While a balanced diet is always best to ensure you receive the proper nutrients to be and stay healthy, Americans do tend to rely on carbohydrates to quell hunger.
In particular, where we might reach for a bagel or a bowl of high sugar cereal to satisfy hunger in the short term, we may not realize that we are prolonging hunger and promoting weight gain for the long term.
However, there is certainly nothing wrong with bagels and cereal, though the key to gaining proper nutrition tends to lie in an area of nutrition that is often overlooked: protein.
A diet that includes the proper amount of protein is the diet that will help you build muscle and feel full, which are the building blocks to an overall picture of health and good nutrition.
What is it about protein that’s so great?
While carbohydrates are necessary for energy, fiber helps promote a healthy digestive system, and healthy fats help us have soft skin and absorb vitamins, protein is the major building block of our bodies.
Found in every cell in the body, protein is also responsible for the growth of hair, nails, muscles, blood, and, well, every other part of you. Protein is an important part of a healthy diet because, in addition to facilitating muscle growth, protein helps you feel full by activating the satiety hormone that promotes a feeling of fullness.
Due to the feeling of fullness as well as jump-starting the metabolic process known as ketosis,being mindful of attaining the recommended amount of protein in your diet can help you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight.
Ketosis is the metabolic process that your body undergoes when it changes from burning carbohydrates for energy to burning the body’s own fat. When you replace carbohydrates with protein, your body doesn’t have an extra store of carbs to use for fuel, so it looks to fat stores instead.
So, are bagels bad?
Does this mean that to drop that last five pounds you should ban all bagels and eat only protein? Absolutely not.
Carbohydrates are not bad for you, and are an important part of fueling your body. The key is simply to understand how the different types of energy we gain from food work together to help our bodies to operate efficiently.
It’s similar to understanding which car needs high-octane fuel versus lower grade gasoline versus when it makes sense to ride a bike. All are perfectly fine ways to enable transportation; the key is to understand which way makes the most sense for your overall personal needs.
Plus, it’s important not to underestimate the benefits of eating for pleasure. It’s okay to eat foods just because they taste good, and it’s even better to join others in sharing a meal. Humans are social creatures and eating together is a fun and meaningful activity.
Why protein powder?
Incorporating protein into a healthy diet need not be difficult. Men need, on average, about 100 grams of protein a day; women need approximately 70 grams of protein. This can vary based on your size, activity level, and personal health, so it’s best to consult a nutritionist to determine the best protein goal for you.
Sometimes it’s not always convenient to cook a balanced meal. However, to ensure you eat enough protein in a way that suits your taste buds and your lifestyle, consider the many benefits of using protein powders.
Protein in powdered form sitting right on your counter couldn’t be easier. Mix up a smoothie in a flash for a quick, nutritious, tasty meal or snack. Add in fruit, avocado, greens, and water or any kind of milk you like, for endless possibilities of a quick, easy, delicious, high-protein meal.
2. Easy storage
Powders need no refrigeration and so are essentially worry-free in terms of storage.
3. They taste good
With the wide variety of protein powders available, there is certainly one with a flavor and combination of ingredients that appeals to you.
4. They help with goal setting
When targeting a set amount of protein intake per day to meet your personal nutritional goal, the portions and measurability of powders make that easy.
5. They are portable
Protein powders come in individual packets, in large containers, or premixed as ready-made beverages perfect to grab and go.
6. There is variety
Eating chicken, eggs, fish, or tofu on an endless repeat can get pretty boring, pretty fast. Getting enough protein in a delicious fashion with some variety can be especially challenging if you’re a vegan or vegetarian. The different types, flavors, and mixes of protein powders keep protein intake interesting.
7. If you’re vegan
Incorporating protein into a vegan diet is often a challenge; soy or pea-based protein powders can be a great way to reap the benefits of eating a complete protein.
8. When recovering from an injury
Protein helps sports injuries heal more quickly.
What are the most common types of protein powder and how are they different?
There are several common types of protein powder. The most common are made from whey, soy, casein, hemp or pea protein. Here is how they compare.
Whey is the most common form of protein powder. The protein comes from milk solids, and the powders tend to be the most water-soluble of all types of protein powder, making whey-based powders excellent for smoothies and mixing your own protein drinks.
Whey is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine of the amino acids necessary for human dietary needs.
Research on the benefits of whey protein shows that there are links to lowering cholesterol, improving overall immune response especially connected to asthma, and reducing blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Similar to whey protein, casein is a protein found in milk and milk products.
Casein can be a good alternative to whey protein if you are looking for an animal-based product.
For obvious reasons, casein is not a good option for those looking to increase protein intake without using animal products.
Soy is both plant-based and a complete protein. This makes it an excellent choice for those who follow a vegan diet.
Drawbacks to soy protein are that it is not as water-soluble as whey-based powders, and some people report an unusual aftertaste.
There are known health benefits to soy protein, including lowered cholesterol, and muscle recovery.
It surprises many people to learn that peas are an excellent source of protein.
A complete protein, peas contain all nine essential amino acids needed to effectively build muscle. Pea protein is comparable to whey in terms of grams of protein per serving, making pea protein an excellent animal-alternative.
High in fiber, hemp protein is easily digested and has immune boosting properties.
While not a complete protein, hemp is a good supplemental source of protein for those following a plant-based diet or who want a dairy-free form of protein to round out their diet.
How can you eat and enjoy protein powder?
Once you have decided which types of protein you want to try, the experimenting can begin. There is no end to the ways you can incorporate protein powders into a healthy diet.
- Enjoy simply blended with water and ice.
- Add to any mix or batter, such as pancake batter, corn muffins, or bran muffins.
- Use as a tasty topping for oatmeal.
- Mix in to Greek yogurt or coconut yogurt for a true protein powerhouse snack.
- Sprinkle over granola.
- Mix with the dairy or dairy-free milk of your choice and enjoy a quick, easy, delicious, and healthy smoothie.
Which kind of protein powder should you buy?
Now that you have a basic understanding of the different types of protein powders available, and the different ways there are to use them, you get to enjoy the fun part: trying different powders to find your favorite!
Whey and casein protein powders are the go-to options for those who eat animal products, however, to enjoy a vegan diet or for those who simply want to cut back on dairy products, here are some suggestions for available plant-based protein powders. When choosing any type of food, consider your own dietary needs and preferences, and choose the products with the benefits that suit you the best.
- Aloha plant-based protein powders are certified USDA organic. They are also vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free. 18 grams of plant protein, 150 calories per serving, and complete amino acids and omega-3s round out this powder.
- Garden of Life Organic Meal Plan-Based Nutritional Shakes are certified organic, non-GMO verified, gluten-free, and vegan certified. They contain 20 grams of plant protein from legumes, seeds, and grains. Fiber, greens, vitamins and minerals round out this powder. This powder is low in calories, and high in nutrients.
- Ora Organic offers gluten-free and dairy-free protein with 21 grams of protein per serving and two servings of greens. This powder uses organic cocoa to craft a product that mimics the taste of chocolate milk when mixed with a plant-mixed milk. No added sugars, fillers, or artificial ingredients here.
- Orgain plant-based protein powder is touted as the “Vegan All-in-One” protein option. With 16 grams of organic, plant-based protein and 21 vitamins and minerals, this dairy-free, soy-free powder comes in ready-to-drink shakes.
- Abrönne Essentials contains 20 grams of vegan pea protein. Rice and cranberry, plus more than 20 essential vitamins and minerals, are included as well. Standardized botanical extracts are key. A mix of vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients are formulated to promote immune health, bone health, healthy sleep, and more.
- Nuzest pea protein is all-natural, and has no gluten, dairy, soy, or GMOs. This powder has 9-21 grams of protein per serving. There are no added sugars. Flavors such as Smooth Vanilla, Just Natural, Real Coffee, Rich Chocolate, and Wild Strawberry make this a choice with variety.
- TruWomen offers a powder made from pea protein, vanilla, flaxseed, and cherry. A nice benefit of this brand is that the powder comes in easy-to-carry individual sized packets. You can choose the 20-ounce tub option as well.
- VEGASport Performance Protein isa pea-based powder that incorporates alfalfa, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds for a great combination of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Tart cherry, and probiotics round out the ingredients. One serving provides 60% of the recommended daily allowance of protein.
- Veggie Elite is made with brown rice and natural flavorings. Enjoy 24 grams of protein in this pea-based powder. The formula was designed to support the nutritional needs of high performance athletes. This powder has no artificial sweeteners or colors. It offers classic flavors such as Chocolate Mocha and Vanilla Bean.
- Bob’s Hemp Protein is an excellent source of fiber and iron. No added sweeteners, colors, or flavorings mean that this powder is about as close to nature as you can get. Enjoy sprinkling over cereal or mixing with pancake batter, or blend into your favorite smoothie. This powder boasts 14 grams of protein per serving.
- Navitas Organics makes powdered blends of plant-based protein from peas, pumpkin seeds, sunflowers, flax, and hemp. Greens, superfoods, and probiotics round out the health benefits. What this product does not have are added sugars, artificial sweeteners, gluten, dairy, or soy.
- Alkamind offers a powder with a mix of three core alkaline proteins plus coconut oil. 18 grams of protein per serving made from peas, sacha inchi, and hemp. These protein sources are blended with a seed and sprout blend. There are two flavors: Creamy Chocolate and Vanilla Coconut.
- Muscle Power by Your Superfoods offers a blend of two vegan proteins (rice and pea), and three superfoods (maca, lucuma, and banana).
- Yuve plant-based powders combine 15 grams of protein, 25 superfoods, and raw chia seeds for added fiber.
- Kashi’s Go Lean plant based protein powders come in a variety of flavors. All of Kashi’s protein powders contain 20 grams of plant protein. The powders also include probiotics and superfoods, like greens, beets, and sprouted legumes. As an added bonus, Kashi’s powders are not only plant-based, they are gluten-free.
- Carrington Farms offers protein with only three ingredients: organic coconut powder, organic pumpkin powder, and organic pea powder. With 20 grams of protein per serving, 8 grams of fiber, and no added sugars, this product is packed with flavor without being super sweet.
- Live Owyn offers ready-made plant-based protein drinks in flavors such as Dark Chocolate, Cold Brew Coffee, and Smooth Vanilla. Each serving contains 20 grams of plant-based protein, as well as a full serving of organic greens, probiotics, and omega-3s. None of the powders include stevia, added sugars, or anything artificial.
- Organifi plant-based protein powders include a blend of pumpkin seed protein, quinoa protein, pea protein, and vitamins from whole foods. The blend includes enzymes to promote digestion. Monk fruit, coconut, and vanilla bean are included as well.
- PlantFusion Complete Plant Protein offers a nutrient-dense formula with 21 grams of complete plant-based protein. There are only 120 calories per serving. The proprietary blend of enzymes promotes digestibility. The powder is free from all major allergens, including dairy, soy, rice, gluten, eggs, nuts, fish, tree nuts, and shellfish.
As you can see, finding great plant-based options in a protein powder couldn’t be easier. There are many combinations of protein type, some incorporating quinoa for an added boost of protein, and some including hemp. Superfoods make many appearances, as do Omega-3s.
Greens are not uncommon as well, with kale and spinach at the forefront. It’s also easy to keep a bag of each in the freezer, and simply add a handful to your smoothie to boost a simpler powder or to enhance one that already has greens added.
While vanilla and chocolate lead the way with flavors, matcha green tea, tropical, and strawberry and banana are flavors that make appearances in this list. It couldn’t be easier to enhance your diet and ensure you are meeting your protein needs. Best of all, these delicious powders can help you enjoy your food in the process.
Which plant-based protein powder is your favorite, and which one will you try next?