Why should a Vegan use Protein Powder?
A proper diet includes a mix of quality carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. An important building block, that is also needed in almost all functions within the body is protein. Proteins are made up of amino acids, there are 20 different types. Amino acids form chains and each amino acid is linked to another by a peptide bond. They form a variety of sequences and are all folded in unique ways. Our bodies have the capability of producing 11 of the 20, and the rest of them are consumed through food. The amino acids the body can produce are called nonessential, and the amino acids that come from diet are called essential. Protein is needed for a variety of functions within the body including: antibodies, enzymes, messenger proteins, structural, transportation, and storage molecules. When exercising and especially lifting weights, it’s important to get enough protein for muscle growth and repair. Good sources of protein include but are not limited to: chicken, beef, pork, fish, eggs, and dairy products. When following a vegan lifestyle, protein sources are extremely limited due to no animal products such as meat, eggs, or dairy. According to CDC recommendations, 10-35% of daily calories should come from protein sources. Unlike meat and dairy products, plants and grains have much lower protein content, therefore it becomes difficult to get adequate protein from the diet. Good sources of plant-based protein come from foods such as: beans, lentils, quinoa, whole grains, peanut butter, and certain vegetables.
Vegan lifestyles take careful planning and a proper balanced diet in order to get in adequate protein for the body. A variety of grains, lentils, tofu, and vegetables are needed to get protein in when not consuming any meat or animal products. For picky eaters or those with busy lifestyles that often eat on the go, fast food and carbohydrate or sugar packed meals may not provide a good source of protein. Protein powders are used to help get extra protein into the diet and make for quick and easy meals if needed. Protein powders can be added into smoothies, baked goods, almond or coconut milk, and even just water. Vegan protein powders avoid using any animal products such as milk or whey and instead are made of plant-based proteins such as: soy protein, hemp protein, pea protein, or brown rice protein. According to Leslie Bonci, RD, soy is the only complete vegan protein meaning it contains all the essential amino acids. The other plant-based proteins are missing at least one amino acid, therefore not being considered complete. To get complete protein, finding a protein powder that has a combination of protein sources like pea and rice would ensure to get all of the essential amino acids.
Vegan Protein Powder Benefits and Uses
Protein powders is used for many different reasons, most popular is the use after a workout to enhance muscle growth and recovery. The less talked about benefits are listed below.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and protein helps to build and repair muscles. In a study done in 2015, those who took a protein supplement such as vegan protein after resistance training showed enhanced muscle growth and promoted muscle hypertrophy. This study suggested that taking a protein supplement and getting a larger amount of protein in the diet after working out really helped in maximizing muscle gains.
Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese can often stress the digestive system in sensitive individuals. Acid reflux, indigestion, heartburn, or diarrhea are often side effects of dairy due to the high fat content, even low-fat options can be hard to digest too. Casein protein is slow to digest, therefore can be the culprit to some gut dysfunction also. Soy protein, an alternative to whey and casein, is easier to digest.
Vegan protein powders are also higher in fiber that other protein powders. Being made up of plant-based protein powders the fiber content is higher and contain soluble and insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber promotes healthy digestion, creates a feeling of fullness, adds bulk to stools, and promotes regular bowel habits.
Diabetic patients should watch out for protein powders with added sugars. Vegan protein powders are often low in sugar, this is a good option for diabetics who need to reduce their sugar intake. Another thing to look for is carbohydrate content, lower carbohydrate intake is better for controlling blood glucose levels and prevent spikes.
Heart health and cholesterol
Vegan protein powder encourages healthy cholesterol levels due to the protein being made up of plant-based proteins. Vegan protein powders are designed to contain all the 9 essential amino acids in their dairy friendly, vegetarian formula. Soy, white hemp, sunflower, pea, and brown rice proteins are the sources often used. Animal proteins tends to be high in cholesterol and saturated fat, which whey protein then contains, whereas vegan protein contains plant sterols and lower cholesterol and fat. Consuming diets high in cholesterol and saturated fat especially, increase the risk for cardiovascular disease, obesity, and premature death. Eating meals with high fat content and cholesterol can lead to not only excess weight gain, but also clogging of the arteries, and even creating blockages leading to heart attack or stroke.
An important role of protein is its ability to build and repair skin, nails, and hair. Skin is a very large organ which is very important. A few things the integumentary system is responsible for include: protection, temperature regulation, sensor receptors, prevents dehydration and drastic changes in temperature. The skin is important in maintaining homeostasis. Protein and amino acids in protein build and repair the skin. Vegan protein powder has the appropriate blend of amino acids and protein to keep the integumentary system healthy and functioning properly.
Maintaining healthy weight
Vegan protein powder comes from pea protein, soy, hemp, or brown rice, all these plant-based protein sources are full of fiber. Meals rich in fiber create a sense of fullness and curb hunger longer. This helps to maintain a healthy weight and can even help with losing weight. When trying to lose weight, reducing overall calorie intake is the goal. Finding fibrous foods, rich in protein, will help keep you fuller for a longer period of time. Vegan protein powders don’t contain high fat contents, and enough protein to maintain good muscle mass therefore they aid in maintaining weight loss.
Some studies, including a study done in July 2012, have shown that foods containing soy, such as soy protein powder, help in reducing hot flashes in menopausal women due to the isoflavones it contains. Isoflavones act as a weaker form of estrogen within the body. A few clinical trials have found that the participants in the study receiving the soy daily, reported less hot flashes and night sweats compared to the placebo group. Research on this is continuing to be done and more trials are needed to show whether this is truly valid, successful dosage, and duration of soy consumption for relief.
Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones become weak and factures are more common. Calcium and vitamin D are needed to keep bones strong. Vegan protein powder are made up of plant-based sources such as leafy greens, soybeans or soy nuts, all good sources of calcium. Good calcium from the plant sources, make vegan protein it a good supplement for those with thinning bones and frequent fractures.
Side effects of Stevia and why you want to avoid it
Stevia is a common and well-known sweetener used in foods. It is extremely sweet, 100-300 times sweeter than regular sugar. What sets it apart from regular sugar and tends to make it popular, especially when it comes to dieting, is that it provides the sweet taste without the extra carbohydrates and calories that come with regular sugar. Diabetics often use stevia to sweeten foods because it doesn’t raise blood sugar. Although stevia seems like the perfect alternative, it has been suspected that stevia could be cause of a wide range of problems that people aren’t even connecting to stevia consumption. According to the FDA, 4 mg per kg of body weight daily is an acceptable intake of stevia. Though a small amount is considered okay, several studies have linked side effects to stevia such as: kidney disease, gastrointestinal symptoms, allergic reaction, low blood pressure, and endocrine disruption.
What’s not well known, is that stevia acts as a diuretic therefore influences the kidneys. Consumption of stevia creates an increase in speed at which water is expelled from the body. Long term consumption of stevia could potentially lead to kidney damage. From kidney filtering to the gut, stevia can cause tummy troubles as well. The steviosides that stevia contains can irritate the stomach and lead to bloating as well as decreased appetite. Individuals that are sensitive often have problems with the digestion of stevia. The sugar alcohol sensitivities aren’t very common, however those that are sensitive and consume stevia could have side effects such as: lead to nausea, vomiting, indigestion, cramping, and bloating. In a 2015 review, there were a few cases reported of stevia allergies, the FDA and European Commission both agreed the number of allergic responses to stevia is low. Hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar, can be another problem with stevia consumption. A 2016 study was done to see the potential that stevia acts as an endocrine disruptor. It was found that consumption of steviol created an increase in progesterone production in human sperm cells.
Studies on the effects of stevia are continuing to be done. While studies on rat embryos have been done and shown that stevia doesn’t affect pregnancy or fertility, pregnant and nursing women should use caution when consuming stevia. High doses or long- term use during pregnancy could worsen pregnancy symptoms.
Top 5 Vegan Protein Powders without Stevia
There are a wide variety of protein powders out on the market, however you have to be careful and pay attention to ingredients to really judge which are the best. A lot of vegan protein powders contain stevia as an additive along with a lot of other strange ingredients. The simpler the better!
The number one vegan protein powder without stevia is Bob’s Red Mill protein powder. This is a well-known brand for flours, oats, and cereals. They create a simplistic vegan protein powders as well in a variety of flavors. Bob’s Red Mill makes chai protein, hemp protein, soy protein, and pea protein options. All of these are high quality, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, and full of amino acids. Unlike some other protein powders, the vegan powders contain chia and probiotics which are super important for gut health. Instead of being sweetened with stevia, they are sweetened with monk fruit. Bob’s Red Mill prides themselves on their clean, simplistic ingredients, and fiber rich. All of Bob’s Red Mill’s protein powders have a reputation for taste, and mixability.
Second ranks the Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein Plant Formula. This protein powder contains no artificial flavors or extra sweeteners such as stevia. This is another brand that contains good probiotics, along with digestive enzymes. Overall this protein is very gut-friendly, and flavors rank well on reviews along with smooth consistency when mixed. They have a variety of flavors: vanilla, vanilla chai, chocolate, and coffee. All ingredients in their protein powders are organic, and plant based. The calories are very reasonable, carbohydrate intake is low, and it’s very low on sugar! Overall it is a very good rated protein, other than having a relatively low fiber content.
Third ranked vegan protein powder is Vega One All-In-One Shake. There are a variety of flavors, their new one is an Unsweetened Natural Flavored, which contains no added sugar or stevia! This protein powder is made with whole foods and is all plant- based. With 20 g of protein coming from pea, hemp, SaviSeed, and flax, you get all amino acids. This protein powder also gives you 50% of your daily vitamins and mineral intake from the fruits and vegetables that it contains. It’s also considered low-glycemic making it a great choice. The Vega All in One Shake is a protein powder rates high for taste and mixability.
ALOHA Organic Plant Based Protein Powder ranks fourth in top stevia free vegan protein powders. This protein powder ranks high due to the vitamins, minerals, and even omega 3 that it contains. There are 12 real ingredients, and a complete amino acid profile. Coconut sugar is used rather than stevia. 18 grams of organic plant- based protein, 3 grams of fiber, and 4 grams of sugar compose this protein. ALOHA protein powder ranks high in taste and has a smooth consistency.
Ranked fifth for top vegan protein powders is Naked Pea. This protein powder not only contains no additives or stevia, but it’s solely made up of raw yellow peas that are grown in USA and Canada. It’s soy and gluten free with 27 grams of protein, only 2 sugars, and BCAA’s. Naked Pea helps you maintain a healthy balanced diet. Rated 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon, it is said to be a great protein to mix in water, milk, tea, and even baked goods. This brand also makes Naked Rice protein, which also is rated well and exclusively organic sprouted whole grain brown rice protein.