With protein containing the primary building blocks needed for healthy bones, muscles, skin and organs, it is vital that you consume sufficient quantities of this important nutrient every day. If you have never stopped to calculate how much protein you take in daily, you may be surprised to learn that your body may need far more than you are giving it.
Thankfully, protein powders can come to your rescue if you are having trouble meeting your protein quota. These powders mix up into simple drinks and delicious shakes and can be used as occasional meal replacements and post-workout snacks. They can also be useful for individuals who perform heavy strength training, who want to manage their weight or who have been told they need to consume more protein by their doctors.
Why Choose Dairy-Free Protein Powders?
The majority of protein powders on the market today rely on whey protein sources. Whey is one of the two main protein sources in processed cow’s milk. Although whey is incredibly familiar and has been studied quite often by many researchers, it is problematic for many.
For some with lactose intolerance, whey protein can cause significant gastrointestinal disturbances, including upset stomach, intestinal pain and even diarrhea. Even those who have not been diagnosed with lactose intolerance by a doctor may find that they have bloating or gas after a whey protein shake.
There may be some other motivations for staying away from whey. Those with personal, dietary or religious restrictions on eating animal products, including vegans, will also want to stay away from whey. In addition, whey does not offer as many additional nutrients as plant-based powders do, such as essential vitamins and antioxidants. Plant proteins usually require far less processing than whey does, keeping the finished product in a purer form. Finally, plant protein powders are environmentally conscious solutions when compared to the animal farming that must accompany the manufacturing of whey.
Protein Powders As Supplements
Always remember that protein powders should mainly be viewed as supplements. Although a protein-filled shake could occasionally constitute a meal replacement if you are pressed for time, it should not become the foundation of your healthy meal plan. It is important to rely on a wide range of protein types for your overall diet. This will help you get all of the additional nutrients and the complete and wide array of building blocks that your cells need to thrive.
Most plant-based protein powders are not complete proteins, meaning that they do not contain sufficient quantities of all nine of the essential amino acids that humans need every day. While the human body is capable of making some of its own amino acids, there are nine that the body cannot make on its own.
The good news is that you do not have to consume every one of the nine essential amino acids in a single sitting to get the benefits from them. Instead, you can eat some at one meal and others at another meal, letting your body do the work of cobbling them together. Another option for ensuring that your plant-based protein powder is a complete protein is to choose a combination product that contains more than one protein source.
Daily Protein Requirements
Your daily protein requirements depend on your age, gender and overall activity level. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is approximately 0.36 grams per pound each day or 0.8 grams per kilogram each day for the average adult. However, it is both safe and effective to consume up to twice this amount, especially if you are particularly active during the day or do a lot of weight training.
The Institute of Medicine states that adult men and women should get a minimum of 10% of their calories from protein every day but could aim as high as 35%. This works out to approximately 46 grams per day for an average-sized female and 56 grams per day for an average-sized male wishing to consume a moderate portion.
Some reasons to consume protein at the higher end of the scale include to build up muscle mass, manage your weight, boost metabolism and improve tissue repair after injury. In addition, according to one study, older adults can benefit from increased protein intake to improve muscle function and decrease the onset and progression of certain chronic diseases.
Top Dairy-Free Protein Powders
With so many healthy plant-based protein powder options on the market today, you have plenty of choices and can easily find the right option for you after some trial and error. Consider one of the following six options as you make your choice.
Pea Protein Powder
Pea protein is one of the most exciting plant-based protein powders and is made from nutrient-rich yellow split peas. In one study, pea protein was found to improve muscle mass significantly during strength training. It is also well-loved because of how much protein it packs into such a tiny serving.
Although it contains all nine essential amino acids, pea protein is not considered a complete protein because it is low in methionine. It does contain branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), which are a major source of protein in your body and which are particularly beneficial for energy and muscle building if you work out frequently.
Our Organic Pea Protein at Zen Principle is a safe and smart choice. Sustainably sourced from small farms in the United States and Canada, our offering can be easily mixed into hot or cold drinks and is incredibly flavorful. You can even try baking it into your favorite dishes.
Brown Rice Protein Powder
Brown rice is another excellent protein powder that in one study worked just as well as whey protein for building muscle in healthy young men. While it technically contains all nine of the essential amino acids, it cannot be considered a complete protein because the amount of lysine in it is quite low. It also includes a high amount of BCAA.
Some of the many benefits of brown rice protein powder include its ability to aid in weight loss, regulate cholesterol and improve liver function. However, make sure that the product you use has been checked for arsenic as this has been a problem in some brands. You can trust the purity of Zen Principle's Organic Brown Rice Powder, which is an unflavored powder that is rigorously tested to ensure purity and incredibly high quality.
Soy Protein Powder
Soy protein is a complete protein that can aid in weight loss and can produce moderate improvements in muscle mass. However, soy has often been surrounded in controversy with many claiming that it disrupts such hormones as testosterone while also causing breast cancer and decreasing thyroid function. However, others point to the many benefits of soy, including decreasing triglycerides and total cholesterol, promoting regular menstrual cycles and decreasing the risk of certain cancers, including prostate and lung. Keep in mind that the studies showing breast cancer risk have only been performed on animals to date.
If you do choose to use soy protein, search for a non-GMO source as a majority of soy is currently produced in the United States and around the world through genetic modification.
Hemp Protein Powder
Although hemp protein is typically a grainier powder that leaves a sandy texture in the mouth and can sometimes taste a bit grassy, there are still plenty of reasons to consider this as one of your top protein supplementation sources. Hemp has an incredible amino acid profile along with plenty of omega fatty acids and fiber. It can boost your immune system, decrease fatigue, prevent coronary artery disease, cleanse the colon and reduce sugar cravings. If you want to try hemp protein but are hesitant because of the flavor, consider a blended version that hides its unique flavor.
Seed Protein Powder
Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds can also be made into excellent protein powders although these are not as easy to find. Both are hulled, ground and defatted to make protein-rich powders. Sunflower seeds contain up to 40 percent protein on their own but when ground and processed to remove fat, they can contain up to 66% protein. They are also high in manganese, selenium, vitamin E and certain B vitamins. Pumpkin seeds similarly reveal an amazing protein store with plenty of magnesium, zinc, potassium and fiber as well.
Collagen Protein Powder
Collagen protein powder lets you experience the rich store of protein found in animal products without having to worry about consuming dairy. Collagen protein powder can be made from beef, fish or pork products and produces many amazing benefits in the body. It can decrease joint pain and inflammation, improve intestinal health, improve bone strength and reverse signs of aging in your skin. Of course, it also builds up the muscle, tendons and ligaments in the body, helping you age more gracefully and improving your strength when working out.
How to Choose High-Quality Plant-Based Protein Powders
Today, there are hundreds of types and brands of protein powders from which you can choose. While finding the perfect taste, texture and beneficial properties may take a bit of time along with some trial and error, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that you are only choosing the highest-quality plant-based protein powders.
First, consider whether you are getting a pure or a blended powder. Although a powder that contains more than one protein source may provide a bit of balance to the amino acid profile, you will want to ensure that the powder is not blended with unwanted filler ingredients, some of which could be harmful to you. A good example would be a brown rice and pea protein blend, which is a complete protein source.
Second, consider if there are any flavorings added to the protein powder. Although flavors can certainly make an otherwise bland or grassy-flavored powder become palatable, you may be better served by adding your own flavors through added fruits or vegetables.
Third, make sure that the powder or blend you choose has been thoroughly tested for heavy metals. In the past, numerous brands have been found to have elevated levels of lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and BPA, all of which will more than outweigh the benefits of the protein powder itself.
Finally, look for a product that is organic. If you see the certified organic label on a protein powder, you can rest assured that a minimum of 95% of the ingredients are organic and that the product will not have been treated with a wide array of dangerous herbicides, fungicides and insecticides.
When it comes to protein powders, you have a wide array of plant-based options that will keep you dairy-free while still giving you amazing benefits. Whether you are using protein powder to supplement a healthy lifestyle, build muscle, maintain a healthy weight or age gracefully, you are sure to find an excellent variety for you in the six options listed here.