These days many people are more interested in doing the vegan diet. This type of lifestyle has become increasingly popular as more people have decided to go vegan for many reasons such as ethical, environmental or health. When done right, the vegan diet may result in various health benefits, including a trimmer waistline and improved blood sugar control.
Veganism is defined as a way of living that aims to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty, whether for food, clothing or any other purpose. For these reasons, the vegan diet is free from all animal products, including meat, eggs and dairy. Nevertheless, a diet based exclusively on plant foods may, in some cases, increase the risk of nutrient deficiencies.
However, it should be that way. Avoiding animal products does not have to entail that you miss out on important nutrients and minerals such as protein. So whether you are on the go or you are trying to replenish your body after an intensive exercise, you can definitely choose from different plant-based protein supplements or powders that you only have to mix with water, non-dairy milk, smoothies, or other foods to provide the required protein that your body needs.
Even if plant foods like rice, peas, and sunflower seeds do not have the same levels of protein as those of meat and fish, many food processing techniques nowadays can aid in removing most of the fat and carbs in order to isolate the proteins stored in these foods to produce protein-rich powders.
With that, this article will help you understand more the importance of taking vegan protein supplements and the benefits you can have from taking them.
Different Types of Vegan Diets
Before explaining the importance of protein intake, it is good to note that there are different varieties of vegan diets. The following includes the most common types:
- Whole-food vegan diet: This is a type of vegan diet based on a wide variety of whole plant foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
- Raw-food vegan diet: This type of vegan diet is solely based on eating raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds or plant foods that are cooked at temperatures below 48°C.
- 80/10/10: Also referred to as the low-fat, raw-food vegan diet or fruitarian diet, the 80/10/10 diet is a raw-food vegan diet that specifically limits the intake of fat-rich plants such as nuts and avocados and primarily relies on raw fruits and soft greens instead.
- The starch solution: This type of vegan diet is similar to the 80/10/10, however this low-fat, high-carb vegan diet focuses on cooked starches like potatoes, rice and corn instead of fruit.
- Raw till 4: This low-fat vegan diet is a variation of the 80/10/10 and starch solution. Raw foods are eaten until 4 p.m., with the option of a cooked plant-based meal for dinner.
- The thrive diet: This type of vegan diet is a raw-food vegan diet. Followers eat plant-based, whole foods that are raw or minimally cooked at low temperatures.
- Junk-food vegan diet: Unlike other types of vegan diet, the junk-food vegan diet lacks in whole plant foods, it instead strongly relies on mock meats and cheeses, fries, vegan desserts and other heavily processed vegan foods.
It is important to note that although a number of different vegan diets currently exist, most scientific research rarely differentiates between the various types of vegan diets.
Why do vegans need protein supplements?
One of the three macronutrient profiles is protein. These macronutrients are the primary nutrients that compose a generalized diet. The macronutrient calculation, which is widely used by dieticians and other food specialists, is utilized in order to measure your diet. This consists of Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fats.
Protein can be found in most food sources, most notably in meat and other animal-based food sources. It is significantly vital because it is the main contributor toward building muscle mass. It is also important in almost all cellular functions of the body. In addition to that, common and essential amino acids also aid in partaking a significant role with protein synthesis and the creation of protein molecules that are found within these food sources. This process is a two-step factor that permits for transcription and translation to bond the amino acids which form the polypeptide chain and once synthesized will become a functional protein.
Vegetarians have higher protein needs because plant proteins are not as well digested and processed by the body as animal proteins. Furthermore, unlike animal proteins, plant proteins are considered to be incomplete. With that, it is usually recommended for vegetarians to eat more than 10% of protein than meat-eaters and because vegans do not eat eggs, milk or any dairy products, they may actually require more protein.
It must be noted that a well-planned vegetarian eating habits can provide quite a number of nutritional benefits compared to the traditional meat-containing diets. These benefits can include lower levels of saturated fat and higher levels of fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate, and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, and phytochemicals. So if you are a vegetarian, you can try to include in your diet foods high in protein such as soy, eggs, and dairy products so that you will have the adequate levels of protein in your body to support multicellular processes. If you do not want to eat such foods, then you can opt in eating a variety of protein-containing foods daily including vegetables with nuts, rice with beans, or beans with corn. This is essential in order to ensure an adequate protein intake.
An inadequately-planned vegan and vegetarian diet may cause you to have low levels of essential nutrients and vitamins such as vitamin B12, Iron, Calcium, and Zinc because these nutrients are usually found in higher amounts in animal foods.
Animal vs Plant Protein Supplement
Complete and incomplete protein can also be found in the following plant-based foods at a high amount:
• Ezekiel Bread
• Chia Seeds
What is Vegan Protein Supplement?
Vegan diet or plant-based protein food sources are great methods in order to aid your body to have a balanced digestive activity as they contain healthy and high amounts of fiber which can help in normalizing bowel movements and have been proven to minimize the risk of gut inflammation. Studies have proven that people who consumed plant-based nutrients, protein, and food in general, were observed to have a reduced overall fat mass and a decreased Body Mass Index.
As it is harder to achieve protein with direct food sources, protein supplements have emerged in the market. This protein powder was introduced as a swift yet still an effective way in improving your overall protein intake without having to consume actual food sources that may be difficult to achieve without increasing total volume to hit a specific goal. You will definitely find the most common types of protein powder in your local retail stores such Whey Protein which comes in concentrate, isolate, or hydrolysate; Whey Protein Caseinate; Beef Protein; Egg or Egg White Protein; and Plant Protein.
The main reason for the introduction of protein powders over food sources is for the sheer fact of convenience. With creation of a protein powder, consumers are able to regulate the grams per serving of protein in order to manipulate their diet by hitting targeted goals for a meal or for daily nutritional value.
Today there are definitely a lot of different types of protein powder. However, it is important to highlight vegan protein supplements because they are being highly regarded for overall nutritional value and benefits that coincide with consuming this over the others. Vegan protein powders or supplements are a highly popular dietary source that consists of ditching animal-based sources for plant-based foods. Having the same general approach and purpose of protein powders, plant based supplement takes an alternative approach towards introducing different sources for overall health support. Out of the many health benefits, multiple studies have already verified that people who consumed more plant-based nutrients or vegan protein supplements actually had relative reduced risks of chronic health issues and diseases such as Ischemic Heart Disease, Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension, Cancer, and Obesity. In addition to that, these plant-based nutrients have also been shown to be effective in a wide range of individuals including athletes, children, seniors. It has even been proven to be helpful in females who are pregnant.
Benefits of Vegan Protein Supplement
As you may have now read, vegan protein supplements have a wide range. By combining the beneficial sources into a well-balanced powder form, you will surely achieve an accurate protein consumption with all of the key attributes of plant-based nutrients. To explain further, here are some of the benefits of Vegan Protein Supplements:
- Animal Free
This may be one of the most obvious benefits of vegan protein supplements. It is also considered as the best overall benefit of vegan protein powders. By removing animal fats, proteins, or other components from the process, there are a number of benefits that come into play, making it that much easier to go vegan with your protein powder. If you are not vegan, odds are you are buying whey protein. This whey protein is essentially the curdled aftermath of the dairy industry. With vegan protein supplements or powders, you do not have to deal with any of the side effects that come with consuming the milk-based whey, which is known to make people gassy and bloated. Vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds are loaded with healthy fibres that naturally improve digestion and absorption, increase motility and reduce symptoms of gas and bloating. In addition to the clearance of digestion issues, you will also be helping the environment. The dairy and farming industries play a major role in pollution on both a local and global level. Antibiotics actually tie in with the pollution brought on by the dairy industry. Since the animals are all pumped full of antibiotics to make sure it has longer storage and shelter life, some of those antibiotics have been known to leak into nearby water and soil which significantly contributes to one of the most threatening problems in medicine that is antibiotic resistance.
- Builds Muscles
Contrary to popular belief, vegan protein supplement also has the ability to provide the body with adequate levels of protein as the common whey sold in the market. While it may be true that the protein content itself may be slightly lower compared to the animal counterpart, it is still easy to meet your daily protein goals. This is because the two most common proteins known for increased muscle building which are leucine and lysine are also found in vegan protein supplement. Furthermore, you can also find vegan protein powders available in the market that are loaded in both amino acids with things like soy protein, pea protein as well as sunflower and sesame seeds. Moreover, you are able to have more defined muscles because vegan protein supplements are also better in cutting fat.
- Aids in Weight Loss
It is important to note that vegan protein powder does not make you lose weight on your own, but it definitely helps in managing your diet and cutting extra fat. If you are using vegan protein supplements in order to replace entire meals, this serves as an effective way to fill you up and cut down on your total consumption throughout the day. You can manage your weight easily, and keep your meals simple though hand-picking which protein powder you are going with so that you can cater to your total calorie consumption, as well as your protein consumption. Moreover, it also helps that the plant-based alternatives are almost always lower in calories than their whey/animal counterparts, thus aiding in your weight loss program. Furthermore, studies have shown that vegan protein supplements such as soy protein are effective in decreasing your appetite. It is also recommended that you eat whole food meals like vegetables, beans, or meat substitutes like tofu or tempeh at least once or twice a day because this combination of fibre and protein means it takes your body a while to digest vegan whole foods. The more your body works on metabolising the plant protein, the better your body becomes at burning extra fat
- Helps In Digestion
As stated above, vegan protein supplements can aid in fighting against gassiness and bloatedness. The fiber-rich and nutrient-filled vegan protein powders improve your digestive system in many different ways. The fiber aids your digestive system by allowing your body to absorb more nutrients, making your protein powder that much more effective. Moreover, fiber also builds up your immune system and helps it stay intact. Vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds are loaded with healthy fibres that naturally improve digestion and absorption, increase motility and reduce symptoms of gas and bloating
- Rich in Nutrients
Another important added benefit of vegan protein supplements compared that whey does not have is the additional nutrients you will find alongside your plant-based options. They are loaded with a variety of micro and macronutrients and minerals that boost your body’s biochemical processes. It must be noted however that while these vegan protein supplements may be rich in nutrients, most vegan diets are significantly lacking an adequate level of Vitamin B12. Thus, it is vital to make sure you supplement that in your diet with vitamins from the store or other foods rich in Vitamin B12.
Furthermore, most protein powders will vary greatly in the nutrients they provide. However, it must be noted that most of plant-based diets tend to be lower in cholesterol and saturated fats and high in healthy plant sterols which can help to improve heart health and overall well-being. In addition to that, There are many available vegan protein supplements in the market that have all sorts of added nutrients like digestive enzymes including gelatinised maca powder, Lucuma fruit powder, freeze dried Acai berry and many more. Thus, you must read the label to make sure that the protein levels your vegan powder provides you are enough, while making sure that other vital nutrients and minerals are also provided.
- No Added Hormones or Antibiotics
It is important to note that animals that make up the dairy industry, which is where whey protein and most other common protein brands come from, are regularly injected with antibiotics in order to ensure that they stay alive longer and that they do not get sick in their poor conditions. Hence, vegan protein supplements with no added hormones or antibiotics are definitely a very important benefit.
Because animals are usually pumped with high doses of antibiotics, residual amounts of those same antibiotics in the animal products might be present in the ones that you consume. Furthermore, environmentally speaking, those antibiotics also find their way into the local ecosystems, getting into the soil and damaging local crops and food sources for animals, as well as leaking into the water systems, polluting things like lakes and rivers and causing damage to local wildlife. This can significantly contribute to antibiotic resistance of crops and even in diseases in humans. Thus, can be very detrimental in the long run.
In addition to that, research also shows the added hormones in animal products can lead to things like breast and prostate cancer in humans. Hence, it is usually a warning to the consumers, especially those at their puberty age, because there might be significant biological effects even at very low doses of these hormones.
In the end it must be noted that many animal-based sources of protein can contain added hormones and antibiotics whereas plant-based sources of protein are packed with antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals which are essential for optimal health.
Different types of Vegan Protein Supplement
- Pea Protein
Yellow split peas, not green peas, are the ones responsible for making pea protein powders. The yellow split peas are considered to have higher protein among other peas. According to experts, a quarter-cup or about 28-gram serving of unflavored pea protein powder packs about 21 grams of protein and 100 calories. It is also low in the essential amino acid methionine like all other legumes. However, it is good to note that pea protein is specifically abundant in the essential branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine and valine. Because of this, pea protein is able to help fuel working muscles and stimulate your body to make muscle protein. Thus, it can be beneficial for those who are trying to build their muscles but do not want to settle for animal-based protein supplements, especially that studies have shown that the muscle gains experienced with pea protein were similar to those of people consuming whey protein. Lastly, research findings in animal human studies also suggest that pea protein may boost feelings of fullness and also helps in lowering blood pressure.
- Hemp Protein
Hemp protein is produced from the seeds of the cannabis plant. Because of its legal and medical prohibitions, a variety of cannabis plants is bred in order to only contain small amounts of the euphoric compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Hence, this vegan protein powder will not make you high like the plant will. According to experts, a quarter-cup or about 28-gram serving of unflavored hemp protein powder has around 12 grams of protein and 108 calories. In addition, hemp protein is also a very good source of fiber, iron, zinc, magnesium and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is the plant form of omega-3 fat. Hemp protein is considered as incomplete protein because it is low in the essential amino acid lysine. Thus, if you plan to drink this, then you should definitely consume legumes or quinoa in order to fill that gap.
- Pumpkin Seed Protein
Pumpkin seeds are relatively high in protein and healthy fat in their whole form. Due to processing, most fat is removed when made into powder. This reduces the caloric content of the pumpkin seed protein supplements. According to experts, a quarter-cup or about 28-gram serving of unflavored pumpkin seed protein powder gives around 103 calories and 18 grams of protein. Just like hemp protein, pumpkin seed protein is also considered as an incomplete protein for it is low in the essential amino acids threonine and lysine. However, it is good to note that pumpkin seed protein is very nutritious, supplying high amounts of magnesium, zinc, iron and other minerals, as well as beneficial plant compounds. Studies have even shown that pumpkin seeds may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Brown Rice Protein
Compared to other vegan protein supplements, brown rice protein powder is easier to find in the market and relatively cheaper. Furthermore, according to experts, a quarter-cup or about 28-gram serving of unflavored brown rice protein powder has about 107 calories and 22 grams of protein.. It is low in the essential amino acid lysine just like all other mentioned vegan proteins. However, just like pea proteins, brown rice protein is a good source of BCAAs that helps in muscle building. In fact, studies have shown that brown rice protein powder may be as good as whey protein at supporting muscle growth when consumed after weight training. However, one problem with brown rice protein, and other rice products in general, is the possibility of contamination with the heavy metal arsenic. Hence, it is important that you choose a brand of rice protein powder that performs safety tests for arsenic levels.
- Soy Protein
Soy protein powder is one of the most beneficial protein supplements because it is considered as a complete protein which is relatively uncommon for plant protein. Furthermore, it is also high in BCAAs, just like pea protein and brown rice protein, in order to support muscle strength and growth. According to experts, a quarter-cup or about 28-gram serving of soy protein isolate powder has about 95 calories and 22 grams of protein. Furthermore, soy protein powder also has other beneficial plant compounds, including some that may aid in lowering your cholesterol.
It must be noted that soy protein is relatively not famous compared to other vegan protein supplements due to being a genetically modified plant, which some find bothering. However, there are still soy proteins available in the market that are non-genetically modified. Also, soy protein is not as popular because there are many people who are allergic to soy.
- Sunflower Seed Protein
This is relatively one of the newer vegan protein supplements in the market. Being isolated from sunflower seeds, a quarter-cup or about 28-gram serving of sunflower seed protein powder has about 91 calories, 13 grams of protein. This vegan protein supplement is excellent in providing BCAAs for muscle-building. Like the other mentioned seed proteins, sunflower seed protein is also low in the essential amino acid lysine. However, it must be noted that it is an excellent source of all other essential amino acids. Thus, in order to fill the lacking lysing, sunflower seed protein is usually combined with quinoa protein powder which is considered as a complete protein.
- Sacha Inchi Protein
A star-shaped sacha inchi seed, also called a nut, is responsible for producing this protein. Being only grown in Peru, there is relatively limited supply, thus it usually costs more than the common proteins. According to experts a quarter-cup or about 28-gram serving of sacha inchi protein powder provides around 120 calories and 17 grams of protein. Just like the former seed proteins, lysine is also relatively low in the sacha inchi protein. However, studies show that 30 grams or about 1 ounce of sacha inchi protein powder is effective in supporting protein synthesis in the body, the same as how soy protein is able to. In addition to that, sacha inchi protein is also an excellent source of the essential amino acid arginine, which the body utilizes to produce nitric oxide. This is important because nitric oxide regulates your arteries to expand, thus improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure. Lastly, this vegan protein also supplies ALA omega-3 fat, which supports cardiovascular health.
- Chia Protein
Isolated from Salvia hispanica, a native plant in South America, Chia seeds have become a popular diet in many parts of the world. It is utilized as part of smoothies, porridges and baked goods. However, the latest innovation of chia seeds is the chia protein powder. According to experts, a quarter-cup or about 28-gram serving of chia protein powder has around 50 calories and 10 grams of protein. In addition to protein, chia powder contains 8 grams of fiber per serving, as well as high amounts of several vitamins and minerals, including biotin and chromium. Furthermore, lysine is also relatively low in chia seed protein as with other seed-sourced proteins. It is important to note that the powdered form of chia may enhance its digestibility. This means that the body is able to absorb more of its amino acids.
- Plant Protein Blends
Plant protein blends are simply various powdered plant proteins that are usually combined and sold as blends. These frequently have added flavorings and sweeteners. One of the obvious benefits of blending plant proteins is that it can give adequate levels of all essential amino acids in a single product. Example of a plant protein blend is pea protein that is combined with rice protein. The pea protein provides lysine, in which rice protein is deficient while rice protein provides methionine, in which pea protein is low. Furthermore, quinoa protein is usually utilized in combination with other plant proteins too. It is considered as one of the few complete plant proteins. Other manufacturers also add vital enzymes in their blended plant protein products. This is added to help you digest the product. Other producers also utilize sprouted or fermented plant proteins that may be helpful in increasing amounts of beneficial plant compounds, vitamins and minerals. It may also aid in breaking down antinutrients that can interfere with the absorption of amino acids, minerals and other nutrients.
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