Written by Carina Fabia
Last updated on: Jul 19, 2021
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No vegan protein powder is not bad for you. Alongside a healthy diet, vegan protein powder helps your body to: build and preserve muscle, improve satiety and may assist with weight loss. All this whilst allowing you to maintain a vegan diet.
Protein is a nutrient which helps your body to grow and restore your cells. It aids the growth of hair, nails, muscles, skin, bone and organs. If you are following a vegan diet you don’t have to worry about missing out on the protein found in animal meat. There are a range of vegan protein supplements on the market which can be used to help you meet your daily protein requirements.
When selecting which vegan protein powder is the best for you it is advisable that you look carefully at the packaging. What type of plant protein is being used? What other ingredients are inside? The analysis of this is critical for quality assurance and optimal results (1).
Whilst it has been claimed that plant based protein doesn’t contain optimal levels of amino acids or certain vitamins such as B12, as long as you are eating a variety of plant-based food with amino acids and B12 vitamins in it isn’t a problem. In fact studies have shown that leading a plant-based diet reduces risks of certain health conditions (2).
Outlined below are the key things you need to look out for when purchasing your vegan protein powder to aid you in buying the most suitable one for you.
Look carefully at the label on your vegan protein powder- how many grams of sugar are shown?
Any form of sugar, even the natural ones such as honey and coconut, turns into fat in your body.
Remember to check for any sweeteners, as whilst most vegan protein powders are unlikely to have any fake sugars, they could contain sweeteners, such as xylitol or erythritol. Plant based sweeteners are lower in calories (3).
Further to this studies have shown that natural sweeteners have been linked to intestinal troubles and glucose intolerance, so it is best to avoid them altogether when possible (4).
Aim for a vegan protein powder with sugar contents of under 1 gram. Organic powdered fruits or herbs are a better form of sweetener.
High processed ingredients such as natural flavours, gums and fillers are ones that you want to avoid in your vegan protein powder, as they can lead to gut problems and can contain toxic levels of compounds such as hexane.
Vegan protein powders containing ingredients like xanthan, locust bean and acacia can have GMO additives in which are linked to gut issues and can cause undesirable laxative effects.
Lecithins are something which should be avoided where possible as lecithins are most commonly made using bleaching agents. Studies have shown that bleaching agents are often added to flavour vegan protein powder but contain higher concentrations of oxidation reaction products, like the compounds heptanal, hexanal, octanal, and nonanal. (5)
There are a wide range of vegan protein powders on the market. It is important, when deciding which one is right for you, to think about the contents shown on the labels as well as the ingredients it is lacking in, for example amino acids and B12.
Also think about your goals and which vegan protein powder best supports what you want to achieve. For example, if you are wanting to use vegan protein powder to help reduce appetite and cravings then studies have shown that Pea Protein powder is a good choice for this goal (6).
If you are more prone to allergens then Hemp protein is a good choice for you as studies have shown that it is easier to digest and more hypo allergenic that rival types of vegan protein powder (7).
When comparing the price between powders remember to compare by weight. Typically, protein powders made from seeds are more expensive than those made from grains and legumes. Seed based protein powders are growing in availability but hemp, soy, brown rice and pea are easier to come by.
There have been concerns raised about the contamination of vegan protein powder with heavy metals. Studies were undertaken after the concerns of the protein powders high levels of heavy metal, including cadium (Cd), mercury (Hg), lead(Pb) and even arsenic (As).
However, research into the exposure to these metals indicate that they do not pose an increased health risk. Furthermore, the results suggest that the typical intake of dietary supplements, including vegan protein powder would not result in adverse health effects due to heavy metals (8).
But why are these traces of heavy metal showing up? Because the product is plant based the traces of heavy metals are actually come from the soil surrounding the ingredients. So, it’s not that manufacturers are adding these metals, they are naturally occurring.
Vegan protein powder is not bad for you. If combined with a balanced diet it is a good form of protein. It will help your body recover after a workout, improve satiety and help you both build and preserve muscle. The important thing to bear in mind is to read the nutritional information before purchasing any vegan protein supplements in order to ensure it is right for you and your goals.