Garden of Life Raw Protein Review

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In this review article we’ll be looking at one of the more popular vegan protein powders, Garden of Life’s Raw Organic Protein that I bought recently.

I’ll be going over all of its key features: ingredients, macronutrient & amino acid profiles, cost, buyer ratings, & sharing what I think of its taste, texture, & mix-ability.

Along the way I’ll also be comparing Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein to a few of its competitors who produce a plant-based protein powder too — Orgain, Vega, KOS, & others — seeing how the protein powder Garden of Life makes measures up to them.

 

Review summary

For health-conscious people who are looking to get a very clean vegan protein into their diet, Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein is one of the better protein powders out there.

Its raw organic protein blend is mostly made up of three things: organic pea protein, organic sprouted brown rice, and organic amaranth sprout, and it is both dairy free & gluten free.

It has 22 grams of protein per serving and has 15 different plant-based protein sources that provide you with a complete protein that has the essential amino acids your body needs to get from your diet.

This product also contains ‘raw food’ fat soluble vitamins, probiotics, and enzymes which may help you maintain a healthy digestive system. 

 

Program notes

* Any product image (like the one above) or a product name that is in blue is a link to its Amazon page if you want to check out current price or buyer reviews there, and it’ll open in a separate browser tab.

* I abbreviate Garden of Life as “GoL” on occasion.

* Also, please keep in mind that any prices I might mention today may be different when you look them up, since online supplement prices bounce around all the time these days.

 

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Science resources included

As is my custom here on heydayDo, I will provide links to all of the relevant sports science and medical resources, clinical studies, & nutritional data used in this article.

 

Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein Powder flavors

Currently Garden of Life offers this Raw Organic Protein in four flavors: chocolate, vanilla, vanilla chai, and unflavored.

I bought the chocolate flavor since I have a strong leaning towards choosing that flavor when it comes to comparing similar products like protein powders, pre-made shakes, or protein bars.

Well, that and the fact I love chocolate…go Theo’s!

I can’t offer an opinion on the vanilla chai flavor, but I have had a vanilla version of another “raw vegan protein powder” from GoL that is made with very similar ingredients.

It’s called Garden of Life Raw Organic Meal and it tasted pretty good, even to a chocoholic like me.

 

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Garden of Life Protein Powder Buyer Ratings

In this section I’ll show you the results of compiling all the buyer ratings & reviews I could find online for this Garden of Life protein powder, and I’ll also compare its results to a handful of its closest competitors.

Speaking of — currently, these are the three biggest-selling organic + plant-based protein powder products:

Last update on 2021-11-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

 

And these three are bestselling plant-based protein powders too, but they are not organic:

Last update on 2021-11-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

 

Here is a list of these protein powders, ranked by online buyer feedback:

Orgain Plant-Based Protein Powder 4.6 stars   90%  48,000+ reviews

Vega Sport Plant-Based Protein Powder 4.5   89%  10,000+ reviews

KOS Organic Vegan Protein Powder 4.5   85%  13,000+ reviews

OWYN Plant-Based Protein Powder 4.5   85%  3,500+ reviews

GoL Raw Organic Protein Powder     4.4   83%  17,000+ reviews**

PlantFusion Complete Protein Powder 4.3   82% 9,700+ reviews

 

A quick word about my numbers…

The star rating you see reflects the combining of all online reviews I could find, and the % you see represents the percentage of buyers who left a 4 or 5-star rating.

(80% is good not great, like a B-/B in school…and 90% & up is excellent.)

And since Amazon is the #1 seller of nutritional supplements (by a mile), their verified buyers have the biggest influence on a nutritional supplement’s rating.

Here’s the product summary for their Raw Organic Protein that Garden of Life gives to its retailers:

Sale
Garden of Life Raw Organic Plant Based Protein Powder, Chocolate -...
  • HIGH PROTEIN: 22 grams of complete, sugar free plant protein from USA grown peas and 13 RAW organic sprouts
  • POST WORKOUT RECOVERY: Help your muscles recover with a clean nutritional shake and get back in the gym faster
  • VITAMINS AND MINERALS: This delicious chocolate protein powder includes fat soluble RAW food created vitamins A, D, E and K
  • PROTEIN POWDER WITH PROBIOTICS: Tasty, 130 calorie smooth protein shake with 3 billion CFU probiotics and enzymes for easy digestion
  • VEGAN PROTEIN POWDER: Organic, gluten free, vegan, dairy free, soy free, non GMO whole food protein

Last update on 2021-11-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

 

Okie dokie, now let’s take a closer look at what this protein powder is made of and how it compares to its competitors.

 

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Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein ingredients

There are a lot of ingredients in this protein powder — over 35 — and a few of them have long scientific names which may make someone wonder where they came from.

But no worries, since they’re organic ingredients all sourced from things that actually grow on Planet Earth.

Here’s a look at how they’re listed on the label, and I’ll break down this list in a sec:

Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein powder ingredients list

So you can see that all thirty eight of these raw** ingredients are part of just three food-based blends:

  • a protein blend;
  • a flavor blend;
  • and a combo of raw probiotics & an enzyme blend.

** raw – In multiple places on the Garden of Life website you’ll come across their definition of the word “raw” as it pertains to their products:

“Raw means no high heat, synthetic binders, fillers, artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors or additives commonly used…”

 

Raw organic protein blend

Looking over what plant sources GoL is using for their protein here, I see that everything could be classified as either a:

  • legume (peas, lentils, beans);
  • grain (amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, etc.);
  • seed (sunflower, chia, flax, etc.).

By including all these different vegetable types, Garden of Life — and the other vegan protein manufacturers — are able to create a complete protein.

In case you didn’t know, a complete protein simply means that it contains all of the essential amino acids in it.

And essential means your body doesn’t make those amino acids, so you need to get them from what you eat and drink.

The protein in a vegetable (like a pea) or a grain (like rice) by itself is not complete, because each lack amino acids that are classified as essential.

So that’s why vegan protein manufacturers use a combination of foods to get there.

Large basket of peas

A dairy free protein powder alternative

The most consumed protein powder is likely whey protein because in its one ingredient it delivers a high amount of amino acids & the branched-chain amino acids within them.

(In case you didn’t know: whey protein contains much higher amounts of essential aminos than vegan powders do.)

But what if someone wants a protein supplement with a decent amino acids profile but prefers to avoid animal products & dairy like whey protein, or maybe because they’re lactose intolerant?

Vegan powders like the kind Garden of Life makes (usually) start with pea protein and then blend it with other things like sprouted brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, chia & the like in order to boost the amino acids content.

 

Benefits of sprouted seeds

Sprouted seeds for Garden of Life Protein Powder article

Another thing cool about this protein recipe GoL has come up with is that all of their seed choices have been sprouted:

  • organic sunflower seed sprout;
  • organic flax seed sprout;
  • organic pumpkin seed sprout;
  • organic sesame seed sprout; &
  • organic chia seed sprout.

Sprouted seeds provide additional nutrition above what a plain seed gives you. (4)

 

Flavor blend

The ingredients in the flavor blend are all pretty common and are probably familiar to you.

The “gums” you see — guar gum & carob gum — are used as thickeners in lots of foods and come from trees. (5)

 

Raw probiotic blend

There is debate about probiotics in the medical science community over whether they are beneficial enough to consumers to be worth spending money on.

I don’t think that issue matters much in the case of Garden of Life’s protein powders, because most of what you are paying for is the plant-based proteins it has.

 

Enzyme blend

Our bodies make all sorts of enzymes for all sorts of things, and some foods like papaya and pineapple have trace amounts of enzymes that may help aid the breaking down of heavier foods like meat products. (2)

The blend in this GoL powder contains protein digesting enzymes as well as an enzyme or two for breaking down fats and plant-based carbohydrates.

For most people without any serious medical trouble with their pancreas, the digestive enzymes in our bodies do a great job breaking down what we eat.

So the necessity of a healthy person taking a digestive enzyme supplement isn’t highly thought of by some in the medical field. (3)

This is no big deal here, in my eyes anyway.

Like the probiotics Garden of Life includes, the man-made digestive enzymes in this protein powder cost us almost nothing.

 

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Nutrition & macros numbers

Garden of Life Raw Protein Powder nutrition facts label

My takeaways:

  • Mostly protein with very low fat & carb numbers which is good, since we are buying a protein powder;
  • At 220 milligrams, the sodium’s a wee bit high for me;
  • Nice mineral & vitamin numbers, and they’re plant-sourced too.

 

Essential Amino Acids & BCAAs

Garden of Life is the only one of those six major protein powder producers I showed you earlier who openly disclose the amino acids profile of their products, & that fact is a big plus for me, even though we prefer drinking the Orgain version here in our home.

Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein Amino Acids Profile

I also like that their label points out both the essential amino acids & the branched chain amino acids, which is helpful for someone who doesn’t know the them by heart.

These essential & BCAA numbers are noticeably lower than what you’d see on a typical whey protein amino acids profile, but that’s the tradeoff for going with a clean, organic, vegan protein supplement.

To illustrate this, here’s a branched-chain amino acids comparison between this Garden of Life product & the #1 selling protein powder in the world:

Garden of Life      2.9 grams

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey   5.5 grams

The whey has almost twice the BCAAs.

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Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein cost info

As I mentioned at the beginning, prices change quite often in the supplement world. So the results below may be different when you do a price comparison.

But as of today anyway, below is what the cost per serving is for each of the three “vegan & organic” protein powders, plus the amount of protein you get.

As you can see, Orgain’s the cheapest.

  • Orgain $1.35 for 20 grams of protein
  • Garden of Life $1.68** for 22 grams
  • KOS $1.67 for 20 grams

Cost per serving is a better metric than Amazon’s displayed “per ounce” numbers because the manufacturers all have different serving sizes to get you your 20 or so grams of protein.

Check it out below:

Serving size comparison of Garden of Life vs Orgain vs KOS

Garden of Life vs. Orgain vs. KOS serving sizes

 

** – I’ve noticed Garden of Life changes their price several times a year, but this price seems to be where it sits the most.

Sometimes it’s higher than this, but they also discount it down to the same price as Orgain’s that you see here.

 

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Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein taste, texture, & mix-ability

A little disclaimer: We all have different taste buds & personal preferences, so what I say here doesn’t mean too much. A lot of people like this product more than I do.

I finished off the whole 2 lb. can (which is a good sign) of their chocolate flavor and the taste was OK, very similar to other vegan powders I’ve tried before.

I preferred it mixed in a blender (versus in a shaker) with a lot of other things added to it like fruit & peanut butter to improve its taste which I found “earthy”, thanks to all the grains & beans they use.

One thing GoL did that I really liked is that they went light on the stevia when sweetening this powder; too much stevia is a buzzkill for me.

My way of comparing powders’ tastes & textures to each other is to use a serving size with 8-10 ounces of water that I hand mix in a shaker bottle like this one:

Shaker bottle & red lid for taste testing Garden of Life protein powder

This way I get the powder’s real taste and texture undisguised by ingredients I’d use in the blender.

In that shaker bottle with their suggested 10 oz. of water the GoL powder was a little thick for me, but when I bumped it up to 12 oz. it was fine.

It works well in a blender & plays nice with all the fruit and greens I usually add to a morning post-workout smoothie.

Then I did a taste-test comparison of Garden of Life vs. Orgain vs. KOS, where Orgain won because of its nice cacao/cocoa flavor.

GoL was second; it doesn’t taste bad at all. Just has more of a grain/pea flour earthy vibe to it with less chocolate coming through.

KOS was dead last by a long shot because my taste buds couldn’t handle the stevia & other flavorings they put in it.

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Garden of Life Protein Powder Review Wrap Up

Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein Powder is a clean, certified organic, and plant-based complete protein powder that has an excellent nutritional profile.

I think it can be used to effectively supplement your protein intake without milk products, soy, or artificial sweeteners.

The chocolate flavor I drank has a very decent taste & texture profile that’s consistent with — or better than — most other vegan powders on the market, though Orgain’s currently my fave of the bunch.

Garden of Life protein powder can on dog bed with my Rottweiler, Lil Boji

I hope that this article reviewing the Garden of Life protein powder is useful to you, and I wish you well on your fitness journey.

Let’s go.

– greg

November 2021

 

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About heydayDo

heydayDo author Greg Simon
Hi I’m Greg Simon. Fitness training & nutrition researching since 1982. Organic food & wine grower. Surfer. Congenital heart disease survivor (so far). Read more…
heydayDo is my “fitness after 50” website that’s about embracing the physically active lifestyle as we get older.
 
I write about the fitness and health research I’ve found concerning the quality of life benefits that exercise and good nutrition provide.
 
When I get curious about something, I’ll dig into whatever sports science & medical facts there are on the topic to learn what’s real & what’s only hype. I also post my experiences product-testing & evaluating home gym equipment & fitness supplements.
 
 It’s an information-sharing, personal opinion blog of mine.
 
So if you’re looking for medical or nutritional advice, please consult with your doctor or health professional for that, since heydayDo does not provide medical advice.