Finding a plant-based protein powder that's good for you and doesn't taste like chalk can be a challenge, to say the least. Sure, protein shakes have come a looong way from the body-building smoothie boosters you saw in every late-night infomercial from 1995-2005. But they're still not perfect—we've all sipped on smoothies that were supposed to taste like a vanilla milkshake, only to end up tasting like dust.
That's why we're stocking our pantries with Mikuna protein powder, a plant-based supplement that's a triple threat on all fronts: It tastes delicious, is loaded with body-loving nutrients, and is kind to Mother Earth. We're not saying it's perfect, but judging from our happy tastebuds (and happy bodies), it's pretty darn close.
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What makes Mikuna stand out from the rest is its source of protein. Scan the nutrition labels at your local vitamin shop and you'll find the same, standard plant-based proteins on almost every bottle. Pea, brown rice, soy, hemp—these are the traditional players many brands have bottled. And they're great! Especially when blended together, these plant-based proteins can give your body some serious TLC on the nutrition front. But Mikuna swaps out these prominent players for a lesser-known legume you should have on your radar: chocho.
Native to Ecuador and Peru, this altitude-loving legume has been a staple in Andean culture for years. That's because it's pretty much a nutritional powerhouse—according to the Mikuna website, these mighty beans are packed with "protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, all nine essential amino acids, and as much calcium per serving as a glass of milk."
This level of well-rounded nutrition is pretty rare for a plant-based protein. As sports nutrition expert Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD, previously explained to us, most single-source vegan options (aka, powders that use just rice or just pea protein) don't usually cut it. "If you go for a plant-based protein, go for a mix versus a single protein. So instead of just pea, look for pea and brown rice. That way you’ll get all of the essential amino acids," she said.
On the flip side, less is more. In the same article, nutritionist Lisa Kilgour explained that protein powders that are simpler are better. "The best proteins keep the ingredient lists so simple, it's hard to find them," she said. Generally, she recommends natural ingredients over artificial ones, seeking out natural sweeteners to avoid bloating, and staying away from fibers like chicory root or emulsion that can upset the gut. "In general, just be as cautions with your protein powder as you would with anything food-based that you're buying," she said.
This simplicity is what makes chocho unique. It's nutritionally well-rounded—a single-serving of the stuff contains about 20 grams of protein (~28 percent of the recommended daily amount), seven grams of fiber (~25 percent of the recommended daily amount), plus a ton of other vitamins and minerals, like calcium, iron, and magnesium.
That all comes from just five ingredients: chocho, vanilla extract powder (or cacao, if you get the chocolate flavor), coconut blossom powder, monk fruit extract, and sea salt. That's it. The pure chocho powder is even more pared down, skipping the flavorings completely. Fueled by chocho, Mikuna is a minimalist superstar that gets the job done, and tastes delicious, too.
But as we mentioned, Mikuna is a triple threat. Nutrition and taste aside, chocho is a sustainable alternative to foods like soy and rice. That's because chocho is a regenerative crop, meaning it uses less traditional agricultural resources (less water, no chemicals, etc.) while improving the soil quality for other crops down the line. The result is healthier, more responsible farming for our planet.
Who would have thunk such a little legume could be so powerful? You don't even need to fly to the mountains of Ecuador to reap its benefits—you can buy a bag of Mikuna protein powder right here or on Amazon. For just $42 a bag, you'll never drink a chalky protein shake ever again, and both your body and the planet will be better for it.
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