the top 5 vegan proteins you should know

Originally published on the Juicery blog (The Squeeze).

Whey and I are not friends. Even grass-fed whey doesn't sit well with me, although it's better when paired with MCT or coconut oil.

Side note: these protein bars are the only form of whey my body likes — def recommend checking them out!

That's why vegan protein powders have long been my go-to; they digest well, have lots of fiber, and have a multitude of benefits.

We've come a long way (long whey???) from only having soy proteins available — here are the top 5 vegan proteins that you're likely to find at your local smoothie place/grocery store aisle:

1. Hemp Protein

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This protein is made from hemp seeds and is great for people who are eating Paleo or have issues digesting legumes or grains. It’s been my go-to protein for ages.

Hemp is a complete protein, which means that it contains all the essential amino acids that your body is unable to produce on its own. It’s also a good source of fiber and fatty acids.

Taste: Grassy
Recommendation:Add to fruit-based/green smoothies; it can be a little grainy on its own.
What I use: Nutiva Hemp Protein

2. Pea Protein

Pea protein is a popular soy protein replacement in vegan protein bars and foods, as people are starting to move away from soy. By itself, it has a hint of the pea taste, but can be disguised when in different products. It can be easily digested by most people, but unlike hemp protein, it does not contain essential fatty acids.

Taste: Faint taste of peas
Recommendation: It’s rare to find this protein sold by itself; it’s usually mixed with other proteins or in the form of a protein bar.
What I use: Garden of Life Smooth Unflavored (Grain Free) Protein

3. Sacha Inchi Protein

This is a newcomer to the game. Sacha inchi a seed that can be eaten as a nut (they’re large, almost the size of hazelnuts). It’s high in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber.

I mix it in with my yogurt frequently, along with maca and some other superfoods.

Taste: Nutty
Recommendation: add it to PB/nut-based smoothies, yogurt, pancakes, or grain free oatmeal.
What I use: SunFood Organic Sacha Inchi Protein Powder

4. Soy Protein

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I was introduced to this way back in high school when my dad bought me a bunch of SoyJoy protein bars to supplement my lunch. This was a time when soy was super popular and it was the only widely available vegan protein.

PSA: They tasted disgusting.

As I transitioned to a Paleo lifestyle, I stopped eating soy, but there are benefits to it — it contains all the essential amino acids and can aid in muscle building.

Taste: Chalky
Recommendation: There are better tasting protein bars on the market now that contain soy protein isolate — if you’re going to buy them, look for ones with as little ingredients as possible.
What I use: PROBar Base (protein bars)

5. rice protein

This is usually mixed in with soy or another type of protein in popular vegan protein powder blends. It does contain all the essential amino acids and its taste goes virtually undetected compared to other plant-based proteins.

Taste: Almost tasteless
Recommendation:Bake with it or make protein pancakes.
What I use: I don't use rice protein/never have, but I'd recommend SunFood Organic Natural Rice ProteinThere's also this sprouted rice/chia protein mix that I've found at some smoothie shops in California (the sprouting makes it easier to digest).

Protip: I got this idea from Rachel Mansfield's blog — bring your own protein powder in a little container to 1) save money and 2) make sure that you have protein you like when you travel.

I've done this at smoothie shops when they don't have a type of protein that I like (my go-to is hemp when smoothie-ing outside) or they only have flavored protein. Most people are happy to oblige! I've done it at Squeeze Juice Bar in Assembly Row and they were super nice about it.

I typically use hemp protein, but I've been loving my sacha inchi protein lately! Let me know — what's your favorite type of protein and how do you use it?