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Review: Various Raw Vegan Protein Powders

Posted Feb 17 2010 12:05am
I get asked a lot about the different raw and vegan protein powders on the market, so I thought I'd write a post reviewing them. As I wrote here about protein and pregnancy, I'm not a subscriber to the idea that we need a lot of protein in general. However, I do like the idea of pregnant women and kids getting more protein, as needed. Also, I am fine if athletes, or people working out intensely, like to consume extra protein. I wrote a post here about how my husband prefers higher protein in his raw vegan diet to help him maintain / gain muscle mass. As a pregnant woman, I don't make a big deal of it daily, but I do keep a mental tally every few days and then reassess how I'm going to get a little extra in, if warranted. Eating a raw vegan diet naturally lends itself to a diet that is on the lower side of protein, which is fine and healthy in my opinion, in general. When you consume plant-strong protein, it's high quality, not acidic, and furthermore, if it's Raw, you don't even need as much because it's not denatured by heat.


Raw vegan protein powders are not typically as perfect as whole food sources of protein such as fresh organic greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, but they serve a purpose in getting you a sizable punch of protein quickly and efficiently. They can really come in handy because of that. There are also whole-food, cooked protein sources such as lentils, beans, grains which can be helpful in increasing the amount of protein one gets, again though... keep in mind that it's believed cooked protein isn't as easily assimilated as Raw protein. 


Let's begin: the purpose of this post is to briefly review some different raw vegan protein powders we've tried, liked, and not liked so much. 


Hemp Protein Powder
I would have to say that my favorite protein powder for taste is plain ol' Hemp Protein Powder. I like it because it doesn't actually have much taste to it. Some say it has a likable "nutty" flavor. It's a wonderful source of complete protein and fiber. If there was a downside of hemp protein powder, I'd say it's the texture. It's gritty, like sand. For this reason, I'm not a huge fan of just having it plain with water (which I do prefer with some other protein powders mentioned below). In general, the way I overcome the grit-factor is to blend it into fruit-filled smoothies or shakes. My favorite hemp protein smoothies combine bananas, water, hemp protein powder, hemp seeds, and then maybe cinnamon, or some greens, or whatever (links to more recipes below). I also like mango in place of the banana, or in addition to it. The banana and mango offer a real creaminess to the shake which helps carry the grittiness rather nicely, thereby making it pretty unnoticeable. 
For the reasons of its superfood quality, complete protein, neutral taste, and the fact that certain other ingredients can get me past the sandy texture of it, this is the raw vegan protein powder that I actually look forward to consuming on a regular basis. One quarter cup of Manitoba Harvest's hemp protein powder has about 11-15 grams of protein depending on whether you get the version with higher fiber or not. Here are some recipes using hemp protein powder that are big hits with my family, friends, and blog readers.
Cherry Chocolate Bomb Shake
Frozen Organic Banana Protein Shake
Gently Spiced Omega Protein Shake
Green Pregnant Mom Protein Shake


Brown Rice Protein Powder (Raw Vegan)
Another protein powder regularly consumed in our household is sprouted, raw vegan, brown rice protein powder. For this we buy Sun Warrior's brand. This has a high protein content, and according to Sun Warrior, their brown rice protein is actually complete (they told me: Most rice proteins in the past used white polished rice. We've taken organic whole grain brown rice with the bran and the endosperm layers which raise the amino acid profile to make a complete protein. It's bio-fermented with natural enzymes (no heat), stripping down the carbohydrate and sugar content, leaving 85% bio-available protein.
That's great because, traditionally, rice protein powders are not a complete protein in terms of amino acid profile. The nice texture blends easily with water by simply shaking it up in a glass mason jar or BPA-Free shaker cup, but it does have a little bit of a chalky after taste. I also think it's a tad too sweet for blending into shakes, so I actually prefer to just shake it up in water and drink it. The texture is on the thin side for doing this, making it almost like just drinking water, so it's easy to get down. A lot of people reach for this protein because it's easy to digest. One scoop has about 15 grams of protein.
UPDATE: Here is some more information according to Sun Warrior's staff and website: Sun Warrior has a 98% Correlation rate to Mothers Milk and a 98.2% digestion efficiency making it one of the highest digestibility and efficiency ratings of any other protein sources (compared to whey and soy).
Highest Net Protein Utilization score of any vegetable based protein and the highest ratio of amino acids converted to proteins. Sun Warrior is created with a Low Temperature natural Enzyme process that does not use any chemicals or acid hydrolysis (like most proteins do). Sun Warrior Protein is naturally rich in Vitamins and Minerals and contains high amounts of Antioxidants, Tocopherols, Tocotrienols and other essential nutrients — such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorous, iron and potassium. Using Sun Warrior Increases the efficacy and absorption of vitamins and minerals. There has been a direct correlation between the use of Sun Warrior Protein and the absorption of vitamins.  Weight Loss - Clinical studies in Japan have shown that by providing Rice Protein as a staple in a diet it can act as a weight control vehicle. This is especially because of superior absorption rates. Cholesterol - Clinical studies have shown promise that Sun Warrior has cholesterol lowering potential and the USDA is currently using Sun Warrior in trials to see if it may help control high blood pressure. Unlike the extraction processes of other proteins, our method of extraction uses neither chemicals nor acid hydrolysis. We only use Organic Enzymes during the process and our process is 100% Organic Compliant.
We also offer "Natural" which is not sweetened with Stevia. The Vanilla and Chocolate was designed for ease of use (mix with water and go)! Natural also goes good in soups and other non-sweet recipes.


RAW Protein Powder

Garden of Life has a raw vegan protein powder that is likable as well. I like rotating this into our raw vegan protein shake cycles because it contains a notable blend of proteins that I don't get in the two protein powders mentioned above, or in my diet in general for that matter (at least not on a regular basis). For instance, it has: (all organic) sprouted brown rice protein, amaranth sprout, quinoa sprout, millet sprout, buckwheat sprout, garbanzo bean sprout, kidney bean sprout, lentil sprout, adzuki bean sprout, flax seed sprout, sunflower seed sprout, pumpkin seed sprout, chia seed sprout, and sesame seed sprout. Uniquely groovy, huh? The flavor is on the bland side, which is nice in my opinion, and the texture is pretty smooth. As such, I prefer to consume this powder shaken up with plain water and chugged down. One scoop has about 18 grams of protein.


Pea Protein
This frequently gets mixed into my husband's Raw Vegan Protein Grenades. Pea protein is a complete source of protein that many people find easy to digest. I'm not sure how "raw" it is based on manufacturing, but it's vegan. There aren't any sources on the market that I know of touting the production of a sprouted or raw pea protein, like you find with the sprouted brown rice protein. The benefit of pea protein is the higher ratio of certain amino acids like lysine and branched-chain amino acids. One scoop has 20 grams of protein.


Vega Complete Meal Replacement
Vega is a terrific company with a number of worthy products. Their Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer has the benefit of combining pea protein, hemp protein, and brown rice protein, plus a bunch of other goodies like chlorella, fruit powder, maca, etc. However, I can't stand the taste of it. I've tried all of their flavors and they are sickeningly sweet for me. They do offer a natural flavor and to be honest, I can't remember if I ever tried it - but I did try the others and didn't care for them at all. Furthermore, as a pregnant woman, I'm unsure as to the safety of maca so I would avoid this even if I could get past the taste. It's also on the pricier side. 


Vega also offers a product, Whole Food Smoothie Infusion. 

This includes the following ingredients - Yellow pea protein, organic hemp protein, organic sprouted flax seeds, organic brown rice protein, organic green food blend (spirulina, organic wheat grass, organic alfalfa grass, organic barley grass, organic spinach, organic sprouted broccoli, organic kale, organic kelp, organic dulse), inulin (from chicory root), natural flavors, xanthan gum (from Vega's website). This is good and each packet has 14 grams of protein. I made the smoothie pictured with 1 cup water, 1 frozen banana, 1 cup frozen cherries, 1 packet Smoothie Infusion, and 1 tablespoon hemp seeds. Yield was 2 cups. 


I also enjoy their Vega Antioxidant EFA oil which has nothing to do with protein, I just thought I'd mention it because essential fatty acids are so important. It has some amazing ingredients in it including Organic hemp seed oil, organic flax seed oil, antioxidant oil blend (organic green tea seed oil, pomegranate seed oil, black cumin seed oil, black raspberry seed oil, blueberry seed oil and cranberry seed oil), organic pumpkin seed oil and organic coconut oil. I enjoy making salad dressings with this kick-butt antioxidant powered oil!


RAW Meal 
This is made by Garden of Life and let me tell you... it's a doozy. I was very excited to try it out when they sent me a sample because the list of ingredients was pretty impressive. However. It was horrifyingly disgusting for me to drink. I blended it with a banana and frozen blueberries. The weird thing is that the initial flavor seemed fine, but it had a soapy-vomit-like aftertaste. I was scared to drink beyond the first few sips. I can't help but think there was maybe something wrong with the batch to cause this, but I don't know. I've heard that Garden of Life is considering a reformulation, so they must be aware of it. There is coconut flour in it, and I wonder if that contributes to the "off" taste. I have thrown away entire raw vegan cheesecakes because of a bad coconut oil soapy aftertaste that just can't really be detected until it's mixed with other ingredients. Perhaps this is the culprit?
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