The Problem with Vegan Protein – And How to Fix It

Is your vegan protein fermented? It better be. Unfermented plant-based sources of protein contain molecules that bind to minerals and protein — reducing how much goodness you pull from your food and robbing you of nutrients.


Your body needs protein to survive, but a nourishing vegan protein source can be hard to find. Body Ecology’s new Immune Power Protein Shake is 100 percent fermented and a complete vegan protein — with 15 grams of protein per serving — that is easy for your body to digest.

Vegan, plant-based sources of protein include:

By the time you’re 30 years old, your ability to digest food drops as you begin to produce less and less pancreatic enzymes.

Protein Is Essential, and It’s a Macronutrient

The bottom line is that you need protein. This need is large enough that protein makes up a whole group of macronutrients, alongside fat and carbohydrates.

Protein is essential, meaning you must get it from food.

Dietary protein replenishes lost amino acids — the building blocks of proteins — which do a number of important things in your body, like:

  • Help to create enzymes, neurotransmitters, and hormones
  • Repair cells
  • Help give cell structure
  • Help cells to communicate with one another
  • Play a role in your body’s immune response

When Good Vegan Protein Sources Are Hard to Find

The problem with vegan protein is that it can be hard to digest, and it can bind to the nutrients that you need for optimal health. The solution to getting the most out of plant-based proteins is twofold. First, ferment your protein. And second, make sure your own digestion is on point.

  1. Ferment Your Protein

Grains, legumes, and grain-like seeds contain protein. But they also contain factors that reduce their nutrition.

Specifically, this means:

  • Phytates
  • Tannins
  • Trypsin inhibitors

Phytates and tannins bind to minerals that are central to your biochemistry — like iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium.  They also bind to protein, reducing the amount of protein that you actually absorb from your meal.1

Trypsin inhibitors partially block the enzyme trypsin, which is released in the small intestine and used to digest protein. All of these factors — phytates, tannins, and trypsin inhibitors — come together and reduce digestibility, or how well you can break down and use the protein you get from plant foods.

Enter fermentation. Fermentation dramatically reduces anti-nutrients and enhances digestibility.2 This is partially because it breaks down protein-binding molecules.3,4,5 The microbes involved in fermentation also begin to break down proteins into their building blocks, increasing the availability of easy-to-use free amino acids.6

  1. Correct Your Digestion

In order to correct your digestion, it helps to know a few core details about what’s going on in your gut. To begin, the digestion of protein starts in the stomach, where the enzyme pepsin breaks apart protein into chains of amino acids. After leaving the stomach and entering the small intestine, pancreatic enzymes dissolve the links holding these chains together. What you’re left with are single amino acids, which are easily absorbed.

Problems with protein digestion can pop up in the stomach or in the small intestine.

For example, in the stomach, it’s critical that you produce enough stomach acid to “turn on” protein-busting enzymes. This means that antacids — which are widely used to control heartburn — actually disrupt the digestion of proteins. For you, this can translate into a greater risk of allergies and not actually absorbing the proteins that you eat at mealtime.7

In the small intestine, it’s up to pancreatic enzymes to continue breaking down proteins into amino acids that can be absorbed and used. The problem here is that your pancreas may not produce enough enzymes.

Factors that interfere with the release of pancreatic enzymes include:

  • Age
  • Diet
  • Gender

By the time you’re 30 years old, your ability to digest food drops as you begin to produce less and less pancreatic enzymes.8 And it turns out that a meal must contain enough healthy fats to stimulate the release of pancreatic enzymes.9

If a protein-filled meal sits like a brick in your stomach or if you’ve been taking antacids, we suggest that you support your stomach acid with Assist Dairy & Protein and supplement pancreatic enzymes with Assist SI.

And if you’re looking for a fermented vegan protein, Body Ecology specializes in crafting 100 percent bioavailable and fermented superfoods that are easy to whip up into a smoothie that’s so good, you’ll be dreaming of the next one.

What To Remember Most About This Article:

If you feel like you are running out of vegan protein options, it’s not just your imagination. Most vegans rely on plant-based sources of protein like grains, grain-like seeds, legumes, and Spirulina. Protein is essential for everyone, but unfermented plant-based protein may not be as beneficial as you think. Unfermented plant proteins contain molecules that bind to minerals and protein, robbing a rich vegan protein source of its nutrients.

There are two solutions for this common vegan protein dilemma:

  1. Ferment your protein. Fermenting helps to reduce anti-nutrients found in grains, grain-like seeds, and legumes, while making them easier to digest.
  2. Correct your digestion. If your body isn’t able to digest protein, then the vegan protein you are eating will not serve its purpose. You can support healthy levels of stomach acid with Assist Dairy & Protein and supplement pancreatic enzymes with Assist SI, both essential to the protein digestion process.

Body Ecology’s new Immune Power Protein Shake is a new favorite among vegans that meets both protein requirements. This flavorful protein shake, available in Chocolate, is 100 percent fermented for maximum nutrient bioavailability and also works as a powerful probiotic to support gut health.

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  1. Wang, H. L., Swain, E. W., & Hesseltine, C. W. (1980). Phytase of molds used in oriental food fermentation. Journal of Food Science, 45(5), 1262-1266.
  2. Cuevas-Rodriguez, E. O., Verdugo-Montoya, N. M., Angulo-Bejarano, P. I., Milan-Carrillo, J., Mora-Escobedo, R., Bello-Perez, L. A., … & Reyes-Moreno, C. (2006). Nutritional properties of tempeh flour from quality protein maize (Zea mays L.). LWT-Food Science and Technology, 39(10), 1072-1079.
  3. Hassan, I. A., & El Tinay, A. H. (1995). Effect of fermentation on tannin content and in-vitro protein and starch digestibilities of two sorghum cultivars. Food Chemistry, 53(2), 149-151.
  4. El Hag, M. E., El Tinay, A. H., & Yousif, N. E. (2002). Effect of fermentation and dehulling on starch, total polyphenols, phytic acid content and in vitro protein digestibility of pearl millet. Food Chemistry, 77(2), 193-196.
  5. Pranoto, Y., Anggrahini, S., & Efendi, Z. (2013). Effect of natural and Lactobacillus plantarum fermentation on in-vitro protein and starch digestibilities of sorghum flour. Food Bioscience, 2, 46-52.
  6. Amare, E., Mouquet-Rivier, C., Servent, A., Morel, G., Adish, A., & Haki, G. D. (2015). Protein Quality of Amaranth Grains Cultivated in Ethiopia as Affected by Popping and Fermentation. Food and Nutrition Sciences, 6(01), 38.
  7. Untersmayr, E., & Jensen-Jarolim, E. (2008). The role of protein digestibility and antacids on food allergy outcomes. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 121(6), 1301-1308.
  8. Laugier, R., Bernard, J. P., Berthezene, P., & Dupuy, P. (1991). Changes in pancreatic exocrine secretion with age: pancreatic exocrine secretion does decrease in the elderly. Digestion, 50(3-4), 202-211.
  9. Boivin, M., Lanspa, S. J., Zinsmeister, A. R., Go, V. L., & DiMagno, E. P. (1990). Are diets associated with different rates of human interdigestive and postprandial pancreatic enzyme secretion?. Gastroenterology, 99(6), 1763-1771.
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