Many of us know that protein is essential. It’s the micronutrient responsible for building muscle, creating hormones and enzymes, and repairing body tissue. For those of us stretched for time, adhering to a vegan or vegetarian diet, or hitting the gym or running track more often, we might want a little support that goes beyond the dinner plate.
For a quick burst of nutrients in an easy and tasty way, sustainable protein powders have made their way into kitchen cupboards around the globe. But, as we’ll see, not all protein powders are created equal, and aside from an insect-based ingredient, vegan protein powders are your best option for sustainable protein powders.
Types of Protein Powder
Where does protein come from?
Well, in powder form, here are some of the top options:
- Whey: Whey is typically the most common form of protein found in protein powder. It’s a complete protein (meaning it contains all essential amino acids) that comes from milk. While whey is a byproduct of cheese production, it shouldn’t be considered a waste product, and in some ways fuels the cheese industry (and the environmental problems associated with dairy).
- Casein: Casein can also come from cheese, but it can also be derived from whey, soybeans, rice, or egg whites, too. Like whey, casein is also a complete protein. But it also has additional glutamine, which may be helpful for muscle recovery.
- Pea: Pea protein is made from the extracted protein of yellow peas. It is a complete protein and also a great source of branched-chain amino acids, like arginine, which are known to support muscle growth and improve blood flow and heart health.
- Hemp: Hemp protein comes from ground hemp seeds and has a nutty taste and good nutrient composition. As a complete protein, hemp contains all nine essential amino acids, as well as healthy fats, minerals, and fiber. It contains less protein than soy or pea, but is easier to digest.
- Soy: Soy protein is another popular choice, especially because it’s as effective as animal-based proteins like casein and whey. While soy is valued as a protein source, it can have a similar detrimental effect on our planet as animal proteins—especially because it has been associated with significant deforestation.
7 Sustainable Protein Powders: Vegan Protein Powders
1. NOW Sports Pea Protein
If you’re looking for a pure, unflavored protein, this is a great option. The 100% pea protein powder is a non-GMO protein isolate that has 4,200 mg of easy-to-digest protein. In just a single scoop, you’ll consume more than 4,200 mg of branched chain amino acids, including a significant amount of arginine.
2. Orgain Organic Plant Based Protein Powder
The Orgain brand has several different protein powder options, including both grass-fed and plant-based versions. When it comes to the latter, you’ll receive 21 grams of vegan protein with just 150 calories.
The clean, organic nutrition source features a complete amino acid profile—without any dairy, lactose, sugar, GMOs, gluten, or soy. Instead, ingredients include things like organic pea protein, brown rice protein, and chia seeds.
Choose between Creamy Chocolate Fudge, Chocolate Coconut, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Peanut Butter, Natural Unsweetened, and Vanilla Bean.
3. Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein Powder
Organic sprouts are the main ingredients in this protein powder, in which you’ll get 22 grams of complete protein including 4 grams of branched chain amino acids. Additionally, each serving also is equipped with fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K as well as live enzymes and proteins.
Unlike some of these other sustainable protein powders, the brand only uses raw and minimally-processed proteins. This is because heat can denature protein sources and reduce their availability to your body. As a great alternative to soy-based protein powders, the sustainable protein powder from Garden of Life is also free from artificial flavors and fillers, and perfect for both pre- and post-workout support.
Choose between Unflavored, Vanilla, and Chocolate Cacao options All ingredients are certified and/or backed up by third-party verifications. Garden of Life is a Certified B Corp, too!Available: Amazon
4. Vega Protein & Greens
Vega is a well-known name in the world of protein. Their Protein and Greens blend is made with only real, plant-based food ingredients, making it much more than just a protein shake.
Each serving has 0 grams of sugar and 20 grams of complete protein—mostly from pea protein and brown rice protein. It also has a nutritional composition (iron) similar to 5 cups of spinach and broccoli!
Flavor options include Berry, Chocolate, Vanilla, Salted Caramel, Plain Unsweetened, Coconut Almond, and Tropical. Available: Amazon
5. SunWarrior Warrior Blend
The Warrior Blend protein powder from SunWarrior is considered to be the next generation in plant-based protein. It’s packed with easily-digestible nutrients from yellow peas, goji berries, hemp seeds, and coconut.
Containing medium chain triglycerides along with a unique amino acid profile, this protein powder is unlike many others and enjoyed by people all over the world. You can choose between Vanilla, Mocha, Berry, Chocolate, and Natural flavors—all of which are free from soy, dairy, gluten, and sugar. Available: Amazon
6. Truvani Certified Organic Plant Based Protein
Just 6-7 ingredients are what make up the plant-based protein powders from Truvani. They are only made with real food (AKA no chemicals, no toxin, no deceiving labels). Containing no soy, dairy, or weird ingredients, you’ll get pea protein and chia seed protein instead.
With only certified organic ingredients, each serving contains 20 grams of protein, making it a great way to support a healthy diet. The ingredients can help manage weight, support muscle growth, and boost energy. Choose between Chocolate, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Banana Cinnamon, or Vanilla.
The brand was co-founded by Vani Hari, too. Also known as Food Babe, she has been fighting for food industry transparency for years—so you know that this is a trustworthy brand!
Sustainable Protein Powder…Made With Crickets?
We normally discuss the benefits of reducing meat consumption, but there might be one unusual exception: crickets.
7. Chirps Cricket Protein
As the brand-name might allude to, this sustainable protein powder company is using the insect that goes “chirp” to help support our nutrition.
Their cricket protein powder is available in both chocolate and vanilla and uses a keto-friendly blend of brown rice, pea, and chia protein along with nutrient-dense crickets. These bugs provide all nine essential amino acids and naturally-occurring prebiotics, along with 59% of your daily value of vitamin B12 (something that’s hard to come by for vegans and vegetarians).
Every serving contains 21 grams of protein, too! Per pound, cricket powder is one of the most sustainable proteins available, requiring 1,000 times less water than whey and 216 times less water than soy.
Wrapping Up Sustainable Protein Powders
We’re curious: would you try cricket protein powder? It might be the protein source of the future, so keep an eye out for more products containing these bugs.
If the thought of consuming an insect before your morning workout grosses you out, feel free to share another brand you love for sustainable protein powders! Share any companies, recipes, or protein tips in the comments below!