the hemp plant, or cannabis. However, the plants used have minimal traces of the psychoactive compound (THC), so they don’t create any euphoric effects. In addition to protein, these supplements provide omega-3 acids and magnesium, while being a poor source of lysine.
- Chia seed protein: Chia seeds, well known for their high healthy fatty acid content, can be made into a great supplement powder. As a vegetable protein, they are low in calories and provide many vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, they contain little to no lysine.
- Protein mixes: There are different combinations of protein (generally legumes with cereals) that provide all of the essential amino acids necessary for complete supplementation. However, these supplements are often more processed than the others and can contain artificial preservatives and flavoring.
- Whole grain rice protein: Vegan and vegetarian athletes love these supplements. They have a high content of branched amino acids, which promotes muscle growth, although the lack of lysine means you will have to find this essential amino acid elsewhere. .
Animal proteins have always been considered nutritionally superior to vegetable proteins. However, a recent study, after comparing whey and whole grain rice protein, found no differences between the supplements when the latter was taken in sufficiently high doses (48 grams).
In addition, you can find these vegetable protein supplements in powder form or pills. Powdered protein allows you to customize the amount you ingest, while pills are easier to take with you and don’t require any preparation. In either case, you can’t use them as a continuous substitute for real food.
How to take a vegetable protein supplement?
Vegetable protein supplements are similar to other products in terms of their consumption. Simply follow the manufacturers recommendations to enjoy an extra dose of nutrition at any time of the day. If you want to get the most out of your supplement, you can also follow the following recommendations:
- When?For athletes it is recommended to take a supplement half an hour before training to get extra energy and facilitate muscle building. If you take it after training it facilitates faster recovery. You can also take them with meals or as a substitute to a meal.
- How? Protein powders can be mixed into water or smoothies. Pills can be taken with a glass of water. Lastly, there are special recipes you can use to make sandwiches, brownies, or cookies.
- How much? If you are looking for a source of lysine, adjust the dose in order to get 2-3 grams. If you are looking to build muscle mass, adjust the dose so you are getting 3 grams of leucine. An easier way is to consume a high dose (25-50g) of the supplement, which will give you all your necessary nutrition.
The majority of consumers start to enjoy the benefits of vegetable protein from the first day they use them (more energy, and feelings of satisfaction). After three weeks of use, other benefits emerge, like increased muscle mass, fat burning, and heightened athletic performance.
What side effects come with vegetable protein powder?
While vegetable protein is generally very safe, even at high doses, there are side effects that can arise, and you should be aware of them before beginning supplementation. In the below section you can find summaries of some of the most common side effects:
- Soy protein. Affects the menstrual cycle: Soy is rich in phytoestrogens (vegetable estrogen). A high amount of soy protein can produce menstrual changes (bleeding between periods or bleeding during menopause) in some women.
- Soy protein. Allergic reactions: Allergic reaction side effects have been described with soy supplements. If after consuming soy protein you experience vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, skin irritations, or facial swelling, cease supplementation immediately and see your doctor.
- Hemp protein. False positives on drug tests: Although hemp protein supplements have negligible amounts of THC, it can show up on urine tests and show false positives on more sensitive tests.
These side effects dissipate after ceasing consumption of your vegetable protein supplement. As you can see, soy protein is the vegetable protein most associated with undesirable effects. This is why soy is less often used, in spite of its excellent nutritional profile.
What warnings do vegetable protein come with?
Vegetable proteins are very safe, although some require special care when using.If you belong to any of the groups on the below list, consult a medical professional before beginning supplementation with a vegetable protein:
- People who have to monitor their sodium levels: Although vegetable proteins promote arterial tension management, many supplements contain high quantities of sodium, which can exacerbate hypertension. It is paramount that these people opt for a supplement that is low in sodium.
- Pregnant women: Although the use of vegetable protein supplements has not been associated with effects on gestation, precaution is advised for pregnant women before taking any kind of supplement.
- People with gout or high levels of uric acid: The use of pea-based vegetable protein has been associated with an exacerbation of
gout attacks in some people. Use of this protein supplement is not recommended for such people.
- People with a history of bladder cancer: Research has found an association between soy protein consumption and a heightened incidence of bladder cancer. That is why cautious use of soy supplements is recommended for people who are at elevated risk of this disease.
Fortunately, there is such a wide range of vegetable protein supplements (soy, peas, rice, chia, and different mixes) that you don’t have to avoid supplementation in the majority of the aforementioned cases. A simple substitution of one vegetable protein for another would be more than enough to avoid any adverse effects.
How much do vegetable protein supplements cost?
Vegetable protein supplements are usually made according to special quality standards that affect the final price of the product. Mid-range prices usually vary between $30-45 CAD per 2.2 pounds of powder, or per 200 pills.Fortunately, there are always offers, discounts, and promotions that significantly decrease the price of these products. Vegetable protein supplements usually expire around two years after manufacturing, which is why it makes sense to take advantage of offers and purchase large quantities of supplements at better prices.
When it comes times to choose a vegetable protein supplement, there are certain purchase criteria you should keep in mind. For that reason, the below list has summarized the most important criteria to help you choose your new supplement. Read the following carefully and come away with the best vegetable protein for your needs:
- Interactions with medication
- Added sugar
- Leucine content
- Origin and quality
- Extra ingredients
Although vegetable proteins are great for vegans and don’t contain lactose, fish, or seafood, they can contain gluten and dried fruits. People with allergies should be especially careful when choosing a vegetable protein supplement. Consult the label and don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturer if necessary.Out of all the vegetable proteins out there, soy is, without doubt, the one most associated with allergic reactions. It is recommended that you consume soy with caution, starting with a small dose and increasing it if no side effects are evident.
Interaction with medication
Some medication interactions have been described between soy vegetable protein supplements and pharmaceuticals that promote or block estrogen (like oral contraceptives and estrogen blockers). If you take any of these medications, talk to your doctor before using a soy-based supplement.
Many vegetable protein supplements, especially mixed proteins, have added sugar to improve their taste. If you want to avoid an unnecessary increase of sugar in your diet, choose products that are labelled “natural flavor”, which are normally free of sugar, coloring, and flavoring.
Several studies have linked an increase in muscle mass with sufficient consumption of leucine. Supplements with animal proteins (like whey) are rich in this amino acid, while vegetable proteins have a more modest amount of leucine.If you are interested in increasing your muscle mass, look for a vegetable protein supplement rich in leucine. There are products made especially for vegan body builders which are fortified with this amino acid, facilitating the proper growth of muscle mass in athletes with plant-based diets.
Origin and quality
It is important to verify the origin of the raw material used in your supplement. There are countries (like the United States) which allow the use of transgenics. European countries, on the other hand, usually use products that are free of GMOs and pesticides, which are more popular with experienced supplement users.
Vegetable protein can also contain vitamins, probiotics, prebiotics, minerals, and plant extracts. Depending on your needs you can opt for one of these combinations (for instance, probiotics improve digestion), but keep in mind that the price of the product will go up exponentially.
While vegetable-based diets provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals, if you aren’t extremely careful, they can allow for serious protein deficiencies with serious consequences. The use of vegetable protein supplements can help avoid these adverse effects, while at the same time providing energy, strength, and vitality.
Although vegetarians and vegans will be the primary beneficiaries of these supplements, omnivorous people can also utilize vegetable protein to improve their diet and build muscle mass. Used correctly, vegetable protein can be just as effective as whey!If this article on vegetable protein has been useful, don’t hesitate to leave a comment. Additionally, you can share it on your social media!
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