The Gloss Report: vegan protein powders

Ayesha Muttucumaru 19 January 2018
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Vegan protein powder reviews

Finding a good protein powder can be tricky. Finding a vegan variation, even more so. So this week we reviewed a range and rated them taking into account factors such as taste and texture, also using advice from nutritional therapist, Daniel O’Shaughnessy . In terms of what we should look for, he recommended the following as useful guidelines to bear in mind:

  • Contains a non-dairy protein (no whey, casein or egg);
  • Has at least 15g of protein per serving;
  • Doesn't contain unrecognisable ingredients;
  • That the powder be be naturally processed; (an enzyme-based method being good here where natural enzymes are added to, preferably sprouted, plant seeds to remove the protein. “This preserves the most nutrients in the plant and is the cleanest and least processed method,” says Daniel);
  • Preferably organic.

With regards to vegan-friendly complete protein sources, not all types are created equal in Daniel's opinion. “A complete protein source is one that provides all of the essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine,” he explains. “Soy protein is complete (although soy protein is usually not recommended to use due to its possible health risks and the possible GMO issue ), hemp is not complete, rice lacks lysine to make it a complete protein and pea protein has most of the amino acids but is low in tyrosine and methionine,” he outlined for us. “You can combine rice and pea or hemp and pea though to make a complete protein (for a full amino acid profile and higher protein yield).”

With additional advice given to us regarding the best and worst types of sweeteners and additives and potential red flags, we were armed with the information needed to taste, try and test our line-up. How did they rate and how did they compare with others we've tried in the past? Here are our thoughts.

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The Nue Co Plant Protein + Gut Food, £50 for 200g

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The promise: “Made from real organic foods without binders, fillers, flavourings and unpronounceable ingredients.”

We give it: 9/10

Review: “The only reason this organic sugar-free protein powder doesn’t score a 10 is the price. At £50 for 200g it contains 13 servings which comes out at £4 a pop. On all other counts, I don’t think it has been bettered. It’s a blend of organic pea and hemp, together delivering all nine amino acids, making it a complete protein, and is fortified with prebiotics in the form of inulin as well as a 15 billion strain probiotic.

“As there are no flavourings, thickeners or binders, everything you consume is nutrition –  each 15g serving is equivalent to two eggs. Where it really scores highly for me is its mild taste. Pea protein can be overwhelmingly ‘composty’ and in my view combining it with sweeteners (even stevia) and flavourings such as chocolate or berry as so many powders do, just makes it worse. Some protein powders are even too sweet to add you own fruit to. What I like about this one though is that it is a blank canvas (OK, you can taste the pea a bit) which tastes of whatever you want to add. And you’ll probably want to add something even if it’s only cinnamon and a good tasting nut milk. The powder is sold in a dark glass jar to stop light degrading the nutrients and is designed to be used with a teaspoon of one of the three Nue Co boosters – Debloat, Energy and Skin Food (all of which are great and free from anything other than food-based nutrients and contain prebiotics). This is transparent gut-friendly nutrition that is well thought through. A health boost worth the investment.”

Reviewer: VW

3 / 7

Innermost The Health One- Creamy Vanilla, £30 for 600g

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The promise: “Crafted to help you rejuvenate, detox and feel brighter all round.”

We give it: 9/10

Review: “Taken at face value in terms of flavour, this vegan protein powder is quite sweet (that’ll be the sucralose), but verrryyy moreish. It doesn’t taste artificial or oddly chalky like many protein powders I’ve tried in the past, and texture-wise it blends into a smoothie easily- not a lump was located no matter how casual my blending. It’s delicious stirred into yogurt too, and it makes the likes of a green juice FAR more palatable.”

“Onto the health credentials, protein wise it contains pea and brown rice for a more ‘rounded’ protein profile, plus some funky mushrooms (you can’t taste these) and glutamine for immunity. Added to the mix are antioxidant bilberries, acai berries and camu camu (also a berry) to help you to fight off free-radicals released during exercise and also whack up your vitamin C intake. It’s free of artificial flavours and colourings and uses sunflower lecithin rather than soy as a thickener, plus it’s GMO-free and comes in at over double the amount of protein recommended as a baseline by our nutrition consultant (31g). As for whether it works, I got to the end of the packet without getting ill and with quick muscle recovery post-workout, give or take the odd achey day and a tight left hip flexor. At £30 for 600g, it’s pretty good value when compared to buying shakes from a gym, and I didn’t always use the full 40g per serving so eeked it out quite a bit. It’s not organic and it does contain the sweetener sucralose, so it’s not quite angel dust, but it’s got a lot going for it regardless.”

Reviewer: AH

4 / 7

Healthista Lean Vegan Diet Protein, Creamy Vanilla, £24.99 for 500g

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The promise: “Nutritionally balanced vegan food supplement to assist weight management.”

We give it: 5/10

Review: “Healthista has recently launched its online shop and its range of protein powders have all the good stuff like Matcha green tea, acai and konjac root in them. They’re vegan, gluten and dairy free and contain pea, rice and hemp protein for a more ‘complete’ profile. However, perhaps this powder is better suited for a pre-workout pick me up, the creamy vanilla flavour is extremely sweet. Too sweet. However, I do feel an increase in energy and its consistency is pretty thick, so it helps to stave off any mid-afternoon snacking. Perhaps steer clear of mixing it into your water bottle and go with sprinkling it over porridge, or hidden in cookies or cereals instead.”

Reviewer: AMW

5 / 7

Wellco The Super Elixir Nourishing Protein, £48 for 500g

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The promise: “Nourishing all-natural, plant-based protein powder that’s unlike all other energy drinks, supplements and protein shakes.”

We give it: 10/10

Review: “I've tried a lot of protein powders and I can never find one that ticks all the health requirements and tastes bearable at the same time. This chocolate protein powder from Elle Macpherson is so tasty, I can either have it in a smoothie, or simply whipped up with some almond milk and actually enjoy it - plus it leaves no gross lumps once stirred! Organic, vegan and free-from synthetic ingredients, the powder is formulated with plant-based ingredients containing extracts of pea, pomegranate, dandelion, acai and rosehip, as well as rice protein and essential amino acids. The inclusion of cacao helps make it delicious too. It’s designed to improve strength, energy and endurance and since using this protein powder post-workout, there’s been a noticeable difference in my muscle recovery period and overall energy levels.

“With 16.2g of protein delivered per recommended serving, it packs a punch in helping to improve digestion and metabolism while also promoting healthy tissue growth and balancing alkaline levels - perfect post-gym or first thing in the morning in a breakfast smoothie. £48 is a hefty price tag in my opinion, but it gives you a 500g tin of high quality protein powder that lasts and tastes delicious - win, win.”

Reviewer: SM

6 / 7

Macacha Plant Protein Shake, Energy Blend, vanilla flavour, £29 for 10 sachets

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The promise: “A high protein, nutrient dense, plant protein shake with the added benefits of yerba mate. For active people looking to support a high-energy lifestyle.”

We give it: 8/10

Review: “Containing a combination of pea protein and organic brown rice protein, and 19g in total per 33g sachet, this particular vegan powder carries the nutritional credits to pass the ‘complete’ test set by Daniel with flying colours. In addition, it also contains a range of extras that give it an interesting edge over its counterparts. The first of these is yerba mate, a herb from South America chosen for its caffeine content. Other noteworthy organic ingredients (certified by the Soil Association) include iodine and iron-rich kelp seaweed, energy-boosting maca root powder and vitamin C-rich baobab powder. In accordance with Daniel’s guidelines, an enzyme-based method of processing is used for extracting the protein too. Another big tick.

“Free from artificial sweeteners and flavoured with natural vanilla flavouring, it tastes far better when blended in with a smoothie rather than with a glass of coconut water or nut milk in my experience. It's also a bit messy to empty out of the sachets and takes a while to mix in so take care and time when preparing it. That being said though, it definitely boosts energy levels come lunchtime lull or post-workout, helps stave hunger pangs in between meals and has a transparency and simplicity in terms of its ingredients that’s extremely refreshing.”

Reviewer: AM

7 / 7

GP Nutrition +Boost Me, £27.50 for 7 sachets (175g)

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The promise: “100% natural, super-power protein powder designed to balance biochemistry and improve overall wellbeing.’’

We give it: 8/10

Review: “This 7 day pack comes in handy, easy to open individual sachets which are so simple to incorporate into your daily routine. Each 25g sachet includes a credible 15.7g of sprouted brown rice protein and in addition to this vegan friendly powder being 100% natural, it also has an abundance of superfood berries including acai, blueberry, goji berry and raspberry for powerful antioxidant protection.

“Unlike other protein powders I have tried in the past, the +Boost Me powder is easily stirred into water and has a really lovely silky consistency (absolutely no lumps at all) making it very easy to drink. It contains the natural sweetener stevia as well as raw cocoa powder which is evident both in the colour of the drink and the taste which although not unpleasant (tastes like a chocolate milkshake) was definitely a little too sweet for me. I would suggest mixing into a smoothie or with some nut milk as this helps balance out the sweetness - it can be a little sickly otherwise.

“So did it make me feel any different? Over the 7 days I typically took the protein drink either early morning or mid-afternoon and I can definitely say it did give me a noticeable ‘boost’, I felt refreshed after the drink, had more energy and it kept me full until my next meal (keeping me off snacking during the afternoon!)

“I would recommend it however at £27.50 for a week’s supply, it makes each sachet come in at a hefty £3.90 per 25g which makes it one of the most expensive protein drinks on our list.”

Reviewer: KB