Pea protein is a plant-based protein that is extracted from yellow split peas. It is obtained by drying and grinding the peas into a fine flour, mixing it with water, and removing the fiber and starch. This process leaves the protein, along with vitamins and minerals.
Many people don’t know it, but there is a lot of protein packed in a pea. It’s a fact the fitness and health food industry has keyed into, and they’ve developed a product to remove the maximum amount of beneficial protein out of the pea’s small package.
Here is a deeper look into this new nutritional favorite, its dietary considerations, its many benefits, and how it compares to different types of proteins.
Protein Concentrate vs Isolate
Protein isolates contain a higher amount of protein per serving than concentrates. Some protein isolates are made up of as much as 90% protein, but most have around 80%. This may be beneficial for people who are restricting their calorie intake. Isolates also have a higher insulin response and are absorbed into the body much faster than concentrates.
However, protein isolates are heavily processed, which causes them to lose some of the healthy compounds found in concentrates. On the other hand, protein isolates have less carbohydrates, fat, and lactose.
Protein concentrate is more popular due to the fact that it is typically less expensive. When choosing a protein product, it’s important to consider your goals, budget, and any allergies.
Key Takeaways When Choosing a Protein Powder
If you want a general protein supplement that is less expensive, choose a concentrate. If you want a pure, rapidly absorbing protein supplement and aren’t concerned about price, choose a pea protein isolate.
While whole-food proteins generally provide greater nutrients than powders, protein powder supplements can still hold a firm place in your daily diet. Not only are they simple and convenient to eat, but they can give you the additional protein boost you need in order to feel your best and reach your fitness goals. Along with a nearly complete amino acid profile, just one 30-gram serving of pea protein isolate contains a whopping 23 grams of protein.
Pea protein is vegetarian-friendly, vegan-friendly, dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and usually GMO-free. There have been no proven short- or long-term side effects from taking pea protein powder.
Pea Protein Benefits
On top of tasting great and being a convenient way to get your daily protein intake, pea protein benefits include the following:
- Regulates Blood Sugar: When coupled with other foods and good eating habits, this value-added ingredient can improve glycemic control.
- Aids Weight Loss: Provides a pre-workout energy boost, improves post-workout muscle recovery, lowers ghrelin levels (hunger signals), and sustains satiety.
- Supports a Healthy Heart: Contains leucine which builds muscles (including the heart muscle). Plant-based proteins lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of coronary heart disease compared to animal-based protein.
- May Decrease the Risk of Kidney Disease: Helps to regulate blood pressure which, in turn, lowers the significant risk of cardiovascular complications that often come with chronic kidney disease.
How Pea Protein Compares to Dairy Protein
Dairy protein contains casein, lactose, and glutens. In fact, casein protein constitutes 80% of milk protein. When ingested, this can lead to bloating and allergic reactions.
- Casein is a complete protein and is comprised of essential amino acids, but can clot in the stomach’s acidic environment. This slows digestion and the delivery of amino acids to the body.
- Casein is not very water-soluble so it doesn’t mix well with other liquid ingredients.
- Dairy protein can sometimes cause digestive trouble.
Pea protein does not contain casein, lactose, or glutens. Therefore, it does not cause digestive distress and is a good alternative to dairy proteins.
How Pea Protein Compares to Whey Protein
Whey protein is also a dairy protein but without the casein proteins. Whey protein is a byproduct of cheese; is fast acting and digests quickly and easily.
- Whey protein contains slightly fewer calories than pea protein but has the same amount of carbs, protein, and fat.
- Whey protein contains a higher amount of amino acids in general, but only offers one-third the amount of arginine than pea protein.
- Whey protein is likely safe for most healthy adults. However, there are a few side effects and warnings. For example, it may cause abnormal heart rhythms, changes in cholesterol levels, headaches, and upset stomach.
Pea protein does not cause upset stomach since it’s a plant-based protein. Unlike whey protein, pea protein is not lacking in the conditionally essential amino acid arginine, which plays an important role in cell division, wound healing, and fat burning.
How Pea Protein Compares to Soy Protein
Like pea protein, soy protein is plant-based (soybeans) and a great option for vegans or those who are lactose intolerant.
- Soy protein isolate contains more protein and isoflavones and less cholesterol and fat compared to soy concentrate.
- Two essential amino acids in soy protein, methionine and lysine, are present only in small amounts. Pea protein provides plenty of these two amino acids.
- Soy is often highly processed and genetically modified.
- Asthma and hay fever sufferers are more likely to be allergic to soy hulls so they should avoid using soy products.
If you choose to use soy protein, look for concentrated products that are sourced responsibly, organic, and not genetically modified. On the other hand, most pea protein is minimally processed and non-GMO.
How Pea Protein Compares to Rice Protein
Even though rice is primarily a carbohydrate, it does contain some protein.
- Pea protein has more of the amino acid lysine than rice protein. However, you can take both rice and pea protein together to get a well-rounded source of protein rich in many beneficial nutrients.
- Total protein grams in rice protein is approximately 7 grams lower than in pea protein and iron levels are lower as well.
When combined, pea and rice protein work especially well together. They are a plant-based protein solution which offers a comparable alternative to animal-derived proteins.
How Pea Protein Compares to Hemp Protein
- Hemp does not confer intoxicating properties.
- Hemp protein is high in L-tyrosine and arginine but low in the amino acid lysine (a building block of protein and responsible for proper growth along with the absorption of calcium) and leucine (used in the biosynthesis of proteins).
Hemp protein has a high fiber content and can be used as a viable meal replacement (although the taste is not very desirable). It has yet to be established as having any significant advantage over other sources of protein.
The Conclusion on Pea Protein
If you suffer from allergies or sensitivities to pasteurized dairy and eggs, pea protein is a safe alternative. It’s also a great option for vegetarians and people who cannot tolerate animal-based protein powder mixtures. Plant-based proteins are easily digestible, have been proven to fight inflammation, and are a solid choice for athletes or those who lead a semi-active lifestyle. Its high content of most essential amino acids makes it a valid protein source.
Since pea protein can be quite filling and digests slowly, it’s a great option for either an on-the-go or bedtime snack and makes an easy meal replacement.