All over the world, people are reducing their meat intake. Whether they are trying to improve their health, reduce their environmental impact, or be kinder to animals, plant-based foods play a more and more important role in daily diets around the globe.
Scientists inform us that eating meat is a significant contributor to climate change, so reducing consumption of animal products is good for yourself and for everyone else. In this reduced-meat landscape, vegetable sources of protein become more and more important, and the best vegan protein bars help to keep a plant-based diet balanced and healthy.
Vegan protein bars are a great way to maintain a vegan or low-meat diet, with healthy and satisfying proteins, and the convenience of a snack you can take anywhere. They can also be a great option for people with food allergies or sensitivities, and those who want to eat organic, non-GMO, earth-friendly, animal-friendly foods.
Today, we are looking at the best vegan protein bars and protein bar brands, to find out which ones are best for building healthier habits.
Best Vegan Protein Bars Reviews
1. Best Vegan Protein Bar Overall: IQ Bar Brain+Body Bars
As long as we are being health conscious and building habits to take care of ourselves for life, why stop at the body? The IQ Brain+Body Bars are rich in plant protein, but also have other essential nutrients to promote brain function, while being low in sugar and carbs. It’s also incredibly difficult to find a protein bar that is vegan, keto, AND paleo friendly, low in sugars and carbs, and has a range of flavors that don’t all taste like candy bars.
The IQ bar really is the perfect vegan protein bar. Every bar has 11 grams of plant protein, and is high in fiber for lasting fullness. They are also free of GMOs, gluten, dairy, soy, and sugar alcohols. They are kosher, and suitable for vegans, keto, and paleo diets.
Every bar also contains 6 nutrients specifically formulated to boost the brain, including MCTs, omega 3s, vitamin E, choline, flavinoids, and lion’s mane. They have a low glycemic impact, and only 1 gram of sugar.
IQ Brain+Body bars come in packs of 6 or 12 bars, and are available in almond butter chip, banana nut, blueberry, chocolate sea salt, lemon blueberry, and peanut butter chip flavors. They also have chocolate and fruit lover’s variety packs, so you can sample different flavors.
2. Best Vegan Protein Bar for High-Protein Diets: Vega Sport Protein Bar
For people who need extra power for their muscles, high-protein snacks are a must. Athletes, body builders, and other people on a high protein diet may struggle to find vegan protein sources that provide the extra protein they need every day. The Vega Sport Protein Bar does just that, with 20 grams of protein in every bar.
These bars have 3.5 grams of branched chain amino acids: isoleucine, leucine, and valine, along with tart cherry, for advanced workout recovery. The bars are high in fiber for a lasting feeling of fullness, and are certified vegan and non-GMO. They have also been Informed Choice certified by the World Anti-Doping agency, and are free of artificial flavors, preservatives, and naturally gluten free.
The Vega Sport Protein bars come in packs of 12 bars, and are available in crispy chocolate mint or crunchy peanut butter flavors
3. Best Vegan Protein Bars for Food Sensitivities: Papa Steve’s No Junk Raw Protein Bars
For vegans who are sensitive to different foods and ingredients, it’s best to look for simple, natural vegan protein bars without a lot of extra ingredients. After all, a protein bar is just supposed to be a quick, natural way to get an energy and productivity boost, like these healthy foods. Papa Steve’s No Junk Raw Protein Bars have ingredients that are all natural and unprocessed.
These bars contain an impressive 16 grams of raw protein, and have no wheat, gluten, or refined sugars. They are non-GMO, and local, organic, and hand made in southern California. They are full of high-quality nutrition without chemicals or fillers, and they are also paleo friendly. Chocolate flavors contain raw cacao, a superfood that is high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and is heart-healthy.
Papa Steve’s No Junk Raw Protein Bars come in packs of 10, and are available in apple cinnamon pecan, lemon cashew, and chocolate mocha almond flavors.
4. Best Vegan Protein Bars for Reduced Environmental Impact: Evo Hemp Organic Protein Bar
For vegans who want to be extremely careful about ingredient sourcing and reducing their environmental impact, we love the Evo Hemp Organic Protein Bars. These bars are vegan, certified organic, and sourced sustainably in partnership with family farmers across the United States.
The bars are also free of soy, gluten, grains, GMOs, and are kosher and paleo-friendly. Hemp protein is a complete protein, high in amino acids and omega 3 acids, which are essential for heart and muscle health. Every bar has 12 grams of protein, and they also provide sustained energy.
Evo Hemp Organic Protein bars come in packs of 12 bars, and in flavors of mocha bar, double chocolate brownie bar, cookie dough bar, and in a 7 flavor variety pack.
5. Best Vegan Protein Bars for Weight Loss: SoLo Nutbutter Superfood Nutrition Bar
It’s unfortunately true that a lot of vegan protein bars are high in sugar, which may not be the healthiest choice for people who are trying to slim down or maintain a healthy weight. SoLo Nutrition Bars are not only high in vegan protein, but they have a low glycemic index that provides a lasting feeling of fullness without a sugar “crash.”
SoLo bars have 10 grams of plant protein and are high in fiber, with all natural ingredients. Baobab fruit powder is high in fiber and healthy antioxidants, along with calcium and magnesium, and it naturally slows the body’s glycemic response. The bars have no gluten, soy, GMOs, artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, or hydrogenated oils.
SoLo Nutrition bars come in a box of 6 bars, and are available in fruit & nut, nutbutter, and nuts & seeds flavors.
Vegan Protein Sources
For vegans, the most important thing about plant-based proteins is where the protein comes from. Animal proteins contain all nine essential amino acids, and are therefore considered a “complete” protein. Most plant proteins lack some of these amino acids, and different vegetables have different properties, so let’s take a closer look at plant proteins.
Amino acids are organic compounds found throughout the body. Because they are the building blocks of muscles, cells, and body tissues, as well as essential neurotransmitters, they are the second-largest component (after water) of the human body. There are about 500 amino acids in total, and about 20 in human DNA.
There are nine amino acids that the body cannot synthesize itself from other nutrients, so they must be eaten in the diet in order for the body to perform properly. Since most vegan protein sources are low in one or more of these amino acids, it’s important to make sure that a vegan diet includes different plant proteins from different sources throughout the day, in order to get the necessary amino acids. Choosing a single plant protein as the staple in your diet is likely to be insufficient for lasting health.
A protein isolate is a protein that has been purified and concentrated, so that the desired protein is separated from all others. In food, the term isolate usually means that the protein is stronger and more concentrated than in other forms.
Now that we know some of the terms we’ll be considering, let’s look at some specific plant proteins. For our favorite vegan protein powders, you may also want to check out this article.
For years, soy was the most famous, if not the only, plant protein a vegan could have regular access to. Soy is a complete protein, containing all nine amino acids, and is therefore suitable as the sole source of protein for a human. As with many plants, whole soy is healthier than concentrates or isolates, because whole soy contains fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other healthy compounds that may be lost during processing.
Whole soy has been shown to lower cholesterol, and reduce risk of prostate and breast cancer, while soy protein flours, concentrates, and isolates usually lack these other health benefits. While there are occasional viral stories about the harmful effects of soy isoflavones (compounds in soy that mimic human hormones), there is no proven link between eating soy and having negative, estrogen-like effects.
In recent years, people have become concerned about the high incidence of genetic modification in the world’s soybean crop, so, as with any plant product, it is best to choose organic and non-GMO soy.
Pea protein is increasingly popular, because it is both vegan and paleo (grain-free). Pea protein is popular in vegan replacements for dairy foods, because it contains a compound that is very similar to casein, the protein found in milk. For that reason, pea protein is a vegan alternative to whey protein. Pea protein contains all the essential amino acids, but has low levels of methionine, and should not be a vegan’s only source of protein.
As with soy, whole peas are healthier than pea protein isolates and concentrates. Peas are rich in fiber and minerals, and has complex carbohydrates that support digestive health. Pea protein isolates should be balanced with other protein sources, and a person should also enjoy whole peas as part of a healthy diet.
Hemp protein is extracted from hemp seeds, either ground as a flour, or concentrated as an isolate, and is becoming another popular plant-based protein. Hemp is a complete protein, with all the essential amino acids, and is paleo friendly because it isn’t extracted from a grain (in fact, although we call them hemp seeds, they are technically a nut). Hemp is a much better source of protein than other seeds like chia or flax.
Hemp has a lower total protein content than soy, but a higher concentration of amino acids. Hemp protein flours, isolates, and concentrates are made after hemp oil is pressed from the whole seeds, and here are some of the best hemp protein powders you can buy.
As you will have guessed by now, whole hemp seeds are healthier than isolates and concentrates, because the seeds are also rich in heart-healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fats, as well as gamma-linolenic acid and essential vitamins and minerals.
Because it is derived from a grain, rice protein is typically not a paleo food, but it is vegan. It’s usually considered better-tasting than whey protein, and is a very popular vegetarian alternative for weightlifters and bodybuilders — rice protein is very high in leucine, the most important amino acid for muscle building, and the body processes leucine more quickly from rice protein than from whey protein.
In fact, rice protein is over 90% digestible and highly bioavailable. One of the most powerful ways to use rice protein is to mix it with pea protein. Niether one is a complete protein, but rice protein is high in methionine, which pea protein lacks, while pea protein is high in lysine, which is low in rice protein. Together, they make a complete protein that is tasty and easy to digest. As with soy, there are some concerns about GMOs with rice, so it’s best to choose organic.
What to Look For in a Vegan Protein Bar
Obviously, the primary things you want in a vegan protein bar are plant protein and convenience. These foods are meant to be a healthy, portable snack, easy to eat and feel good about as part of a healthy diet, and protein bars are a great option for everyone from pro athletes to parents. Here are some of the things to consider in a vegan protein bar:
Is it high in sugar?
Unfortunately, many protein bars are extremely high in sugar. When evaluating sugars, look for unrefined, raw sugars, that have a lower glycemic index than refined sugars and syrups. It’s best if a vegan protein bar is sweetened with whole, naturally sweet ingredients like dates, stevia, and agave.
Is it organic?
In the US, food producers cannot call a food “organic” if it contains GMOs or genetically modified ingredients. Food producers must also show that they are protecting non-GMO products from contact with GMOs throughout the supply chain.
In the US, organic operations are required to maintain or enhance soil and water quality, conserve natural ecosystems, and avoid the use of synthetic fertilizers and genetically modified organisms. In other words, organic foods are better for your body and better for the world, and we should choose them whenever possible.
Is it from a good company?
When possible, it’s always nice to support companies that share our values and give back to the community. (There are vegan-focused apps that can help you start the lifestyle.)
With these things in mind, you can choose the best vegan protein bars from brands worth supporting, and have a healthy snack when ever you need one.
Final Thoughts on the Best Vegan Protein Bar Brands
Our top pick for the best vegan protein bar of 2020 is the IQ Brain+Body bar. We love that it’s high in plant protein and low in sugar, making it vegan, keto, and paleo. We love that it’s high in fiber, and that it has simple, natural ingredients. It combines pea protein and rice protein to create a complete protein with all the essential amino acids our bodies need.
And it also has brain-boosting ingredients, so they aren’t just good for the body, but also good for the mind. With all the fiber and less sugar, and with the addition of MCTs, they provide lasting fullness and energy. And they come in a wide variety of delicious flavors that aren’t all chocolate and nut flavors, like so many other protein bars. These bars really do have everything you need for a healthy vegan snack any where, any time.
These days, not only are more and more people choosing to live a vegan lifestyle, but millions of people are choosing to simply eat less meat, in diets referred to as “reducitarian” or “blenditarian.” It’s great to know that there are high-quality, convenient protein bars that have complete nutrition without any animal products, no matter what your dietary needs and preferences are.
As people continue to eat less meat, food companies are continuing to come up with more and more innovative ways to provide healthy, satisfying food products that don’t harm animals and are better for the environment. The coming years will bring us even more incredible vegan foods, with even more options and variety, and we look forward to discovering more plant-based proteins in the years to come.