Cooking 101: Guide to Protein Powders

img_3319Getting enough protein can be a struggle for many vegans; however, finding a suitable gluten-free and vegan protein powder isn’t that easy. Here’s a run-down of my favorites and ones to avoid.
Believe it or not, there are a ton of vegan proteins out there. Many common ones feature soy, while others are made of superfood blends featuring ingredients like chia powder, flax meal, hemp, brown rice,  and even kale. A recent trend has been the incorporation of pea proteins in those blends. Many brands produce blends in a variety of flavors, and most offer at least chocolate and vanilla. Some are raw, some are single-ingredient, some can be mixed with just water and others need a variety of ingredients added to them.

As with everything, you have to be very careful that the brands don’t use any gluten containing products. Many feature ancient grains, such as barley and kamut, and wheatgrass in them. Oats can also be commonly added.

So far, I have found a few good ones, and a few horrible ones. In my search process, I have found that I HATE all the ones that have the “natural” sweeteners like stevia and xylitol. I can’t get passed that over-sweet flavor. However, that may be personal preferences. My dad, who is my I make test a lot of products, does not mind the taste of those sweeteners in the mixes he uses. I also find it’s extremely important to look for powders that contain all the essential amino acids, and are thus “complete” proteins. Even though some may say they can be mixed with only chilled water to enjoy, I find they are MUCH better when mixed with almond milk.

My best all around pick is Manitoba Harvest’s Hemp Smoothie mixes. They come in vanilla chai, chocolate, and mixed berry. I love the vanilla and mixed berry, and my dad is a big fan of the chocolate mix. For 4 tablespoons, there are 15 grams of protein, 130 calories, and only 7 grams of sugar (from coconut sugar). They also have added greens to them, which boosts their nutritional profile. Although, be warned, the vanilla chai flavor does look green : )

For a plain protein powder, I really like Growing Naturals Gold Standard Raw Pea Protein Powder. It does not have a strong taste, and I don’t mind the original plain flavor (only pea protein) blended with original almond milk. For one scoop, there is 15 grams of protein, 70 calories, and 0 grams of sugar. They do make a chocolate power, vanilla blast, and strawberry burst flavors that are sweetened with stevia. They, too, are protein powerhouses and could be a great choice if you don’t mind the stevia flavor. The company also has a plain brown rice powder that I might try out as well.

The one protein mix I did not like that my dad did is Vega’s Viva Vanilla protein smoothie mix. Although, he does blend it with lots of berries and orange juice so that may help mask the protein mix’s flavor. I thought the taste with just almond milk was absolutely dreadful. I will not be buying it again. If you feel like trying it 1 scoop has 15 grams of protein, 80 calories, and 2 grams of sugar.

For binding and baking, Foods Alive raw Chia Protein powder is fantastic. It absorbs tons of water, so is the perfect “faux”-egg. I use it to make burgers and puddings. In 2 tablespoons, there are 5 grams of protein, only 25 calories, and 0 grams of sugar. There are also 8 grams of fiber to help keep you fuller longer.. if you are looking for that.

You can also use the other powders for more than just shakes, too. I add the Hemp Smoothie mix to flavor puddings, as well as quinoa flakes and even pancakes. I also think that the pea protein would be a great way to thicken and boost the protein content of savory dishes… I’m thinking into soups, mashed potatoes, and sauces. Stay tuned for new recipes spiked with pea protein powder to come!

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