Perhaps you are ready to start using a plant-based protein powder to rev up your healthy lifestyle. Maybe it’s time to give up your whey or soy protein powder mix for a plant protein source that is clean and nutrient dense.
The truth is, you might quickly become confused with all of the options available. Once plant-based protein powder was popularized and people began to realize that it could help build muscle, burn fat and supercharge the digestive system, everyone wanted in on the action. However, there are a few key things that you must look for if you want the best clean protein powder and not one full of junk and fillers.
Everyone needs protein
Protein is the powerhouse that the human body uses to construct bones, muscles, skin, blood, and cartilage. It is essential in the creation and repair of tissues and the making of hormones, enzymes and other important body chemicals. If you are lacking in protein you may experience symptoms such as brittle hair and nails, stress fractures, compromised immune function, difficulty losing weight, fatigue or a loss of muscle as your body tries to make up for the lack of protein in your diet.
Eating meat is not the only way to satisfy the need for proteinWhile meat does contain protein, it is not the easiest thing to digest and many people, including vegetarians and vegans, don’t eat meat or meat products. The good news is, there are a number of plant-based protein powder types that, when combined, are also complete proteins, easily digested by the body and offer the same, if not more muscle building benefits than meat. According to a study  published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, plant protein and animal protein both benefits muscle health equally.
Vegan protein powder is definitely the answer if you are not a meat eater or have a sensitive gastrointestinal system.
Types of plant-based protein powder on the market
Before we dig into what to look for when choosing the best plant-based protein shakes, let’s review some of the different plant protein powder types that you might find:
Pumpkin seed protein - This non-allergenic protein is high in iron, zinc, magnesium and healthy fats. It is also a rich source of natural chlorophyll that calms inflammation and cleanses the body.
Pea protein - Peas are naturally rich in protein and are also a good source of iron. Pea protein also contains an amino acid profile  that may help lower blood pressure .
Brown rice protein - Brown rice protein powder is a popular plant-based protein powder due to its high protein content and ability to help balance blood sugar, speed up fat loss and help with muscle recovery after a hard workout.
Sunflower seed protein - Sunflower seeds are a good source of plant-based protein, B vitamins, E vitamins, essential minerals  like phosphorus, iron, and zinc. These vitamins and minerals help detoxify the body, improve skin health and provide a good source of energy.
Spirulina protein - Spirulina is a superfood and a blue-green alga that comes from the ocean. Spirulina is a complete plant protein, containing all essential amino acids.
The dangers of soy protein powderYou might be wondering why soy is not on the list above. While soy is indeed a plant protein, it has become rather controversial and for good reason. People in Asia have consumed soy in a fermented state for a very long time and their health has benefited from this. However, soy protein powder is not fermented and is derived from soy protein isolate that is extracted from dried soybeans, held in aluminum tanks, using water or alcohol. The processing of the soy does not remove phytic acid that is known as an anti-nutrient. Phytic acid binds with magnesium, calcium, iron, copper, and zinc causing a deficiency of these necessary minerals. In addition, soy protein contains estrogen that can interfere with normal hormone production. Also, 94%  of soy plants are genetically modified in some way. This is definitely a protein powder you want to stay clear of.
When you go out shopping for a plant-based protein powder consider these tips to get your money’s worth.
Tips for choosing the best vegan protein powder
Choose a blend that is a complete protein: Keep in mind that most plant sources of protein are not complete, this is why you will need to choose a plant-based protein powder that combines two or more plant protein sources.
Choose a blend that uses certified organic ingredients: Organic protein powders are non-GMO and not tainted with pesticides, chemicals or other dangerous substances.
Choose a blend that has no fillers or additives: A plant-based protein blend is one that contains simple, natural and useable ingredients. The body does not recognize fillers, there is no value in ingredients that are simply added for bulk or synthetic flavor. Additives to be on the lookout for include, thickeners, and stabilizers such as guar gum, lecithin, and xanthan gum. Also, stay clear of powders with vegetable oils, milk products, and sugar.
Choose a blend that is nutrient dense: The more superfoods your protein powder contains, the better. Not all plant protein powder blends are created equal. In fact, some contain fillers and additives that are simply empty calories and are of no nutritional value at all. Select a blend that has a high amount of protein as well as other vital micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, vitamins and even probiotics. Paying attention to the grams of protein per serving will ensure you have a higher quality protein powder.
Choose a blend with natural flavors and sweeteners: Many popular plant protein powders contain dangerous synthetic flavorings and sweeteners  including sucralose, aspartame, agave and brown rice syrup. Instead, choose blends that are flavored with natural ingredients like vanilla, cacao, and cinnamon and sweetened with natural stevia.
Chose a grain-free blend: Many people have a sensitivity to wheat and don’t even know it. If you have allergies, headaches, asthma, chronic sneezing. The healthiest protein blends are free of cereal grains such as wheat, rice, and corn.
Choose a sustainably sourced blend: Some clean protein powder blends are not sustainably sourced. This means that some or all of the ingredients were grown and harvested at a detriment to the environment and to people. Look for packages that say “sustainably sourced”. If you don’t see anything on the package, reach out to the manufacturer and ask.
Choose a plant protein blend that you love
One of the most important things to do when choosing a plant-based protein powder is to find a blend that you love and will actually drink. Plant proteins will definitely taste a lot more “earthy,” and for good reason. It comes from plants! But you can still find a good tasting protein powder if you look hard enough. It won’t do you any good if the best plant-based protein powder is sitting in your cupboard!
 Leyva, Delfin R Rodriguez-, and Grant N Pierce. “The Cardiac and Haemostatic Effects of Dietary seed.” NCBI Resources, Pubmed.gov, Apr. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20409317.
 Li, H, et al. “Blood Pressure Lowering Effect of a Pea Protein Hydrolysate in Hypertensive Rats and Humans.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 28 Sept. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21854068.
 “Sunflower Seeds.” The World's Healthiest Foods, The George Mateljan Foundation, 2018, www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=57.
 “About GE Foods.” Center for Food Safety, Center for Food Safety, 2018, www.centerforfoodsafety.org/issues/311/ge-foods/about-ge-foods
 Swithers, Susan. “Artificial Sweeteners Produce the Counterintuitive Effect of Inducing Metabolic Derangements.” Article In Press, Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2013, pdfs.semanticscholar.org/87e4/fd7ba01a86c32f8d97834bd7d9c2e49fb56e.pdf.