Plant Based Proteins: from ‘eh’ to ‘ah-mazing’

Plant-Based Protein Powders

Protein powders are a quick and easy supplement for anyone looking to increase their protein intake. Whether you’re fully plant-based, have a sensitivity to typical dairy-based protein powders or simply looking to add more high-quality, easily digestible protein to your diet, we’ve got the lowdown on the most popular types of plant-based protein powders.

Soy

The lowdown: Soy products are among the richest sources of protein in a plant-based diet. Soy also contains high levels of calcium and iron and is a complete protein source containing all 9 essential amino acids.

Average protein per ¼ cup: 22g

What else to know: Like most things in life, too much isn’t great for you. Soy is hidden in many products in our North American diets, so be mindful of how much you are consuming and always buy organic when possible. Soy isn’t for everyone either, for more information on why some people legitimately avoid soy check out this article: Is Soy Bad for You, or Good?

Pea

The lowdown: Pea protein powder is made from yellow split peas. It is loaded with the essential branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine and valine, which help fuel working muscles and stimulate your body to make muscle protein. However, pea protein is low in the essential amino acid methionine, so it is not a complete protein.

Average protein per ¼ cup: 21g

What else to know: Pea protein blends well with water and has a less gritty or chalky texture than other plant-based protein powders, however it has a strong aftertaste.

Brown Rice

The lowdown: Brown rice protein is a supplement made from brown rice and digestive enzymes converted into powder form. This protein is hypoallergenic, easily digestible and has a high level of bioavailability (how much of the protein is actually utilized by the body). Although not technically a complete protein, it isn’t too far off, just falling short on lysine. In terms of plant-based protein powders, brown rice contains the highest amount of leucine, which is the primary muscle building essential amino acid.

Average protein per ¼ cup: 24g

What else to know: Brown rice protein has the potential to offer fitness enthusiasts the whey-based muscle building results that they're looking for without the animal byproducts and digestive troubles.

Hemp

The lowdown: Hemp protein comes from the cannabis plant, but doesn’t contain any THC. It’s a very sustainable plant that can grow in a variety of climates without depleting soil or using large amounts of water. Although it is lower in protein than the others, hemp protein contains all 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.

Average protein per ¼ cup: 12g

What else to know: The naturally balanced omega fats in hemp protein powder are said to help reduce inflammation, strengthen the heart and promote healthy joint function.

Protein Blends

One of the advantages of blending plant proteins is that it can provide optimal levels of all essential amino acids in a single product. For example, pea protein may be combined with brown rice protein. The pea protein supplies lysine, while brown rice protein supplies methionine, making the product a complete protein with all 9 essential amino acids. Other trends you’ll see in blended plant protein powders is the use of sprouted or fermented plant proteins. For example, PureTaste protein is a proprietary blend of pea and brown rice protein fermented with shiitake mushrooms to improve flavour, functionality, bioavailability, and nutrition of the protein blend.

The takeaway

Based on allergies, health concerns, taste, texture or benefits you’re specifically looking to get out of the protein powder you’re using, these plant-based options can have pros and cons.