Is Whey Protein Vegan? And Other Dietary Considerations of Whey Protein
Is Whey Protein Vegan? And Other Dietary Considerations of Whey Protein
Protein is an essential macronutrient that our bodies need to grow, repair, and function properly, so it is critical that you get enough protein in your diet each day.
You can achieve your protein intake needs by including a variety of plant and animal products in your diet, such as meats, seafood, eggs, dairy products, seeds and nuts, and legumes. However, depending on your lifestyle, you might need or want to supplement your protein intake, and the need for supplementation may be even greater for vegetarians and vegans, who do not consume protein-rich animal products.
If you are looking into supplementing your diet with protein, you have likely come across whey protein products. As one of the most popular protein supplements, whey protein is widely available and present in a number of food products. However, there are several dietary considerations to whey protein that need to be taken into account when deciding whether it is the right supplement for you. In this blog, we answer some of the most common questions about the suitability of whey protein for different diets and cover some of the best protein alternatives for vegans, vegetarians, and those with food intolerances or allergies.
Is Whey Protein Vegan?
Simply put, no. Whey protein is not vegan, as it is derived from animal milk. As such, whey protein is not suitable for vegans or anyone with an allergy or intolerance to dairy.
Now that we’ve got the big question out of the way, let’s dive in to understand a bit more about what whey protein is and what diets it is suitable for.
What Is Whey Protein?
Whey is one of two proteins present in milk - whey and casein. Whey protein is a collection of globular proteins, which contains all of the 9 essential amino acids, or building blocks of protein, that our body needs.
What Is Whey?
Whey is the watery part of milk left over after the fatty parts of milk have been curdled and strained, a byproduct of the cheese-making process. It. This translucent liquid is made up of water, lactose, protein, and traces of fat, and it is rich in nutrients, amino acids, and minerals.
How Is Whey Protein Made?
During the cheese-making process, whey is obtained by straining the liquid out of curdled milk, which then goes through several filtering and drying processes to isolate the protein and create the powder commonly used as a supplement.
Does Whey Protein Contain Lactose?
As a by-product of milk, whey does contain lactose. When processed to create whey powder, the resulting whey concentrate is formed by approximately 80% protein, while the remaining 20% is composed of a mix of carbohydrates and fat - about half of those carbohydrates are lactose. As such, whey protein concentrates are not suitable for anyone with a lactose intolerance or allergy.
However, whey concentrate can be further processed to remove most of the carbohydrates, lactose, and fats naturally present in it, creating what is known as whey isolate. Whey isolate contains very low levels of lactose and therefore, it is advertised by most producers as safe for lactose-intolerant consumers. However, to be on the safe side, it is recommended that you opt for protein powder alternatives if you have an allergy or intolerance to lactose.
Is Whey Protein Gluten-Free?
While whey itself is gluten free, some whey protein powders may contain gluten. This is because whey protein powders often contain additional ingredients, like flavourings, colouring, and even grains and flours.
Whether you have a gluten intolerance, allergy, or are simply following a gluten-free diet, it is recommended that you check individual products for a reliable gluten-free certification.
Alternatives to Whey Protein
As we have seen, despite its benefits, whey protein comes with a number of dietary limitations. Whey protein is not suitable for plant-based diets, those with dairy intolerances, and may sometimes be unsuitable for coeliacs and gluten-free diets.
The good news is that many plant-based protein alternatives are becoming widely available. Plant-based protein powders are created by removing most of the fat and carbs present in grains and legumes to isolate the protein components. Many of these powders are suitable for a wide variety of diets, including vegans and vegetarians, as they are free from animal products and most major allergens.
Protein powders made from vegan sources can provide your body with essential amino acids, including those that support muscle repair and growth. Some of these plant-based protein shake alternatives include:
Pea Protein Powders
As a source of branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs), pea protein powder is a great solution for muscle building. The results from preliminary research suggest that it can be just as effective at supporting muscle gain as whey protein. It may also assist in lowering your blood pressure as well as making you feel fuller for longer.
Hemp Protein Powders
Although hemp protein powder is moderately high in protein, it lacks lysine, an essential amino acid for our body. However, you can fill in the gap by supplementing your diet with lysine-rich legumes and quinoa. Additionally, hemp protein packs a lot of fibre, iron, zinc, magnesium, and ALA omega-3 fat which are all vital nutrients for your body.
Brown Rice Protein Powders
Protein powder made from brown rice is easy to find and relatively inexpensive. If you use unflavored brown rice protein powder, a quarter-cup (28 grams) serving will provide about 107 calories and 22 grams of protein. Brown rice protein powder is low in the essential amino acid lysine but provides a reliable source of BCAAs to support muscle building.
Mixed Plant-Based Protein Powders
Increasingly, various powdered plant proteins are being combined and sold as blends. Combining plant proteins has the advantage of providing optimal levels of all essential amino acids in one product.
Pea protein and rice protein can be combined, for example. Proteins from peas provide lysine, whereas rice proteins provide methionine, which pea proteins lack.
There is also an increasing trend of adding enzymes and using sprouted or fermented plant proteins in blends of plant protein powders to aid digestion.
Plant compounds, vitamins, and mineral contents may be increased through sprouting and fermentation. It may also help break down antinutrients that can interfere with the absorption of amino acids, minerals and other nutrients.
Is Vegan Protein as Good as Whey Protein?
It's probably the most common and controversial topic when discussing the multibillion-dollar protein supplement industry. Which is better: whey protein or plant protein powder?
There is a question about protein quality at the heart of the whey protein vs. plant protein debate. Keep in mind, however, that protein quality isn't the only factor that separates the two powders, and it is certainly not the only metric you should take into account when choosing which one to add to your diet. Which supplement is right for you ultimately depends on your goals, needs, and preferences.
Generally, high-quality protein sources are those that contain all nine essential amino acids, so amino acid levels and ratios are the main way to determine protein quality. Essential amino acids cannot be produced by the body on their own and must be supplemented through diet.
Animal proteins, like whey protein, are complete proteins. Most of them provide all nine essential amino acids in the right ratios to help sustain growth and a healthy metabolism.
While whey protein may be more complete, there are practical means for vegans to meet their essential amino acid needs through their diet. And even one of the main claims from those in the whey corner, that whey protein is better for muscle building, is contested by research that suggests plant-based proteins such as pea and brown rice result in similar muscle gains to milk whey protein.
The crux of it is that the best protein source for you will depend on your lifestyle, any dietary intolerances, as well as your individual needs and goals. When selecting a protein powder, try to find one that has minimal ingredients and contains 20–30 grams of protein and 5–12 grams of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) per serving.
The Benefits of Plant Protein
Choosing plan-based powders as your go-to choice of protein is not a purely dietary decision, There are a number of benefits to plant protein that might convince you to give it a try:
The protein obtained from plants contains many important nutrients, including fibre and antioxidants, which are present in small or even non-existent quantities in animal sources.
Smaller Environmental Footprint
Plant-based proteins are not only beneficial for your health but for the environment too. When compared to animal-based proteins, vegan protein sources typically consume less land, less water, and emit fewer greenhouse gases during production. For example, producing 1kg of protein from kidney beans requires 18x less land, 10x less water, 9x less fuel, 12x less fertiliser, and 10x less pesticide than it does to produce 1kg of beef protein.
As a vegan, the impact on the planet is often the primary motivation for living a plant-based lifestyle, and as such, a vegan protein powder is going to be better than a whey-based protein, and with enough research, you can find a shake that has a similar nutrient value and a lower environmental footprint.
Vegan Protein Powder at Lavida Food
At Lavida Food, we believe that when it comes to food, your senses should be able to have it all, despite your allergies, or dietary choices.
That is why we have researched and travelled the world to supply the UK market with the best allergy-sensitive, healthy, and wholesome products that do not compromise on taste, quality, or texture.
Our vegan protein powder offering includes two amazing flavours - dark chocolate and sour cherry, and vanilla. These pea-protein based shakes are not only a great way to increase your daily intake of protein, but also a tasty, delicious option for those who are embracing a healthy, active lifestyle.
All of our protein powders are:
- Organic (Non-GMO)
- Soya Free
- Suitable for Vegans
- High in Protein
- A Rich Source of Fibre
Finally, they are also incredibly easy to prepare: just add 40g of powder to 250ml of water or milk alternative and away you go!
If you have any questions about any of our products, we are more than happy to help! Get in touch here we’ll get back to you as soon as humanly possible.