The Scientific Reason Plant-Based Protein Is All the Rage

Lately on the smoothie-booster scene, whey and soy are being out-shined while plant-based options are seriously having a moment. But are these vegan-friendly alternatives just a passing fad, or is there a nutritional reason for their popularity?

According to Krissy Kendall, PhD and contributing expert for women’s wellness website Nourish + Bloom, the science backs up the trend, specifically if gut health is a concern.

“Women in particular suffer from more GI issues than men, and a lot of that comes from the food we eat,” Dr. Kendall says. “Whey and casein, the two primary components you find in dairy, can cause a lot of gut disturbances that can lead to bloating, cramping, gas—stuff that we don’t want every single day. With plant-based protein, women typically experience much less of that than they do with whey or casein.”

Three cheers for being able to zip up your jeans—but there's even more good-for-you intel about the buzzy supplement. Read on for everything you need to know, and check out the N+B Life app for more knowledge from Dr. Kendall.

Scroll down to learn more about plant-based protein's perks—and how to choose the right smoothie-boosting supplement for you.

Photo: Unsplash/Alfonso Cenname

Plant-based protein supplements are a major source of fiber

Leafy greens are loaded with vitamins and minerals, and unlike dairy are also a natural source of fiber. That means a scoop of protein powder equals an instant fiber dose.

And you probably need it: Most Americans get less than half of the recommended daily intake, according to the National Fiber Council—despite fiber intake being linked to digestive regularity, healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and weight maintenance.

Photo: Unsplash/Juan Jose Valencia Antia

Plant ingredients have to work together to make a complete protein

Despite all the benefits of plant-based protein, there’s a catch: Whey is a complete protein, but individual plants (besides soy and quinoa) are not. That means they're missing at least one of the nine essential amino acids your body cannot produce, but needs to function properly.

Don't freak—you can still get the same effect by blending different plants, it just needs to be the right blend. According to Dr. Kendall, that requires ingredients in at least two of three categories: grains (rice, oats), legumes (peas, beans), and nuts and seeds (walnuts, almonds).

“The reason why you’ll see three main categories—of grain, nut or seeds, and then a bean—is because each one of those categories is lacking what the other one has,” Dr. Kendall says. “So when you pair them together, it completes the puzzle.”

Photo: Nourish + Bloom

Make sure your formula contains a complete amino acid profile

Dr. Kendall worked with the Nourish + Bloom team to formulate the brand's vegan protein blend, which hits all three categories on multiple fronts with 25 grams of protein from peas, rice, and pumpkin seeds, plus an assist from navy and garbanzo beans. It even pulls protein from spinach and kale—holler for more leafy greens.

Just like finding the perfect sauvignon blanc to pair with dinner takes research and lots of taste tests, developing the perfect protein blend was a labor of love for Nourish + Bloom.

"We wanted to make sure our protein was paired correctly to get enough of each type of protein so it was optimal for what your body's needs," Dr. Kendall says. "What we came up with is good for you, it’s good for your body, it tastes great. It screams healthy."

In partnership with Nourish + Bloom

Top photo: Stocksy/Vera Lair

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