Despite some claims, most plant proteins aren’t complete, meaning they don’t contain optimal levels of all the essential amino acids to support protein synthesis in your body. However, this isn’t a problem if you regularly eat eggs and fish which are complete proteins.
As you explore vegan protein powders, you should compare prices by weight, such as per ounce or per 100 grams. Protein powders from grains and legumes generally are about half the price of powders made from seeds.
Here are 9 preferred vegan protein powders and their nutritional highlights.
1. Pea Protein
Pea protein powder is rich in BCAAs to support muscle building. Preliminary research suggests that it’s as effective as whey protein in supporting muscle gain. It may also help you feel full and lower your blood pressure.
2. Hemp Protein
Though hemp protein powder has more moderate levels of protein and is low in the amino acid lysine, it packs a lot of fiber, iron, zinc, magnesium and ALA omega-3 fat.
3. Pumpkin seed protein
Though low in the essential amino acids threonine and lysine, pumpkin seed protein powder is very nutritious, supplying high amounts of several minerals. Its beneficial plant compounds may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
4. Brown rice protein
Though not a complete protein, brown rice protein powder is rich in BCAAs and may be as effective as whey protein in supporting muscle growth as part of a weight training regimen. Choose a brand that tests for arsenic contamination.
5. Soy protein
Soy protein powder is a complete protein source rich in BCAAs to support muscle building. It may also help lower cholesterol levels. Due to potential safety concerns, you can buy non-genetically modified soy protein and avoid using it every day.
6. Sunflower seed protein
Sunflower seed protein supplies BCAAs to support muscle growth and repair. It’s low in the essential amino acid lysine and therefore sometimes combined with quinoa in protein powder supplements.
7. Sacha Inchi Protein
Isolated from a Peruvian seed, sacha inchi protein powder is a good source of all essential amino acids except lysine. It also provides compounds that promote heart health, including arginine and ALA omega-3 fat.
8. Chia protein
Chia protein is nutritious but not complete, as it’s low in the essential amino acid lysine. Though you can eat chia seeds whole, its protein may be more digestible when isolated in powder form.
9. Plant protein blends
Many vegan protein powders contain blends of different and typically complementary plant proteins to ensure you get adequate amounts of all essential amino acids. Sprouting or fermentation may enhance nutrition as well.
The Bottom Line
Vegan protein powders can help supply your body with the essential amino acids it needs to support protein synthesis in your body, including that needed for muscle repair and growth.
Grains, legumes and seeds are typical sources of plant protein in powders, which are made by removing most of the fat and carbs while isolating the protein components.
Common vegan protein powders are pea, hemp, brown rice and soy. Seed protein powders, including pumpkin, sunflower, chia and sacha inchi, are becoming more available.
Except for soy and quinoa, plant proteins are typically low in one or more essential amino acids. This is not an issue if you regularly eat a variety of plant foods or buy a powder that contains a blend of complementary proteins.
Keep in mind that nutrition information varies by brand, so be sure to check the package labeling.