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clean protein powder

A few months ago I thought I’m done with protein powder – it prevents me from losing belly fat. Just a guess based on nothing.

After speaking with a holistic nutritionist, it became clear I need to eat less meat/animal protein and make our diet more plant-based. Regardless whether this switch will make me fat or not (which nothing even close like that has happened or I doubt ever will). A norm is about 2 lbs of meat per week/person. So, plant based clean protein powder is back in my life. I would rather consume organic, plant-based and clean protein powder than conventionally raised meat. Overall, the goal is to eat less meat.

I know there are many opinions out there whether protein powders are good for you, processed or clean etc. My take on protein powder is this:

Because I work out, I need an extra boost and not always have that snack on hand. Therefore, I choose the cleanest and most affordable plant based protein powder, that is made of whole foods, that has a pleasant taste if mixed with water, that I consume in moderation and that prevents me from eating foods not approved by Clean Eating.

Just like my life can’t be perfect, so can’t be my marriage or kids, so can’t be my nutrition. I do my best to eat whole foods and who knows maybe 2 years down the road I will not be consuming protein powder but right now greens, nuts and fruits just don’t cut it for me as a snack – I’m hungry. So, let’s pick the best of the best.

Is Protein Powder Real Food?

No and yes, in my opinion. Not all protein powders are created equal. There are also many “processed real foods”. I know it sounds weird but there is nothing wrong with organic tofu (pressed soy beans), high quality supplements or plant based protein powder.

“No” if it is non organic, GMO, full of artificial flavours, acid processed, stripped of alkalinizing minerals, naturally occurring vitamins and lipids whey or soy protein isolate. That is what I avoid.

“Yes” if it is organic, non-GMO, gently cold processed from whole foods vegan protein powder. This is what I use.

My Perfect Protein Powder Is:

  • Plant based
  • Organic or at least non-GMO
  • Without unknown ingredients: colours, artificial flavours and sweeteners, preservatives
  • No added sugar
  • No stevia aftertaste
  • No soy and preferably no organic soy isolate
  • It must taste good when mixed with water
  • Must be reasonably priced – about $40 per jug. As with many other things in life, you get what you pay for. So, I choose to pay more for something I enjoy and is good for me. Sure thing, I could buy hemp or brown rice protein but I can’t drink that. I applaud you if you can because that is as clean as protein powder can be.

What’s Up with Natural (Vanilla) Flavours

You might have heard or if you Google “natural vanilla flavour” that it can be made from beaver’s anal gland. Yes, that’s correct. I couldn’t believe my eyes at first. So, with trembling fingers I typed an email to Orgain about what are their “organic natural flavours” made of. Here is what the company said:

Our flavours consist of a flavour extract and an organic dextrin as the carrier. Being organic – we are forbidden from using ingredients like you mentioned below. We also can’t use MSG, artificial vanillin, colors, etc.

VEGA website states “Made with all natural, plant-based ingredients (absolutely no animal products).” Then I received the following reply to a similar email question I sent to Orgain:

Vega products contain no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. The natural flavors in our products include a variety of compounds obtained from the natural essence or extracts of plants to produce the desired flavor. For example, vanilla bean is used in French Vanilla Vega One.  While the exact blends are proprietary, I would like to let you know that the essences and extracts can be from a spice, herb, leaf or similar plant material, but always exclusively plant-based, and never artificial.

PlantFusion label says “No Animal. Complete protein made only from plant sources”.

Sunwarrior’s products do not contain any natural flavours but rather made with Organic Vanilla Extract.

So, no beavers’ butts in my protein powders. One more time I got reassured that buying plant based, organic or non-GMO products pays off.

Why Not Whey?

I choose plant based over whey protein powder for health reasons: because of dairy hormones my skin was experiencing horrible acne outbreaks. Therefore, I stopped using it years ago. I prefer to consume protein extracted from whole foods. Think vegetables vs. dairy, what’s better for you?!

Most whey protein powders are heavily processed and contain so much junk in them. Some are comparable to a diet coke. Yes, whey has milder taste and food made with it looks prettier but I don’t care. I’m past that stage. America is too hung up on how food looks rather if it’s good for you. I get so many comments on my recipes “This doesn’t look good”, “This is dry and needs a sauce” etc, it’s ridiculous. America doesn’t need more sauce for sure!

Anyways, if you absolutely must to consume whey, your best option is organic grass fed Tera’s whey.

My Top 4 Picks

I usually buy protein powders in bulk on Amazon because I live in Canada, use American Amazon and unfortunately do not have a luxury of becoming a Prime member. I wish! Therefore, I ship a few protein powders to the nearest post office close to the border and pick them up. So far, I haven’t found cheaper place to buy clean protein powder from than on Amazon.

1. Sunwarrior

clean protein powder
Image courtesy of Sunwarrior.

Pros: Somewhat Organic, non – GMO, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Made in the USA – Buy on Amazon for $42/2.2 lbs.

Cons: It tastes OK mixed with water.

I tried Sunwarrior clean protein powder in Natural and Vanilla flavours. It tastes OK mixed with water, a bit chalky to my personal taste. Not horrible like hemp or brown rice protein but just not my favourite. However, in baked goods it tastes much better, no aftertaste. So, if you are looking for a protein powder to make pancakes, muffins and smoothies with Sunwarrior is great!

2. PlantFusion

clean protein powder

Pros: Price, Non – GMO, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Variety of Flavours, Made in the USA – Buy on Amazon for $33/2 lbs.

Cons: A Bit of Aftertaste, Not Organic.

Last time, I bought about 6 jugs of Plant Fusion on Amazon. Mostly because it was cheaper than VEGA and Orgain didn’t offer vanilla flavour back then which I prefer. It tastes OK mixed with water, not as chalky as Sunwarrior but has a different texture to it. I think it doesn’t dissolve as good as Vega or Orgain. Same with baked goods – a bit of aftertaste but if other powders are not within your budget, Plant Fusion is a very good option. Can’t beat that price.

3. VEGA Sport

clean protein powder
Image courtesy of Vega.

Pros: Taste, Somewhat Organic, Non-GMO, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Sustainable, Made in the USA with many Canadian ingredients.

Cons: A bit pricey at the store => $60 – $65 but more affordable on Amazon => $49/29 oz.

VEGA Sport is my favourite plant based clean protein powder taste wise. I tried all 3 flavours – berry, vanilla, chocolate and love them all. It tastes phenomenal mixed with water. Great for baking with no aftertaste.

The company says: “We’ll choose organic ingredients for Vega products whenever we can. It’s getting easier every year to find reliable sources of organic ingredients as demand for them grows, but the cost of certification remains prohibitive for smaller-scale farmers. Because of this, some of our ingredients are organically grown, but not certified organic—we think the right choice can include supporting the little guys”. I love that!

4. Orgain

clean protein powder

Pros: Taste, Organic, Non-GMO, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Made in the USA with many Canadian ingredients – Buy on Amazon for $38/2.05 lbs

Cons: None.

I first saw Orgain in Costco in the US and couldn’t believe my eyes – $30 for organic clean protein powder, too good to be true?! After the first sip mixed with plain water, me and my husband were screaming “OMG”. It tasted like chocolate milk. Seriously, it tastes phenomenal although I tried only chocolate flavour. Smooth texture, super tasty and even has some tiny crystals that remind me of crumbled Oreo cookies. Amazing in baking too, 0 aftertaste.

Orgain is definitely the winner in terms of price and taste of all plant based protein powders I ever tried. Highly recommended!

How to Use Protein Powder

My first choice is to be able to mix clean protein powder with water and it will taste good. It’s easy and saves calories. Hence, this post. I also like to add it to a smoothie for a post-workout recovery or snack. Quite often it makes its way into my morning oatmeal. I also love to bake with protein powder to make desserts further guilt free. It works best in muffins. You can visit a full category of Protein Powder Desserts on my blog.

As for making smoothies, I use Ninja Ultima blender and absolutely love it! Particularly the small on-the-go cups that have a separate small blade attachment, kind of like Magic Bullet. Whenever I need to make a green smoothie I use a big jug, but for an individual protein smoothie those cups are the best! Overall, Ninja Ultima (I haven’t tried other models so can’t vouch for them) delivers the same results as Blendtec or Vitamix but costs way less. You can read a full review I did on it last year.

best-blender-for-your-buck
This post may contain affiliate links. When you buy a product I make a small commission without any extra cost to you. In return, you can enjoy free recipes as well as savings on your favourite products. I also shared Clean Eating Ingredients I Buy and Kitchen Appliances +Tools I Use. Please buy local, organic and fair trade whenever feasible.

59 Comments

  1. Kelsey

    I have tried Plant Fusion, plain flavored, and the Orgain chocolate fudge shown as pictured. The main difference I thought I noticed was although the Orgain did taste better it required 2 scoops for 21 gms or protein and 150 calories vrs. Plant Fusion 1 scoop for 22gs protein and only 30 calories. What do you think of this?

    Reply
    • Olena

      Hi Kelsey. First of all, Orgain’s scoop is smaller – 23g vs 30g Plant Fusion. So, you are not getting twice less protein. Calorie difference if compared weight to weight is none. Secondly, I used to be so hung up on macros, obsessing with high protein intake, counting calories etc. It didn’t work for me! I didn’t see much change in my body, was hungry and deprived. I don’t count anything anymore, I just eat what I feel like – clean eating of course. And I’m fine and happy, no weight gain. I post nutritional info for readers who still count. I could care less. Hope this helps.:)

      Reply
  2. sarah

    i tried plant fusion and did not like it at all. It pretty much tasted like dirt to me. I can’t do whey as it has lactose and kills my stomach. I’ve just stopped protein shakes all together.

    Reply
    • Olena

      I haven’t tried dirt so can’t say how that compares.:) Plant Fusion is an acquired taste. I also find Vanilla Bean flavour tastes better than Cookies n Cream or Chocolate Raspberry one. I’m sipping on a berry hemp shake with Plant Fusion as I type and it is not bad.

      Reply
  3. Kristine Lee

    Great post! Thanks for doing this research and testing. Vega is my favourite as well, but I sometimes struggle with using it in my clean eating smoothie recipes because it’s not a pure, unprocessed protein source. That being said, you just can’t get the a complete protein source from foods that you would want to put into a smoothie from anything else besides protein powder. I usually have a scoop of chocolate Vega with water first thing in the morning and it’s I find it really boosts my metabolism. Happy New Year love! xo

    Reply
    • Olena

      Hi Kristine.:) I had the same issue and then I realized I would eat more of meat and Greek yogurt for protein because for a reason you mentioned. So, I’d rather take the cleanest plant based protein powder. I’m also going to try Vega One nutrition shake – would be great when I have no prepared food at all. Happy New Year, my dear!

      Reply
  4. GiGi Eats

    You should check out NuZEST!! It’s the best vegan protein I have ever had in my entire life! Better than Sun Warrior and Vega in my opinion!

    Reply
    • Lyn

      GiGi Eats ~ Thank you! I just looked at the NuZEST website and do not see Stevia listed as an ingredient! I cannot stand the taste of Stevia and have not been able to find a plant based protein powder without! Until now! Thanks again!

      Reply
  5. Sophie

    Hi Olena! This post is just what I needed, thank you 🙂
    I do have a question though: I’ve been looking for a proteinpowder to incorporate in baked goods, but a lot of sites tell me i shouldn’t heat it up, and the nutritional value is compromised if I do? What do you think about this?

    Thanks in advance! x

    Reply
  6. Shelly

    I’m a bit confused by your review. So when it comes to taste, which one did you prefer that had no stevia aftertaste? Vega Sport or Orgain. Also, would like you to tell us something about the difference between Vega Sport and Vega One protein powders in terms of body functionality.

    Reply
    • Olena

      I equally loved both Vega and Orgain in terms of taste. The only difference is price. You can read here all about differences in Vega products – very good explanation.

      Reply
  7. Carissa

    Hey there, I just wanted to let you know that I think there is a mix up on your post (sorry to be the bearer of bad news!). :/ But the Orgain powder (2 lbs) is $52, and the Plant Fusion is $32 (which is a bummer because I was super excited about the Orgain!). 🙂 Plus, your links are off (when I clicked on the Orgain to buy, it took me to Plant fusion product on Amazon). Again, sorry!!! 🙁 Just wanted to let you know, because I want to know when something isn’t right with my site. Love your post though! 🙂 And can’t wait to try the Orgain!

    Reply
    • Olena

      I appreciate that. Unfortunately with Amazon prices vary upon demand. When I wrote this post Orgain used to be much cheaper. Not any more. I’m disappointed. However, I would still buy Orgain over Plant Fusion. I’m sure their vanilla is tasty as well.

      Reply
  8. Erica

    Hey!
    I just bought the Orgain Creamy Chocolate Fudge and I was hoping you could answer my question.
    What are the clear little crystals in the protein powder?
    This is my first time buying protein powder and I needed one that was dairy and gluten free, and I’ve finally found one, so I’m not sure if this is normal in protein powders?
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Olena

      Hi Erica. The best bet is to email Orgain and ask them what those are, I have no idea. I had a question about their natural flavours and the owner himself emailed me right away. I care about ingredients list and if it’s good I buy. VEGA has those tiny black crystals, no idea either. All powders vary in their consistency and look, it is fine. As long as it is clean and everything in moderation.

      Reply
    • Dr. Adwait Ranade

      I am a big fan of Orgain’s Creamy Chocolate Fudge flavored vegan protein powder too. The white little crystals are of erythritol. Pick one and try to taste it! I am a scientist (I have my PhD in Medicinal Chemistry) by profession and have handled lots of chemicals for years. Rest assured, you are not drinking anything unsafe or non-organic in the Orgain protein powder! Hope this helps!

      Reply
  9. Maria

    I just bought the orgain last week and cost me $29.99 at Costco. It has a good taste. I add some fruits or vegetables and taste amazing. I hope this helps.

    Reply
  10. Madelyn

    Hi Olena, I appreciated this post, as I am in the market for a great tasting protein powder that I can take daily. Like you, I did a little research on your top picks and was headed to the store to purchase Orgain at Whole Foods. Well come to find out the store did not have the powder jugs but they did have the ready made single serving shakes. Even though I had just done my online research, I caught myself reading the back ingredient label. And I am so glad I did- Orgain shakes contain cyanocobalamin (chemically and artificially made B12- not organic). Ever heard of cyanide? Do your research on this chemical.

    Reply
    • Olena

      Hi Madelyn. I do not buy Orgain pre-made shakes because I don’t see a need. Their protein powder doesn’t contain this chemical and is pretty clean. To be honest, cyanocobalamin is artificial B-12 and won’t kill you but is best to be avoided. Honestly, it’s not worst of the evils and in today’s world it is just impossible to avoid chemicals completely. I do my best but everything is made of chemicals if you think about it. For example, we have been drinking organic almond milk with carrageenan for years. I think carrageenan is worse than that B-12. I wasn’t going to make my own almond milk simply because I have no time plus organic almonds are so expensive. So, was it better to drink organic almond milk with carrageenan or not organic with fumes?! I do my best. I just buy Orgain protein powder which is pretty good. Even natural flavours are OK with me. Under organic label they can’t be made out of beaver’s ass glands. And if we realistically think how many beavers do you need to kill and where do you find them? I filter info available online. The say only 30% of it is actually true. So, I buy Orgain powder and sleep tight. I still think it is the best out there for me personally. It is like my kid’s toothpaste contains carrageenan. Really, am I gonna be concerned them swallowing maybe 1 mg of it?! That is my life approach.:)

      Reply
  11. Jazzmin

    I also enjoy Vega’s sport performance protein in Vanilla. Two years ago I worked with a dietician and this brand got her unbiased stamp of approval. I always buy a contain of it when Save on Foods has a 15% off all Vega products sale. It happens every few months which is about the frequency that I go through a container. I think that sale price would be better for you than the Amazon US website price, especially when you factor in exchange rate, travel time, and gas.

    Reply
  12. Rachel

    This is very helpful! I love seeing articles about products from people who actually use them. This definitely just saved me time and money trying powders that might/might not even taste good. Thank you! BTW I am in the process of writing a post about clean eating protein powders for my own blog peeps and will definitely link them here. 🙂

    Reply
  13. Mia

    I was looking up organic cocoa to add to my Orgain Organic Chocolate Fudge Protein shake. I was SHOCKED to see my Organic Cocoa Powder had been tested and found to have Cadmium & Lead in it! I wonder if the organic cocoa in some, if not all our Chocolate protein shakes has this contamination. I had a blood report come back with High Iron. My doctor asked if I took an iron supplement, which I don’t. I’ve been drinking 2 Orgain shakes a day. I noticed, today, reading it’s Iron content, it has 15% of our daily allowance … So, I’m drinking 30% and I’d like to know if these products have been tested for Cadmium & Lead! Just a thought! ~Mia

    Reply
    • Olena

      I am sure you can email Orgain with this question. I drink Orgain every other day maybe and my iron is low. I also use organic cacao powder which is not highly processed. It is different from cocoa powder. But overall I just do my best and honestly am not concerned with things like arsenic in brown rice or apples.

      Reply
  14. Kate

    I like Mocha Vega one, loking forward to try Vanilla. I tried SunWarrior but after 6 days got stomach bloading problems ect. I tried sime brown rice but just can’t stand the taste. The Hemp ine has lower macro profile. I tried Green Vibrance Vanilla and Chocolate as they have so many vit and minerals ect., but the taste is quite diff.

    Reply
    • Grace

      I also love, love, love the mocha flavor! My recipe is: choice of milk: 1/2-1 cup eg. Almond milk, 2 tbsp flax seed, one banana and one scoop mocha powder…..YUM

      Reply
  15. Zie

    Hi !
    Was about to purchase isolate protein and came across your web. It made so much sense, i have decided to take only plant based protein. Thank you for such in depth analysis.

    Unfortunately most of the products does not ship to my country. I am waiting for orgain to reply me. (Fingers crossed) I found another substitute (i hope) Is this product any good ?
    Garden of Life RAW Organic Protein, 622g Powder
    http://www.amazon.com/Garden-Life-Organic-Protein-Powder/dp/B0031JK96C

    Reply
  16. Patricia G

    Does anyone know if plantfusion can be heated? Trying to make a vegan version of a high protein gelatin my doctor recommended for after my surgery THIS WEEK. Still trying to get it right!

    Reply
    • Olena

      I cook with protein powder. Do you mean if protein powder can be cooked with overall or with this particular brand? What is your concern, I might be able to answer then. Good luck with your surgery!!!

      Reply
  17. Mary

    I personally love the chocolate plant fusion. I mix it with coconut milk, frozen banana, peanut butter and cinnamon and think it tastes great. My question is why is the sodium content so high; and how does it compare with the sodium content of other plant proteins?

    Reply
  18. Judy

    Thank you for telling be about Orgain. It remains to be seen if it “holds”, because other protein powders don’t last 3 hours. However, the taste is far better than those that are sitting currently in my closet, un-finished. I will be throwing them out rather than forcing myself to drink them because they are “healthy”. I hate the taste of stevia, but Orgain is more than tolerable. It’s pretty good. I hope it lasts longer and that I am not starving in a short time. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Olena

      Or gain does have very pleasant taste. It is my husband’s favourite protein powder ever! I like Vega Sport too but it is more expensive.

      Reply
  19. gareth

    Hi you say you don’t like stevia yet everything on the list contains stevia, if you don’t like it why not advertise ones that don’t have it in?

    Reply
    • Olena

      I do not like stevia in homemade recipes but these powders taste good and do not have prominent stevia taste. I like these!

      Reply
      • gareth

        Each to their own but I disagree completely even in these it tastes awful and is so recognisable.

        Reply
        • Olena

          Then plant based protein powder might not be for your tastebuds. You won’t find any better tasting than Orgain and without stevia for sure. You should try organic or grass fed whey protein.

          Reply
          • KS

            I’m the point where I want to find a plant-based protein powder sans stevia. I’ve sampled nearly all the vega one flavours (and some other brands) and I can’t get past the stevia. If I HAD to use something it would be the “natural” Vega One flavour, but would prefer any of it without stevia. Bummer.

          • Olena

            Might not find any…I think without stevia plant-based powder would taste much worse. There is plain pea, brown rice and hemp protein powder but taste…ew. Maybe there is just erythritol sweetened flavoured protein powder?

  20. Ashley Anderson

    Is there added sugar/ sweetener in the Orgain? i know you can purchase it at Sams club and Costco here in the US? Also have you compared to Shakeology from Beachbody?

    Reply
    • Olena

      Hi Ashley. Orgain is sweetened with stevia. No added sugar or artificial sweetener. Yes, Orgain is sold in Costco and pretty much anywhere. I remember I wasn’t crazy about Shakeology because it contains GMO ingredients so I decided to use organic protein powder.

      Reply
  21. Francesca Raphael

    Hi- I have transitioned to a vegan diet but find that I may not be getting enough protein, especially in the mornings when I’m in a rush to get to work. So for breakfast I’m trying out smoothies with added protein powder and so far have only tried the vanilla Pure Food pIant based protein powder. No verdict yet on it. But this powder also has stevia, which I dislike. Two questions: Is there a reason why manufacturers don’t use organic Xylitol instead, aside from possibly a little extra cost? Xylitol (from birch trees, not from corn) is great, with no aftertaste. I buy it in granulated form and use it instead of other sweeteners for all food preparation. Is there something unhealthy about Xylitol which I don’t know about?

    Reply
  22. Lakshmi

    Vega Sport has Stevia Extract , Is it still good? Heard artificial sweeteners are not supposed to be good.

    Reply
    • Olena

      Stevia is not an artificial sweetener but rather a plant. It will be very hard to find a plant-based protein powder without stevia… IMHO, stevia is the least of all evils.

      Reply
  23. Robyn

    I am trying to find a protein powder without inulin due to digestive issues. Any suggestions?

    Reply

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