I’ll tell you straight away that whether or not vegan protein powder is paleo will depend on who you ask.
Some will say yes, others will say no.
I’ll give you a quick rundown of each side, and then you can decide for yourself.
The Argument for Vegan Protein Powder Being Paleo
Legumes aren’t considered Paleo by the strictest practitioners, but I (and many others) don’t understand why.
Many tribes that existed in the past or even today ate a lot of legumes.
This includes Australian aborigines, southwest Native Americans, and the !Kung San, who heavily relies on legumes.
Furthermore, analysis of Neanderthal tooth plaque shows that they definitely ate some kinds of peas and beans.
Based on that, I think it’s fair to say that legumes can certainly be considered Paleo under reasonable guidelines.
Vegan protein powders made from legumes could therefore be considered paleo. This mainly includes pea protein and soy protein.
What about brown rice protein?
Well, other research has shown that other than legumes, Neanderthals also ate small amounts of grains like wheat and rice.
So while most Paleo gurus will say that rice isn’t Paleo, I think you could easily argue that it is.
The Argument Against Vegan Protein Powder Being Paleo
One of the “giants” of the Paleo movement, Loren Cordain, is strictly against beans and legumes being considered Paleo.
His argument is based around their antinutrient content (phytate, lectins, etc.).
To me, that’s a nutritional argument that isn’t relevant.
The original definition of Paleo was simply along the lines of “food that people in the Paleolithic age ate.”
But now most Paleo bloggers come up with their own version of Paleo based on arbitrary rules, justified by nutritional arguments. It’s one of the main reasons I don’t really follow or read any hardcore Paleo blogs anymore.
But if you think similarly, that legumes and grains are under no circumstances Paleo, then clearly vegan protein powder will not be considered Paleo for you.
There’s also an argument that protein powder is too processed.
There would have been no way for people in the past to extract nearly pure protein from peas, beans, or other plants.
Some paleo followers are strict about this sort of thing, while others don’t think it’s practical or beneficial. It’s up to you.
Putting it All Together: Is Vegan Protein Powder Paleo?
Personally, I think that vegan protein powder is Paleo.
But that’s just an opinion, like everyone else’s.
I think I like Chris Kresser’s general sentiments on the Paleo diet: Use it as a template, and find a diet that works for you
Evaluate vegan protein powder for yourself and decide if it fits your definition of Paleo.
Ultimately, does it really matter? If you enjoy the powder, and it’s helping you achieve your nutritional goals with no side effects, does it matter if it’s Paleo?
That’s up to you to decide.