The 3 Best Types of Nondairy Protein Powders

Approximately 65 percent of people worldwide have a reduced ability to digest lactose, the sugar in milk and dairy. Around 6 percent of Americans claim to be vegan. If you fall into either of these categories, consuming whey protein is not an option. Luckily, most stores offer a wide range of nondairy protein drinks, from soy and pea protein to hemp protein shakes.

Soy protein powder is relatively low in carbs and delivers large doses of iron, phosphorus, copper, calcium and folate.
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Read more: Animal Protein vs. Vegetable Protein

Nondairy Whey Protein Alternatives

During digestion, protein is broken down into amino acids that support cell formation and repair. According to a 2015 review published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, high-protein diets may aid in weight loss and prevent obesity by suppressing appetite and improving energy metabolism. Furthermore, they help preserve lean mass and raise your body's core temperature, leading to more calories burned.

Athletes and individuals with an active lifestyle need more protein in their diet. As Today's Dietitian points out, this nutrient speeds up recovery from exercise and increases muscle strength. In the long run, it can boost your physical performance and bring you closer to your goals.

Protein occurs naturally in meat, dairy and eggs. It's also added to protein shakes and other dietary supplements. If you're a vegan or vegetarian, consider using nondairy protein powder to get more of this nutrient in your diet. Hemp, soy, brown rice, pea and pumpkin seed protein shakes are just a few examples; these beverages contain no milk or dairy and boast an excellent nutritional profile.

Soy Protein Powder

With 23 grams of protein and 96 calories per ounce, soy protein fits into any diet. It's relatively low in carbs and delivers large doses of iron, phosphorus, copper, calcium and folate. Its health benefits are backed up by science.

A 2016 review featured in the journal Nutrients indicates that soy protein may lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduce blood pressure and decrease arterial stiffness, leading to improved cardiovascular health. These therapeutic properties are due to its high content of isoflavones. Several studies suggest that soy may protect against ischemic stroke, increase bone mineral density and slow aging.

Soy protein can make weight loss easier too. According to a 2014 clinical trial published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, diets rich in soy protein work just as well as meat-based high-protein diets for appetite control and weight management. Even though the study used real food, not soy protein shakes, it shows that vegetable protein sources can be a powerful ally in battling the bulge.

Hemp Protein Powder

Hemp has emerged as one of the most popular alternatives to nondairy whey protein. According to Medical News Today, this plant is chock-full of protein, omega-3s and magnesium. Unlike other vegetarian protein sources, it contains no phytates. These antinutrients inhibit iron absorption and affect overall health.

This protein source is rich in phytosterols and other plant compounds that may help lower bad cholesterol levels, induce cancer cell death and fight inflammation. Since it's lactose-free, it can be safely consumed by people with lactose intolerance or allergies to milk and dairy.

Some studies indicate that hemp protein is easier to digest than other protein sources. Its high-fiber content shouldn't be overlooked either. One ounce provides 4.8 grams of dietary fiber and more than 12 grams of protein.

Pea Protein Powder

If you're looking for a non-milk-based protein powder other than soy or hemp, try pea protein. One scoop delivers 25 grams of protein, 2 grams of carbs and 113 calories. It contains no eggs, peanuts, milk, soy or gluten, so it's ideal for people with allergies.

A 2015 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition has found that pea protein leads to greater increases in muscle thickness compared to a placebo. Therefore, it's a viable option for vegan and vegetarian athletes.

Another study, which appeared in Food and Nutrition Research in the same year, indicates that this type of protein promotes fullness and increases satiety to the same extent as whey and casein. Since it's slowly digested, it keeps you full longer and provides your muscles with a steady supply of amino acids over several hours. Casein has similar effects, but it's harder to digest and contains lactose.

Read more: Pea Protein vs. Whey Protein

What's the Best Protein Powder?

Each source of protein has its advantages and drawbacks. Soy, for example, is one of the most popular ingredients in nondairy protein shakes. What many customers don't know is that more than 90 percent of all soy crops in the U.S. are genetically modified. Even though the health risks of GMOs are subject to debate, if you avoid genetically modified foods, this is important information for you.

Pea protein is difficult to mix and doesn't have the most appealing flavor. However, it's free of GMOs and unlikely to cause adverse reactions. As with any other protein powder, its quality varies from one brand to the next.

Try different types of nondairy protein drinks and see what works best for you. Consider your overall health, diet, food preferences and fitness goals. Get creative in the kitchen and add protein powder to baked desserts, homemade bread, waffles, muffins, pancakes and other treats. You can even use it as a substitute for flour.

Read more: 13 Surprising Vegetarian Sources of Protein

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