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Vegan protein powder: Guide, comparison & tips

Glass of Purition Vegan Strawberry protein powder surrounded by bowls of fresh ingredients

If you’ve been sifting your way through ingredients labels wondering why most vegan protein powders read more like a science lesson than something you’re actually happy to eat, we get it. From pea to rice, and hemp to soy, finding a clean, high-quality vegan protein shake can be tricky.

But don’t go running back to the tofu aisle just yet. Our guide to vegan protein powders will give you the complete scoop on plant-powered proteins; what to look for, what suspicious ingredients to avoid and why natural blends are the best option for your health.

Do vegans need protein powder?

Unless you’re a plant-powered athlete or bodybuilder, vegan protein powder is by no means essential.

In fact, the British Nutrition Foundation specifically says that:

"For most active people, protein supplements are not needed, and it is better if a variety of foods containing protein are consumed as part of meals or snacks and spread throughout the day."

The myth that vegans can’t get enough protein from real food is long gone. With a bit of planning, you can get more than enough protein within your everyday meals from nutrient-dense vegan protein sources:

  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Seitan
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Quinoa
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Soy yoghurt
  • Soy milk
  • Edamame beans
  • Nutritional yeast

But while real food should always be your first port of call, the right vegan protein powder can be a useful dietary tool. They’re great for topping up your protein intake on busy days – or boosting the protein content of your everyday breakfast or lunch, without having to prep ingredients.

How much protein do I actually need?

The British Nutrition Foundation suggests that most adults need at least 0.75g of protein per kilo of body weight per day. For an 11 stone person, that amounts to around 52g.

But unless you’re a professional athlete or bodybuilder, there’s no need to overthink (or track) protein. In fact, according to a study published by the British Dietetic Association, most people in the UK are over-consuming protein.

As long as you’re including good quality vegan protein sources in every meal, you’re probably already getting more than enough of the good stuff. It’s as simple as that.

Glass of Purition Vegan Strawberry on wooden plank with Purition packet

Are vegan protein powders complete?

Unlike whey protein, not at all vegan protein powders are considered a ‘complete’ source of protein. That’s because they don’t contain enough of each of the 9 essential amino acids your body needs.

But do you need to worry about it? Probably not. Studies have repeatedly shown that even a diet based purely on plant foods that meets energy (calorie) requirements will meet all essential amino acid needs. Your amino acid needs don’t actually need to be met at each mealtime – it’s your overall consumption of amino acids over the course of a day that’s important.

But if you’d still prefer to choose a ‘complete’ protein, try Purition. Our natural alternative to vegan protein powder is made from nuts and seeds, with all 9 essential amino acids. All of our 14+ vegan flavours are high in protein, fibre and healthy fats and make for a quick and easy high-protein vegan breakfast.

Prefer pure protein? Try Purition’s plain protein powders. They’re plain, unflavoured and unsweetened and versatile enough to add to your everyday meals.

Types of vegan protein powder

Pea what, hemp who, soy what-on-earth-is-the-difference? Each vegan protein powder comes with its own nutritional profile, so it’s well worth checking them out to see which best suits your needs.

1. Soy protein

Pile of soy beans

Soy protein isolate is a highly-processed vegan protein powder made from dehydrated, ground and chemically-treated soybeans. It contains all 9 essential amino acids and is typically one of the most inexpensive protein powders on the market.

Soy contains a naturally-occurring plant compound called phytoestrogen, which can mimic the effect of estrogen in the body. A few observational studies have linked phytoestrogen to an increased risk of some types of cancers, but the science surrounding soy is still generally inconclusive.

It’s also one of the most 14 common food allergens and can be hard to digest.

  • Complete protein
  • Often inexpensive
  • Smooth & tasteless
  • Heavily processed
  • Some safety concerns
  • Common food allergen

2. Pea protein

Pile of yellow split peas

Pea protein is made from peas, but not the green ones you’re expecting. The protein is extracted from dried yellow split peas via water filtration. Pea protein contains all essential amino acids and is a natural source of fibre and iron.

  • Complete protein
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Easily digestible
  • Source of iron & zinc
  • Tastes like peas
  • Earthy taste

China produces and exports an estimated 100,000 tonnes of pea protein per year, but Purition’s Premium Golden Pea Protein is from France. It’s twice the price of the Chinese alternative, but the reduced carbon footprint is more important than our profit margin. 

Our pea protein is also eco-friendly, with a short supply chain, no use of nitrogen fertilisers or chemical solvents, no need for irrigation systems and a higher yield vs animal proteins. It’s 100% plant-based and hypoallergenic and provides the highest protein content of all our vegan plain protein powders. 

Shop Pea Protein

3. Rice protein

Pile of brown rice

Never thought of rice as a protein-packed food? Rice protein powder is made by grinding down brown rice, which is then treated with an enzyme to separate carbohydrates from the protein. Rice protein powder is an incomplete protein source as it does not contain sufficient amounts of the essential amino acid lysine to qualify.

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Easily digestible
  • High in fibre
  • Gently processed
  • Incomplete protein
  • Can be gritty

4. Hemp protein

Pile of hemp seeds

Hemp protein is essentially cold-pressed raw, peeled and ground hemp seeds. As well as boasting a complete protein source and a powerhouse of nutrients, hemp is a highly sustainable product. Hemp plants capture carbon dioxide to purify the air, replenish the soil they’re grown in and do not require pesticides to grow.

We love hemp; it’s a protein-powerhouse whilst also being a bit of an eco-warrior!

  • Complete protein
  • Very eco-friendly
  • Source of fibre & omega 3
  • Source of magnesium & B vits
  • Minimally processed
  • Earthy taste

Purition’s Premium Hemp Protein Powder is produced in Devon from raw, European grown hemp seeds. That means low food miles, alongside all of hemp’s other eco-credentials. It’s 100% plant-based, hypoallergenic and rich in heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats and fibre.

Shop Hemp Protein

5. Sunflower protein

Pile of sunflower kernels

Sunflower protein isn’t as well-known as the likes of soy, pea and hemp, but does pack a mighty protein punch. Made via the same cold-pressing method as hemp protein, sunflower protein offers a complete protein source, alongside a wide range of naturally-occurring essential vitamins & minerals.

  • Complete protein
  • Source of fibre
  • Source of calcium & magnesium
  • Easily digestible
  • Allergen-friendly
  • Minimally processed
  • Often lower in protein compared to other plant proteins

Purition’s Organic Sunflower Seed Protein is made in Germany from European-grown organic sunflower seeds. It is 100% organic, plant-based and easy to digest. It’s also particularly high in magnesium, plus fibre, to support gut and digestive health.

Shop Sunflower Protein

5. Pumpkin seed protein

Pile of pumpkin seeds

Like sunflower and hemp, pumpkin seed protein powder is made by cold-pressing pumpkin seeds, which are then dried finely ground in a mill to create a powder. Pumpkin protein powder is highly nutritious, packing in magnesium, zinc, iron and other essential minerals. However, it’s low in some essential amino acids and is therefore not always considered ‘complete’.

  • Source of fibre, zinc & iron
  • Pleasant, neutral taste
  • Minimally processed
  • Easily digestible
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Can be gritty

Purition’s Organic Pumpkin Seed Protein is made in Germany from European-grown organic pumpkin seeds. It is 100% organic, plant-based, lactose-free and easy to digest. It’s also particularly high in fibre and omega-3 fatty acids to support your wider health.

Shop Pumpkin Protein

What to look for in a vegan protein powder

So you’ve got the lowdown on the different types of vegan protein powder, but what should you actually look for in the search for the perfect scoop?

When it comes to finding the best vegan protein powder for your long-term health and wellbeing, we’d tout the following 3 qualities as non-negotiable must-haves…

1. Whole food ingredients

Many (if not most) vegan protein powders are packed with artificial ingredients, additives, artificial sweeteners and unnatural flavourings to make the product less ‘earthy’ and more palatable.

These sorts of ingredients might seem like no biggie, but they’re no good for your long-term health. Plus, in the short term, they could cause stomach upset and bloating, especially if you have a sensitive stomach.

Natural, whole food ingredients are easier for your body to break down and are far better for your long-term health. With that said, during your search for vegan protein powder, the ingredients label is everything. Give it a ready and, ideally, you should recognise all of the ingredients. If the ingredients look less like food and more like a science lesson, move on.

At Purition, we refuse to dabble with any grubby gums, artificial ingredients, emulsifiers, additives or preservatives. Our whole food alternative to protein powder provides vegan protein from nutritious seeds, nuts and European grown plant protein. As such, Purition is good for your health, gentle on the stomach and will not cause bloating.

Glass of Purition Vegan Strawbery with packet and bowls of fresh ingredients

2. Nutrient-density

Your health and fitness is about your diet as a whole, not just protein. While protein might be your priority, opting for a nutrient-rich blend will help you to reach your health and fitness goals faster than glugging down a protein-only shake.

The best vegan protein powders will contain a nutrient-packed combination of protein, fibre and healthy fats. This type of formula will drip feed nutrients into your body over a longer period of time than protein alone, which will keep you feeling fuller and more energised for longer, as well as helping to replenish lost nutrients after workouts.

Purition Vegan, the real food alternative to vegan protein powder, contains a balanced blend of plant protein, fibre, healthy fats and naturally-occurring vitamins & minerals from real food sources. Unlike ultra-processed protein-only shakes, a glass of Purition is genuinely good for you and will give your body the nutrients it needs to progress and thrive in the short and long-term.

3. Low sugar

Like it or lump it, vegan proteins have a natural earthy taste – they come from plants, after all! All too often, this leads manufacturers to add excessive amounts of sugar in a bid to mask natural flavours and improve the taste.

You already know that eating too much sugar is bad for your health (think weight gain, diabetes, tooth decay and inflammation), so make sure to check the sugar quantity before buying into a vegan protein powder. Ideally, get one with minimal sugar – under 4g, but ideally lower. You can always sweeten it yourself with fruit, maple syrup or agave.

Keep an eye out for artificial sweeteners, too. While they negate the need for added sugar, they can wreak havoc on your digestive system and can have harmful effects on the body long-term. Avoid these artificial sweeteners if possible:

  • Sucralose
  • Aspartame
  • Saccharin
  • Acesulfame K
  • Saccharin
  • Sorbitol
  • Xylitol

At Purition, we use a tiny amount of stevia to balance out the authentic flavours in our real food protein blends. Stevia is a natural, plant-based sweetener that has no effect on blood sugar.

How to use vegan protein powder

For the most part, all you need to do is mix your vegan protein powder with nut milk and you’re good to go. As the best quality vegan protein powders can be seedy (real food doesn’t dissolve), it’s best to give the mix a blitz in the blender for the smoothest experience.

But vegan protein powders aren’t just for shakes and healthy smoothies! They’re actually incredibly versatile and make a great way to add a protein boost to your everyday meals. Give these protein-packed ideas a try…

  • Protein smoothie bowls: Add less milk, but add plant yoghurt & ice, for a thicker consistency. Scoop into a bowl and top with fruits, nuts and seeds.
  • Instant protein porridge: Add a few drops of warm nut milk to Purition for a warming low-carb protein porridge. 
  • Energy/protein balls: Pulse & roll protein powder, nuts, dates & coconut oil for on-the-go vegan protein balls.
  • Protein pancakes: All you need is banana, oats & vegan protein powder for healthy vegan protein pancakes.
  • Protein oats: Add vegan protein powder to your porridge for a mega morning protein hit—we love this peanut butter proats recipe.
Strawberry smoothie bowl topped with fresh strawberries, peanut butter and seeds

When to use vegan protein powder

After years of rushing to drink protein shakes straight after the gym, it turns out that the ‘anabolic window’ (the 30-minute ‘magic window’ pre or post-exercise for drinking protein shakes) doesn’t actually matter.

Recent evidence suggests that evenly distributing your protein throughout the day (think 20–30g with every meal) is better for building muscle than consuming huge amounts of protein all in one go.

In simple terms, it doesn’t matter how close to your workout you get your protein – you just need to get enough of it at each meal. Convenient breakfast and lunch options often fall short, but Purition and Purition’s Plain Protein Powders make it easier than ever to evenly spread your protein intake throughout the day.

Choosing the best vegan protein powder

Finding the right vegan protein powder can feel like an absolute minefield, but hopefully, you’ve now got a clearer idea of what to look out for. Ultimately, opting for a clean, natural protein powder made from real food ingredients and putting ultra-processed fake shakes firmly back on the shelf is the best option for optimal health.

If you’re a new vegan struggling to meet your daily nutritional requirements, Purition could be just what you need. Try it as a quick and filling vegan breakfast, a protein boost to fuel your workouts or a high-protein snack to curb your hunger pangs. Get started below with any 6 flavours for just £15

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