The Low-Down on Vegan Protein Powders


Hey all!

It’s been a very busy weekend, so I’m just checking in quickly. It seems that my last post prompted some great questions about whey protein and protein isolates. Namely this one, from Jessica:

Hi! I’ve been following your blog for a while but never written in. I was wondering if you could tell me more about the whey protein isolate comment? I had never heard anything bad about it, I’m a workout fanatic, and of course everyone and their brother at the gym drinks it. If it’s that bad for you, I would want to avoid it, but what other alternatives (that are clean) are there? Just wondering what your take on it is.


This is such an important question! Especially for my gym-going and athletic readers.

Here’s the deal: protein isolates are heavily processed, and their impact on health is a subject of some debate in holistic circles. While I don’t believe that they’re downright terrible, I do believe that there are less heavily processed and more nourishing options out there. And of course, “whey” is a dairy derivative, so it’s my hope that I can persuade you to find a vegan alternative!

The protein powders I recommend, Jessica, are these:

1) Hemp protein. Hemp is a nutritional powerhouse. Hemp oil is a rich source of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids (aka, the “good” fats). Hemp seeds contain all the essential amino acids and essential fatty acids. And hemp proteins are similar to proteins found in the human body, which makes them easy to digest and assimilate quickly, so they’re a great alternative to whey and soy proteins, which are often heavily processed. Vegan and raw athletes, take note: they’re terrific for athletic recovery and muscle repair. And don’t let the green color scare you: hemp protein is tasty, and the popular Nutiva brand comes in several flavors.

Best of all (and unlike other protein sources), hemp protein is also rich in fiber, boasting eight natural grams per serving. Drink up!

2) Brown rice protein. Many vegans rely on this allergen-free, gentle, and high quality protein powder for their workout and recovery smoothies. My fellow health counselor, Andrea Moss, uses it as a cornerstone of the morning smoothies in her level of the Spark! Wellness + Choosing Raw cleanse. I recommend the NutriBiotic or Sun Warrior brands.

3) Yellow Pea Protein. This is a favorite among raw athletes, Brendan Brazier included, and it appears in all of his Vega smoothie infusions and whole foods health optimizers.

With choices like this, why would we seek out highly processed and (often) sweetened powders? Hemp protein, which is my personal favorite, is merely powdered hemp seeds. It doesn’t get more natural than that.

As I always tell people, the title of my blog isn’t meant to suggest uncooked foods. It’s meant to suggest a way of eating and thinking that honors the most natural, untouched ingredients as possible. If you need to supplement your protein intake, these are the most organic ways to do it.

With that, I thought I’d share with you my all time favorite protein smoothie. This is hugely popular with my athletic clients, and it’s a personal favorite of mine, too: I often sip it in the late morning or as a post-workout snack. It’s relatively low in sugar, totally delicious, and features hemp protein, though you could substitute a vegan and all natural protein of choice. I hope you try it and love it!

Very Berry Protein Smoothie (serves 1)

1 cup mixed berries
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tbsp hemp protein powder
1/2 packet stevia
5 ice cubes

Simply blend all ingredients on high and serve!


I hope you all enjoyed a terrific weekend. I’ll be back soon.


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  1. I would like to know if anyone has tried Vibrant Health’s vegan protein powder? I’m trying to reduce the meat in my diet and exploring other natural but healthy alternatives. My local health food store recommended this brand but online reviews aren’t as good as I had hoped. Any information you have would be very helpful. Thanks!

  2. Hello!
    I’m researching how the combination of pea/cranberry/rice protein stacks up against other vegan proteins and I was hoping you might have some insights. I’m an Arbonne consultant and have been drinking our protein shakes (the vegan mix I mentioned) twice a day for a few months now and I love them, but I want to learn more about how the body breaks down the protein and what the benefits are of the different types of vegan proteins.
    My clients have used our shakes as a dietary supplement, to lose weight and as a meal substitute so I want to be sure to be as informed as possible when I’m suggesting that one starts a regiment with Arbonne. Any additional knowledge would be great! Thanks!

  3. I’ve been giving my elderly mom whey to lower blood pressure. And it seems as tho’ it helps seratonin levels. I’d prefer a plant sourced protein. Have you heard anything as to whether any of the plant proteins would be good alternatives?

  4. Ummm… If you read the back of the “sun warrior” bag it says it contains ” chemicals that can cause cancer, birth defects, and reproductive harm!” Yikes!

  5. Can you please give me your take on Vega One Nutritional Shake. I have been using it everyday. I do mix it with other veggies. Would you suggest this one to people or do you think Sun Warrior is a better product?

    Thank You,

    • Vega’s great, Mimi! I like that it has vitamins and minerals, not just protein.

  6. Oh thanks! I have a new blender (a Vitamix, finally) coming my way soon and wanted to prepare by having a protein powder to add to my smoothies. I am so overwhelmed by the options. thanks for succinctly explaining the key differences and thanks to everyone for the comments, which are helpful too.

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  10. I use Arbonne’s vegan protein. It’s vegan certified pure and tastes great!!! It is brown rice, cranberry and pea protein. Stevia is the sweetener and no soy lecithin!! Just thought I would shae that ,,

  11. I just learned from my Dietician (sp) that soy is the only plant that has all the essential amino acids.

  12. A friend of mine recently posted about wanting a vegan protein powder option. As I have plans to join a gym and start on my way to a better, healthy me, I figured I’d look into as well. My biggest concern has been, I nurse my 14-months old, who is allergic to dairy, meaning no whey protein for me. This has given me better options that were hard to find when I started looking for alternatives. Thank you!

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  14. Sept.9,2012–FYI, the NutriBiotic Rice Protein vanilla powder contains 6 mcg of LEAD per scoop. Source: (independent lab)
    I recently bought a subscription because of the fraud, contamination, misrepresentation, and unethical issues in the supplement world. Look for the special price on the website after you look at a sample page (don’t pay the first regular subscription price). I think I just paid $27 for a year’s subscription with lots of updates and alerts. The charts also list the price per dose and tag the best value items.

    • Yikes…no i used to use a ton of nutribiotic! No wonder my aresenic and lead levels were thru the roof!

      How did sun warrior rice and warrior blends, and omega nutrition pumpkin pro powder come out?

  15. I recently called the formulator of Designs For Health pea & rice protein and learned they are no longer using rice protein due to the high amounts of arsenic and lead! Even Organic non gmo rice has high levels! Wow… So what’s left is their organic pea protein. I will also try hemp protein.

  16. I agree, the mainstream whey brands are far too processed for my taste and my health! The problem is, vegan protein powders are not just for vegans! They are a great alternative for everyone.

  17. Thank you for your posts. I have learned a great deal from reading the comments. I will try the hemp protein powder from Nutiva. I will let you know how I like it.

  18. I use Arbonne’s vegan protein powder because…well, it’s vegan! pea, rice and cranberry protein and sweetened with stevia. Love it!

    • Arbonne has gm cornstarch in it. I looked into as a source of pea protein, and was disappointed to learn they added cornstarch. Which comes from genetically modified corn. Why would they add this? My guess is its a cheap filler.

  19. Thank you for this info. I was looking for a protein powder I could use that isn’t made from milk products as I’m lactose-intolerant as well as extremely allergic to milk.

  20. You should not mix slow releasing proteins with quick releasing proteins. The slow releasing will slow down the quick. As well the proteins mentioned in these vegan substitues have a hard time penetrating muscles.

  21. I tried the hemp protein and brown rice protein with almond milk. I add a little coconut based cream to add calories. It tastes great and sits well. It fills out my regimen of eating five times a day (plus snacks and protein shakes) for building muscle.

  22. No I meant I don’t want to use highly processed powders like the soy ones you talked about. They contain more protein it seems though,..
    But now I’m thinking about mixing rice, pea and hemp protein powder for my shake to have more protein, would that work?

  23. I didn’t have any berries so I put 1/2 mature banana, no stevia, and some strawberries ( I I didn’t and up with the nice color).Also I added one tablespoon more of hemp powder, because 2 tbs only makes 6.5g of protein…

    I just had a hard workout, how can I make a smoothie with 20g of protein without using the chemical powders??

  24. I have been using Hemp protein for 6 months now. The owner of my local vitamin store got me started on it. I was waiting for my egg protein powered to be delivered. He said that he has been taking hemp protein for years because he is a vegetarian. He said that most of his family and friends who are from India are vegetarians and are very healthy. I weighed about 240 pounds. I was having problems with gout attacks every 3 or 4 months for the last 4 years. Nothing really helped me and I did not want to take any medications. My doctor said that I was crazy, why not take the pills to avoid the pain. Joints hurting, big toe, then ankles, elbows, and one knee. I lost 30 pounds in 5 months, this weekend just finished my 2nd 5K race in 33 min 30 sec. I got down to 200 pounds, then I began to exercise. I did have 1 gout attach recently but it seamed to go away quicker. I take 2 nice size scoops of hemp with 2 table spoons of flaxseed for breakfast & lunch. I buy it in bulk, 3 pounds from Nutiva. I buy a bag every 6 weeks. It’s all natural – organic must keep refrigerated. I can’t purchase it from any health food stores, you order it from California, it shows up on your door step a week later. Lots of people that I work with were amazed at how quickly I was able to get in shape. I’m planning on getting down to 180 this summer. Anyways good luck – try some hemp protein, it’s not very good tasting so I add a little whey protein to flavor it, athough very healthy for you. I don’t like all the chemicals & processing of other protein powders. It’s my understanding that protein powders are not tested by FDA. Good health!!!

  25. Hello Gena,

    Have you tried putting a handful of beans into a smoothie to get protein? I’m thinking about chickpeas, kidney beans or navy beans. I thought I’d start with canned beans. If it was not bad, maybe I’d start soaking some.

    Also, I’ve heard of chickpea flour. Is that any different than “protein powder”? How would that taste added to a smoothie?


  26. Tried the hemp option. Love nuts and nutty, but this is not how I would describe the leading hemp protein powder! Neither my husband or I could drink it, AND it made the consistency of the smoothie “gel” like. We went back to a vegetarian one that included yellow pea and brown rice etc.

  27. THANK YOU! I’ve been looking for a Non-Dairy protein powder, but most of them are just lactose free (plus have a BUNCH of other junk in them). I thought I should look into Vegan options and that led me here. Thanks for this great information. Love natural food!

  28. Whats your take on the new vegan shakeology protein shake? I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks and I noticed that it reduced my appetite and gave me a tiny bit of energy, is that something you can get from all protein drinks? Thanks

  29. Thanks for posting this! I made this with Navitas Naturals (not the Nutiva you use) Hemp protein, blueberries and strawberries and it came out bluish green, how is yours so red?

  30. I am totally loving Jon Barron’s Nutribody Protein! It a brown rice yellow pea protein…25 grams per serving! No Sodium. No sugar! Best protein powder I have ever tasted! โ™ฅ

  31. This is a great post! I always supplement with rice protein powder when I do my bi-annually juice fasts.

  32. I am a faithful user of Vega Smoothie Infusion as the protein base for my green smoothies, plus I also add Nutiva Hemp (Acai Pomegranate) as well. I also take Spiru-tein, Vega Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer, Progressive Vegi Green Protein, Vega Sport Protein , Ruths Hemp with Maca and E3 Live, Manitoba Harvest Hemp 70, Prairie Naturals Hemp in chocolate and blueberry pomegranate . For my bedtime drink I take Omega Nutrition’s Pumpkin Seed Protein Powder mixed with Nutiva Pomegranate Hemp and Prairie Natural Hemp (either blueberry pomegranate or Chocolate) with coconut milk. As you can see I am nutty for Hemp. I try and take in 100g a day of Protein

  33. Hi Gena
    In my search for a better vegan protein powder for my smoothies I came across your blog topic.
    Great comments and input from many of your readers.
    With the market being flooded with so many health “protein boosts” I find it difficult to find a reliable product. And, the price of these proteins can be VERY spendy. So, if you get one that doesn’t work, your can be out a big chunk of change and have a large container of useless powder sitting in your cabinet.
    I personally can not do hemp or whey. Both cause allergic reactions in my system. My partner has an issue with soy, so I am trying to avoid soy for him.
    Wondering if there is a way of making our own protein powder? Have you tried this???

  34. Thank you so much for this. I’m not a vegan or vegetarian but I do eat mainly a vegetarian lifestyle (I think I”m called a ‘flexitarian’.) I wondered about whey myself and after reading “The China Study” have tried to avoid dairy products as much as possible.

    I’m also sensitive to soy products and try to avoid them as much as possible, so I felt I was left with little options as to what to eat for a protein supplement (I keep falling short and I like to lift weights). I”ve recently purchased hemp and dont mind it. It is a bit gritty, but blending it in your smoothies or putting it on salads makes it EXTREMELY pallatable. I also dont mind the taste. Reminds me of green tea or matcha powder.

    As for Brendan Braizers Vega, I think its the Maca Powder that gives it a funny taste. I can ALWAYS pinpoint that stuff in any supplement… Maca is compared to being similar in taste to chocolate, but as a chocoholic, it does nothing for me.

  35. I recently tried Vega chocolate and blended it with vanilla almond milk. Is it the stevia that I taste that gives it the “funny” after taste? I do not like alternative sweeteners, not xylitol or sorbital or the other sucralose types that claim to be natural sugar alcohols. I am asking because I have never tried stevia before and it seems to be in all of the protein powders-even the ones that say unsweetened. I used to drink Spirutein vanilla, blended with fruit and it had no aftertaste-BUT it contains bee pollen. I’m not sure what bee pollen is but it doesn’t sound very good for the bees.

  36. I was curious what your thoughts are on the warning label on the Nutibiotic Rice Protein that says it “contains chemicals known to the state of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm”. if you look on the website you can find it. I am thinking since you are not in Cali, your jar doesn’t have it on it.

  37. It’s true. I remember in the early 90’s when whey was becoming THE thing – I was heavily into weight lifting then – and as soon as I took one sip of my favourite chocolaty protein powder, my throat started to itch like crazy. Same product different protein, and I was devastated. Since then, as a chocoholic, I have tasted many truffles and hazelnut spreads that had my throat react, all having whey in the list of ingredients. I knew there was something not quite right about it. Unfortunately, in over 15 years, I have never found a protein powder that satisfied my taste buds so thoroughly. But since I’m about to do a cleanse and will need some suppoort protein-wise, I’m about to try Genuine Health’s Vegan Protiens, which contains, according to them, “the richest source of vegetarian proteins including pea, cranberry, brown rice, alfalfa and hemp.” We shall see!

  38. HI I stumbles on your blog and I love it. My Protein drink says it has yellow pea protein isolate. does that mean it highly processed? it is proventive harmonized vegan protein.

    ~YOur latest fan, Becca

  39. low down on protein powders, well, firstly i would like to say that i great respect CCNs and thought about becomeing one, but that is another story. You may not be aware of the fact that if you look carefully there are a great number of low tempeture processed protein powders, although most people who are strongly against any animal products would maybe over look that, saddly, i have tried hemp protein, and it was the most discusting thing i have ever tried to ingest, to the point where i used it in a banana bread that i make and it destoryed it too, i have not tried any of the flavored ones. one thing that yo and i am sure yo have heard this, but maybe your readers have not, my girlfriend is studying to be a massage tharepist, and in her introduction to pathology text there is a statement that took me some time to try and explain, the cause of cancer is still greatly unknown, and it is true, although we know of compounds that can, for example the compoundss in smoke, how can we then explain those people whom smoke for 50 years and do not develope lumg cancer. Just food for thought.

  40. I should have added that it isn’t just a protein shake, it is full of vitamins minerals, alpha lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10 etc.

  41. Hello there,
    I was just searching for informaton on vegan protein powder drinks and I came across your information. I recently found out the our protein drinks are vegan certified and contain pea protein isolate, cranberry protein and rice protein. I heard one of our VP’s say that it is the only truly, vegan protein drink on the market and I was trying to find out if that was correct. I would love to send you the complete list of ingredients for you to look at and give me your feedback about the product. I use and sell products from Arbonne (a 30 year old swiss, health and wellness company) and I am always researching the information of the ingredients so that I can better inform people. I look forward to hearing back from you. Thank you.

  42. I’ve recently discovered Omega Pumpkin Seed Protein powder. It tastes great in smoothies. It’s 10grams of protein in a 15gram scoop and only 55 calories and 1 gram of fat. Reasonably priced too. Any thoughts on this?

  43. Hi Gena, A few months ago, I tried Nutiva hemp protein and within 2 hours got violently ill. I tried it a few weeks later from a separate package and got the same result, but worse. It this an allergic reaction? Should I try a different brand or give up and try brown rice protein? Thanks.. joe

    • Joe
      I too have had the same experience with hemp. From drinking a smoothie that had hemp protein, I got severe stomach cramps. It felt like I had eaten freshly sharpened knives. I personally read anything that is VEGAN protein now to make sure there isn’t any hemp in it.

  44. Gena, I just had a question on how this was combined… I know you sort of addressed this earlier, but I was still let a little confused – I thought fresh berries couldn’t be combined with nuts or nut milks. I know bananas are an exception and I could make a smoothie with bananas and almond milk and have it be somewhat propoerly combined, but are berries an exception as well??

    • Hey Catherine —

      I think I said somewhere else that this is technically miscombined. But our bodies can handle a touch of miscombining here and there. At the end of the day, we can’t have it all: if you’re going to add protein powders to smoothies, chances are, you’ll be miscombining a bit. And that’s ok.


  45. Manitoba harvest is the freshest and best tasting hemp protein. I eat hemp pro 70 the only hemp concentrate.

  46. Gena,

    first time long-time lurker. Great site.

    However, some points I have with your post:

    Whey is a nutritional powerhouse. Many of the proteins that make up whey protein, that are designated in the group of proteins that are known as whey, such as lactoferrin contain beneficial health effects. The only source of lactoferrin is pretty much milk, all type of milk. Lactoferrin has immune system boosting qualities. Whey also contains immunoglobulins.

    Not to mention that whey contains high mounts of branched chain amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, valine, and is a very good source for them. Useful for athletes and athletic types.

    Whey protein, whether the isolates or the concentrates, are not necessarily subject to high heat with the resulting denaturing of the proteins. Since the beneficial aspects of whey will be destroyed with high heat / lots of processing, there are attempts to minimise the denaturing.

    The isolates that are obtained via cross flow microfiltration (CFM) are isolated with the attempt to denature the proteins as little as possible. The main problem with CFM isolates is that the process is expensive, so they aren’t used as much.

    The more common ion exchange process does end up denaturing the protein. The denaturing can end up making the protein allergenic to some people.

    Also, whey concentrate, which is much cheaper than isolate, is actually less processed than the isolates, and usually denatured much less; thus, whey concentrates actually provide many of the benefits of whey, unlike ion-exchange isolates. Whey concentrate contains more of the bioactive compounds such as lactoferrin, immunoglobulin G (IgG), since they aren’t processed out.

    Now concentrate has lower protein, 70-80% compared to isolates which are >90%, and thus more fat and lactose, which might be a problem if someone is lactose intolerant.

    If you look at the ingredients list of the protein powder, it should specify what type of whey it uses. Also, you can make a pretty good guess based on the protein, carb, fat content. Those that have higher amounts of fat, carbs, will have used more whey concentrate.

  47. Hey Gena,

    Thank you for showing us all the great protein powder options. I use Living Harvest Hemp Protein which is a product from Brendan Brazier’s company. It’s so great in my green smoothies!

  48. hey gena, i notice you used stevia. have you written about stevia and other sugar replacements before? i’d love to check it out. i keep hearing conflicting information on it… thanks!

  49. Gena – I was wondering how you came upon the information that soy protein isolate is a known carcinogen. As far as I’ve searched, the closest I’ve been able to find have been small studies subsidised by the dairy industry. Nothing impartial or peer-reviewed.

    I certainly don’t think soy protein isolate (or any protein isolate!) is a health food, but putting it in the same league as cadmium paint or acrylamide is going somewhat overboard.

  50. Gena, Thank you SO MUCH for posting my question and the clarification about the whey protein isolates. I’d managed to switch my protein powders to clean ones, without any additives (when I first started exercising I used Muscle Milk, YUCK)…but it’s all a learning process, isn’t it? I plan to start with the Sun Warrior and am ordering some right now! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks again for this invaluable information!

  51. Hi Gena, Would smoothies with hemp protein, then, fall under the nut/seed category? And brown rice smoothies as starches, or would you count all of these as neutral?

    Many thanks.

    • Gena, also, do you consider this smoothie to be combined? Just curious. I’m happy drinking it either way- made it last night and loved it! The hemp powder has almost a flour-like taste to me ad the combo tasted vaguely like berry pie, an old fav!

      • Since hemp powder is almost entirely ground hemp nuts, I’d call it nut-based, and so yes, the smoothie is technically miscombined. That said, hemp powder doesn’t usually upset my digestion too much, so I don’t think this one is a big deal!

  52. I would love to see you address the fruit vs. fat debate that is ongoing in the raw community. I saw in your FAQs that you eat very little fruit and that your daily calories largerly come from fat. I, and I’m sure other readers, would love to hear more about your approach from this perspective.

      • Hi Hilary and Kelly,

        To be honest, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that most of my calories come from fat. I don’t eat what would be called a “high fat” raw diet by most standards — I include healthy fats in the forms of nuts and avocados and coconuts, but they’re always a small percentage of my plate, which is always mostly comprised of vegetables!

        That said, I’ll weigh in on the so called “fruit vs. fat” debate at some point. I think it’s a silly argument, but I’ll explain that.


  53. Thanks for sharing that about soy protein isolates, I had NO idea! ๐Ÿ˜ฏ My favorite complete protein plant powder is Lifetime Life’s Basics vanilla. Soy free, vegan and delicious. (19g protein, 129 calories per serving)


    • Just wanted to point out that Lifetime Life’s Basics has natural chocolate flavor, which can mean MSG…and this product has xylitol in it. Just 3 grams of xylitol can kill a 65 pound dog…quickly!!! Why do we manufacture/buy products that harm anyone? Unconscious living perhaps. In any case, even though it is considered safe for humans and is said not to spike insulin in humans, I would pass. This is still a highly processed sugar and the long term effects are not known at this point. Pass. There are better products out there without the chemicals.

      • Just FYI avocado can kill dogs too, but that doesn’t mean it kills humans ๐Ÿ™‚

  54. My advice on hemp powder is to start out slow. Just use a small amount and gradually work your way up to the full serving amount. Some people, myself included, can get cramps and such with taking the whole serving. I love Nutiva hemp as well.

    • How would you recommend the dosage for gradual usage of hemp protein powder?
      I was talking 3.5 tablespoons a day and increased it to a full 4 last week. I have been on it for 4 weeks and have experienced upper abdominal cramps for the past 3 days. I did not take the hemp protein powder this morning and my cramps are not as servere and often, seems to be getting better.
      I’m probably over doing it but am happy to be losing weight. How long should I take a break from to powder before I restart?

  55. THANKS for this post! Now that I’m doing the vegan thing for the next month, I know I need to check for that sneaky soy protein isolate.

    I have a somewhat related question – What is soy lecithin? I find it in a lot of my dark chocolate bars (Green & Blacks, etc.)

  56. As a die-hard smoothie enthusiast, I loved this post! Hemp protein is probably my favorite these days–Living Harvest’s vanilla spice flavor is superb.

  57. OMG Gena thank you so much for this post! I was just talking with someone about the protein powders I have and noticed there was splenda in it and it was highly processed! i contacted Sun Warrior brand and they are sending me some samples, I am also very interested in Hemp protein powder. I workout and need a great psot workout protein that is not processed and no junk in it so THANK YOU! I am priting out this post and doing some major research on the web to decide what to get!!

  58. Thank you so much for posting this! I just bought two samples of Nutiva hemp powder to try this weekend, so I’m glad to hear that it’s a good brand. I also appreciate the info on soy protein isolate. My husband bought soy protein powder a couple weeks ago because we’re trying to transition. We looked at alternatives this weekend, though, because we didn’t want to get too much soy in our diet. One thing I’ve been trying to sort out is whether soy milk (specifically I use Silk) is safer because it appears to use whole soybean rather than processed. If you have any insight, I’d love to hear it!

    Also, I love the smoothie recipe! Very simple, but delish!

  59. i love brown rice protein! wish i liked hemp more, but it tastes a little “woodsy” to me.. would rather just toss some hemp seeds on my salad ๐Ÿ˜€
    thanks for spreading the word about soy protein isolate.. not good stuff, at all :/ wish more bars (*cough* clif *cough*) would use brown rice or hemp instead!
    have a great night <3

  60. Haha, that’s a good smoothie recipe!

    Though I’m not vegan, I’ve dabbled in vegan protein powders. I’d say pea protein is better than rice protein; I’ve never found a pure rice protein that didn’t taste like vomit. But hemp protein is -awesome.- Vega is good stuff.

    But yeah, I’m an omnivore, so my protein of choice is whey isolate (way better than whey concentrate). One of my favorite recipes (you can substitute the whey for rice/pea/hemp) tastes like GirlScout thin mints; you take 1 cup almond milk, ice, cocoa (or cacao) powder, stevia, and peppermint extract. Then top with a sprinkle of cacao nibs for crunch! Since the peppermint and chocolate are strong, you can add in veggies like spinach and you won’t even taste them.

  61. Thanks for this great review! How fun is pea powder? Just saying it gives me the giggles!
    I LOVE Sun Warrior. It has amazing flavor and I feel so good about consuming it. It’s well worth the co$tola!

  62. Gena,

    I do have a follow up question about your claim that SPIs are known carcinogens. I have done extensive research in the field of environmental endocrinology and toxicology, and to my knowledge ingestion of SPIs have been shown to be PROTECTIVE against both breast and colon cancer in preliminary rat trials. Some trials have even shown this anti-cancer effect to be passed on through up to three generations of rats!
    It seems to be hard to say either way what their definitive effect is, as there have been no large scale epidemiological trials run in humans, and no rat testing has been appreciably robust. Certainly any type of soy in large quantities may have estrogenic effects of disputed strength, but honestly it is new information to me that SPIs are “known” carcinogens. May I ask what research you have read that backs this up? I have not read new information beyond what I just recounted, but would be interested to read whatever you have read.


  63. I quite like hemp, but I’m obsessed with Vega! I drink one mixed with coconut water and a bit of soy or hemp milk every morning and it keep me full for about 4-5 hours! Chai is probably my favorite, but the Berry & Vanilla flavors are great too. Chocolate is alright, but not my first choice.

    I tried to do Amazing Grass, and while it tastes good to me, it never mixed well so I let it go for Vega.

    • Hey Nicole,

      I am so glad to hear that Vega protein keeps you full for a good 4-5 hours. I am thinking of buying a tup of Chocolate/Chai Vega and to drink it everyday as breakfast. In your post, you mentioned that you mix Vega with coconut water and a bit of soy/hemp milk. Do you use 2 scoops of the power? or just one scope and mix it with other things? And does the shake get thick? I like my shake fluffy and thick, because it seems more filling to me than normal liquid drinks. (maybe i just need time to (reset) what full is … not sure) Can you please tell me how Vega protein has benefit you? Thank you very much!!

  64. Thanks for the brand recommendations, lovely! I’m picking up a container of rice protein this weekend in preparation for the cleanse and will definitely be using your recipe as a variation during the 10 days.

    Hope you had a great weekend!

  65. I had a feeling soy and whey proteins were no good (I think the advertising says enough). I started using hemp protein last week, after wanting my morning smoothie to be a bit more substantial and knowing how good it is for you.

    Personally, I think I have a KILLER smoothie every morning worth giving a try:

  66. I’ve never felt that protein drinks were for me since my only form of fitness is yoga, but I wonder now if maybe I was wrong about that? In any case, this is a wonderful look at the vegan options and I value your opinion on them. I’ve already passed on this post to athletic friends.

  67. You really are the best Vegan educator! Thanks for the information and your own personal favorites.

    I actually just last week was lucky enough to go to an event at my local Whole Foods to hear Brendan Brazier speak and to sample his protein powder. Such a sincere guy, and his product is tasty too (albeit a bit pricey).

    So I also have a question, which I think I know the answer to, but I’m going to ask it anyways. I just saw some Brazil Nut Protein powder in the bulk section of my natural foods store, and even though I’m not much of a supplementer, I was definitely intrigued. Like hemp seeds I understand that it is “merely powdered brazil nuts.” I imagine it is a different type of protein than hemp seeds (?) but just as natural? What do you think? Obviously I realize that hemp would be a better choice for many as it is less allergenic than brazil NUTS, but still I am curious to learn your opinion. Thanks!

    • Sounds OK to me, Teresa, though hemp is more nutritionally balanced food, in my opinion! Still, no reason not to vary.

  68. Great post, Gena! I get so tired of hearing people talk about their whey protein shakes. Scary stuff, in my opinion!

    I myself love hemp protein powder – and the kind I buy has 14 grams of fiber per serving!

    Another find that I *think* you’d approve of is Garden of Life’s vegan & RAW protein powder. I think it’s new, as it just popped up on the shelves at my co-op last week. I bought some, and have reallllly been enjoying it in my smoothies. I think I like it even better than hemp!

  69. Great post, glad you recommended the Nutiva product because that’s a regular in my morning smoothie lately.

  70. pretty smoothie. I totally agree with your thoughts on the powders they have never appealed to my on any level.

  71. Thanks for posting this. I used to drink whey and then soy protein shakes back in the day. I was scared into thinking that vegetarian and vegan were deficient in protein and I needed a shake. I gave up soy about 6 months ago and I have never felt better. I eventually want to try hemp protein. I have never heard of pea protein — I will have to look into that.

  72. Well, I just learned something! I don’t typically use soy protein powders, but I bought a few sample packs and actually put one in a smoothie this morning. It had a natural vanilla flavor added, and it made my banana-strawberry-mango smoothie way more tasty. But I guess it was bad. Damn. I was thinking about buying a big ole’ thing of it. I’ll check out hemp protein instead. Thanks!

  73. Question: is isolated soy protein the same as textured vegetable protein (soy). I know they’re both highly processed. I wonder if the TVP is the lesser of two evils…

  74. Big hemp fan over here too! It took some getting used to, but now that I expect its earthier taste, I’ve come to enjoy it in a way. Unfortunately I often forget I have it, but hemp MILK on the other hand, I enjoy on the daily via coffee. I’m so done with whey/soy pro powders.

  75. Awesome post! I am currently using Nutiva’s Hemp and Fiber pro-powder (it was on sale). What I’ve found is that with hemp protein, if you use 1/2 the full serving, you don’t taste it or feel it in your smoothies. That said, you get less protein (7 grams per half serving) which if you’re used to 14-17 grams per serving of whey protein, it can seem like a lot less. But the nice thing with something like hemp protein is that you can throw it into a lot of different things – including soups or sauces or dressings – because its not sweetened and it doesn’t have vanilla or chocolate in it. So I think throughout the course of the day, I get what I need, plus my omega fatty acids. I am really curious about Jay Robb and Sun Warrior rice proteins but they are so expensive! Anyone got a spare packet? ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’ve had the Nutribiotic protein and it was super gritty for my taste.

  76. Perfect timing, as usual! I just had my first taste of Vega this morning for breakfast! Added almond milk and blueberries… Mmmmmm….

    Once again, totally agree with your awesome post, Gena!

    • YAR! I just bought a vega sports line and combine it with their nutritional complex also with almond milk with pineapple and raspberries and I find very gritty and dirty tasting. I don’t know if its something I’ll need to get used to being a plant based product but its barely indigestible.

  77. I’ve never used any sort of protein powder, thanks for this informative post! That smoothie looks fantastic, so creamy and thick and what a great color!

  78. Thanks for posting this! I actually just ordered Sun Warrior and was happy to see you listed it.

    I have always been a “we already get enough protein, why add more?” person. But since I am going to be trying to get pregnant soon, I figured with crohn’s I need to add a little extra just to be safe. ๐Ÿ™‚ And I do workout a lot as well.


  79. Thanks for this post– I have been wondering about this! I’ll have to give hemp protein powder a try!

  80. Thanks for all the info! I knew soy protein isolate wasn’t “good” for you but I wasn’t sure why…
    I use brown rice protein & I love it! I’ve never heard of pea protein but I’d love to try it

  81. You’re just full of great advice, mama! This is why you got the educator of the year =]

    I knew that soy protein was bad already, but I’ve never heard of whey protein being bad. Thanks bunches!

    • I understand that it it the soy isolates that are bad – not soy itself. I eat Whole Soy yogurt because it has all the essential amino acids and no soy isolates.

  82. Just found your website! Thanks for the information, really good to know for next time I buy protein!

    Also if boca is really processed, do you have any suggestions for other alternative “burgers”

  83. Really informative – because I only use whey or casien! I should try some others…

  84. I’ve tried every protein known to man, and as far as vegan powders go, I really like the brown rice powder the best. Jay Robb is mighty tasty…and the powder’s pretty good too. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  85. Very good to know. I’m not in the market to use protein powders (yet) but that’s probably because it felt like such uncharted territory (until now!). Thanks for the post, hope things get less busy!

  86. This is really good to know because I have been using 100% Whey Protein Powder lately and I wasn’t sure if I was really that good for me. Thank you for the useful post!!

      • Hi Ameena, There is also a Protein that is rice, pea and cranberry. Its made by Arbonne and is Vegan. I am a consultant and have just started this protein into my diet and love it. I am fuller longer and I love the taste! Hope this helps!

  87. Hooray!! Lovely post. Most people just assume whey protein and soy protein must be okay because it’s in SO many things. I love hemp + rice protein. mmm =)

  88. Thanks for your list and your brand rec’s, Gena! I use Sun Warrior Brown Rice in both Vanilla and Choc. I’m kinda meh on the Nutribiotic, and Jay Robb’s brown rice is decent but not as “natural” or raw as Sun Warrior’s is, from what I can tell.

    Pea protein- The Brendan one I have sampled and wasn’t too keen on it, but maybe I didnt mix it well enough, it was really gritty.

    And the hemp. B/c of the horror story report on hemp protein and it tasting dirty (and in most powerbar type things, I think it does taste dirty and earthy) but do you find it “dirty” or toooo natural tasting? you describe Nutiva as tasty, so I am guessing not but before I spend $ on something, I would love more info.

    Sorry to be that pesky reader with follow up questions!


      • yes, it has a nutty taste which I love! 11g of protein out of each 29g serving. Every morning I’d have a bowl of oatmeal or hot cereal (I’d let it cool in the freezer) with a serving of hemp seeds and one whole banana. Sometimes I’d add a little cinnamon and a squirt of raw agave nectar or half a teaspoon of sugar. The meal give me roughly 15 – 20g of protein.
        After my work out, I’d blend up some soaked truly raw almonds with the hemp, 2 tbsp of peanut butter, (here’s the special part) half a mango / some coconut juice / whatever tasty fruit u’d like to add – this gives me roughly 20g of protein. BTW, I get the raw shelled hemp seeds in 5lb bags.