Plant-based proteins, unfortunately, don't have a great a reputation. And this is really pretty unfair. Most people, however, are under the impression that animal proteins are just automatically superior.
The truth, though, is that vegan protein powders have some very distinct benefits that many aren't aware of. Here are (in no particular order) just 10 surprising facts about the under-appreciated group of plant-based, vegan protein powders.
1. Complete Proteins – One of the primary reasons that people tend to look down on vegan protein powders is because they're under the impression that plant-based proteins are incomplete proteins. This is not always true. In part, this misconception is based on some confusing terminology. The terms “complete” or “incomplete” in reference to proteins is used to determine whether or not that protein contains all of the 9 essential amino acids – those that the human body cannot make on its own. Many vegan protein powders do contain 9 of these amino acids, in various levels.
2. Hypo-Allergenic - Milk-based proteins like whey or casein can cause issues for people who are lactose-intolerant or otherwise allergic to dairy products. Many vegan proteins, though, do not carry a risk of allergies. It should be noted, however, that soy is an exception and can cause very severe allergic reactions.
3. High Fiber - Because they are derived from plants, vegan protein powders are typically very high in fiber. Although it's often ignored in the diets of many people, fiber is important to maintaining the health of your cardiovascular and digestive systems.
4. Healthy Fats – While protein tends to get all the attention, the other nutrients contained in a vegan protein powder can offer some powerful benefits. Many plant-based protein supplements are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to improve cardiovascular health and cognitive function.
5. Great For Cooking and Baking - Although the go-to use for protein powders is just to throw them in some water and knock them back as you're running out the door, there is so much more you can do – especially with vegan protein powders. These plant-based proteins tend to produce moist, fluffy baked goods – with an extra dose of protein. Some vegan proteins, though, like pea protein have a savory taste and are better suited to soups and sauces.
6. Easily Digested - If you've ever followed a high-protein diet or just downed a couple scoops of whey on an empty stomach, you know that it can carry some pretty severe digestive consequences. Plant-based proteins, however, tend to be easier on the digestive system and not cause this sort of discomfort.
7. Bioavailable – In addition to taking it easy on your digestive tract, plant-based proteins are readily absorbed and put to use by your body. While this might seem obvious, some protein sources are not very bioavailable – meaning that your body is only able to use a small percentage of the protein that you ingested.
8. Rich in Antioxidants – Just like the whole plant from which they're derived, vegan protein powders contain phytochemicals (chemicals produced by plants that are beneficial to us) and vitamins that work as antioxidants. These compounds help to support immune function, strengthen your skin, lower cholesterol levels and may ward off a host of other conditions.
9. High Concentrations of Minerals - Similarly, these plant products are rich in a variety of minerals that can support a huge variety of biological systems.
10. Highly Adaptable - Because they tend to have a subtle flavor and stand up well to cooking and baking, vegan protein powders can be used in a wide variety of ways. Depending on your needs, you will also likely be able to choose from among several different vegan protein powders to get exactly what you want and need.