Pea protein is plantprotein, that comes from the yellowpea,otherwise known as the split pea. One cup of thenutritious legumes contains protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. It only contains 6g of sugar, 4mg of sodium, and 1g of total fat, with no saturated or trans fat and no cholesterol. It also has iron,calcium and vitamin C.
In order to make pea protein powder, the peas are groundand condensed, and the carbohydrates are removed. The result is a whopping 90% quality protein, making it a popular and cost-effective protein source for omnivores, as well as vegetarians, and vegans.
There are 20 amino acids that join together in different combinations to make a variety of proteins. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein is 15% to 30% of total calories. Proteins are in tissues, cells, glands, skin, organs, hormones, enzymes, and bodily fluids. Sources of protein include meat, soy, milk, rice, eggs, fish, nuts, and, the focus of this article, peas. It's important to choose quality protein to reap the most health benefits.
Not sure where to start? See our Best Protein Powder Guide and Top 10 Protein Powders List
Isolates and concentrates
Peaprotein isolates and concentrates originate from the drysplit pea.
- Are a supplemental form of protein (powder)
- Are more refined than concentrates
- Lack gas-producing plant sugars
- Are at least 80% high-quality protein
- Are incomplete proteins -- do not have all the essential amino acids
- Tend to have little fiber and fat, and no saturated fat, carbohydrates, and lactose
- Are easy to digest
- Are a good choice for vegetarians and vegans
- Are not genetically modified
- Are hypoallergenic
- Generally smaller than concentrates and come in a variety of sizes
- Produced via dry milling
- Have more starch and less protein -- 35% to 60% -- than isolates
- Not genetically modified
- Pea protein is a good replacement for eggs, for example, particularly in baked goods and pastas
- Generally larger than isolates and come in a variety of sizes to suit your cooking and baking needs
Benefits and uses
- Fights high blood pressure and kidney disease[1, 5]
- Helps build muscle strength and maintain lean muscle mass[9, 16]
- Can be substituted for eggs in recipes, which is beneficial to people who are allergic to or have a low tolerance for eggs
- A great post-workout supplement for athletes
- Can be substituted for soy, nut, and whey proteins, which is beneficial to people who are allergic to those items[15, 19]
- Maintains its structure and function when under pressure, and exposed to high temperatures and changing pH levels 
- Is highly soluble and easily digestible
- Is a good replacement for gluten in cereals and snacks, helping them maintain structure, shape and texture
- Helps promote the feeling of being full
- Provides a source of protein to vegans and lacto-vegetarians
- Has a high biological value (BV) at 65.4%, which indicates the amount of a nutrient that the body uses compared to the amount ingested
- Is cholesterol-free
- Shows cholesterol- and triglycerides-lowering ability in rats
Pea protein versus whey protein
Wheyis the clearliquid part of milk that is left as a resultof cheese making. There are three types of whey protein.
|Type of protein||What it is|
|Hydrolyzed||Long protein chains are broken down into smaller, more easily absorbed and less allergenic chains. They're used in infant formulas and sports and medicinal nutrition items. Their nutritional content is not compromised by this process.|
|Concentrates||Water, lactose, ash, and a portion of minerals are taken out. Higher biological activity. Can vary between 25% and 89% protein content. Protein powder supplements usually have 80% protein concentrate.|
|Isolate||The most pure form of protein. Contains 90% to 95% protein. It's low in fat and lactose. Pea protein is denatured during processing, reducing its effectiveness.|
Both proteins have similar branched-chain amino acids. Leucine, isoleucine, and valine are examples, and are appropriate for recipes.
Also, both protein isolate forms are appropriate for those who are lactose intolerant. Vegetarian and gluten-sensitive individuals should have little or no trouble consuming either of them as well.
Wheyprotein contains allessential amino acids, as well as vitaminsand minerals. It's popularamong athletes for increasing strength and improving performance. Whey protein has all the essential amino acids, a very high biological value, and a fast absorption rate.[14, 16, 17]
Whey protein uses and benefits may include:
- Immune system maintenance and support
- Metabolic support
- Stress relief
- Weight management
- Muscle maintenance and repair
- Protection against Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, cataracts, and arteriosclerosis
- Prevents muscle loss
- Boosts memory
- Protects against cancer
- Heart health promotion (lowers high blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels)
- Promotes gastrointestinal health
Thereare fewer allergy concerns associated with pea protein than whey. Pea protein has no dairy, for example, which some people have trouble digesting. Also,pea protein is cholesterol-free and low in fat while whey protein is not. But,
Pea protein versus rice protein
Pea and rice proteins are often used together because they are incomplete proteins. However, they complement each other and make a complete protein source that is vegan-friendly -- similar to whey protein. Like pea protein, rice protein is non-allergenic, so it's a good substitute for egg, dairy, and soy proteins.
Riceprotein isolate uses and benefits:
- Fat loss
- Increased lean body mass
- Increased skeletal muscle strength and power
Pea protein versus soy protein
Soy protein comes from the soybean. It's low in saturated fat, while pea protein has none. It's a complete protein, unlike pea protein, but pea protein is less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Enzyme inhibitors in unfermented soy hinder protein digestion and growth, so it isn't the best choice for athletes or kids. Pea protein may also interfere with growth.
Soy may block mineral absorption. Phytoestrogens and goitrogens in soy are cause for concern. The former could cause fertility problems if ingested in large amounts while the latter hinders thyroid function.
Pea protein seems to work better than soy in baking, producing larger, more flavorful loaves that stay fresher longer. Like pea protein, soy is cholesterol-free and a good source of fiber, calcium, and iron. Soy protein also has zinc and B vitamins.
Soy protein benefits and uses may include:
A phytochemical (genistein) in soy reduces the chance of cancer, especially breast and prostate. It also could help prevent uterine cancer. It helps prevent tumors from growing.
|Benefits||How soy helps|
|Pregnancy||Fortified milk, including soymilk, is a good dietary source of vitamin D, especially for those women who don't spend enough time in the sun.|
|Menopause||Soy helps prevent bone and calcium loss in postmenopausal women, especially in those who are not on hormone replacement therapy.|
|Vegetarians and vegans||Soymilk provides a good source of vitamin B12 normally found in animal products, which vegans especially do not eat.|
|Heart health||Soy may lower total cholesterol, LDL ("bad") cholesterol, and triglycerides.|
|Diabetes and obesity||Soy protein helps control weight, and high blood sugar, lipid/lipid protein, and blood insulin levels.|
|Cancer||Soy-based formulas are beneficial for babies born with lactase deficiency or galactosemia. Vegetarians may prefer to give their babies soy-based formulas as well. Soy could also help babies recovering from diarrhea.|
|Infants||Soy-based formulas are beneficial for babies born with lactase deficiency or galactosemia. Vegetarians may prefer to give their babies soy-based formulas as well. Soy could also help babies recovering from diarrhea.|
Safety concerns, side effects
- There are no known side effects of pea protein, but their isolates may cause side effects, including abdominal problems, coughing, dermatitis, diarrhea, hives, nasal congestion, shortness of breath, sneezing, sore throat, uric acid build-up, joint issues like gout, and digestive irregularities.[1, 19]
- Avoid high-protein diets if you have kidney or liver problems.
- If you have a dairy allergy, you may also be allergic to whey.
- To help prevent gout and uric acid build-up while taking pea protein, drink plenty of fluids.
- Keep pea protein powder in a tightly covered container and store in a cool, dark place -- preferably your refrigerator.
- Asparagus, mushrooms, herring, and anchovies may cause uric acid build-up, so avoid those items if you're taking pea protein.
- If you are allergic to peanuts you may also be allergic to peas and other legumes.
- The mature yellow pea seed can act as a narcotic in large amounts. Only use the immature seed in small amounts. And always used cooked seeds.
- Always consult a healthcare professional for advice before using yellow peas or pea protein medicinally.
Best pea protein products
There are two recommended pea protein products. AI Sports Nutrition's NO WHEY tastes great and contains some rice protein.
Now Foods, a family-owned company founded in 1968, offers a quality, all-natural pea protein supplement. A 33g serving contains 24g of protein, 330mg of sodium, 2g of fat, and 120 calories. It's also 2% calcium and 35% iron. Now Foods pea protein has no cholesterol, saturated fat, trans fat, fiber, or sugar.
- Fresh peas don't have the same benefits as pea protein. Enzymes have to activate beneficial pea protein.[1, 23]
- Research is lacking in the areas of pea protein for weight loss and health gains.
1. ScienceDaily; "Proteins From Garden Pea May Help Fight High Blood Pressure, Kidney Disease;" March 2009
2. USDA: ChooseMyPlate.gov; "Beans and Peas Are Unique Foods;" ChooseMayPlate.gov"
3. Jay R. Hoffman, Michael J. Falvo; Journal of Sports Science and Medicine; "Protein--Which Is Best?;" September 2004
4. Rigamonti E., et. al., Molecular Nutrition and Food Research; "Hypolipidemic Effect of Dietary Pea Protein: Impact on Genes Regulating Hepatic Lipid Metabolism;" Rigamonti E., et.al; Molecular Nutrition and Food Research; May 2010
5. Li H., et. al.,; Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry; "Blood Pressure Lowering Effect of a Pea Protein Hydrolysate on Hypertensive Rats and Humans;" Li H., et.al.; Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry; September 2011
6. NOW Foods; "Our Core Values"
7. NOW Foods; "History of NOW"
9. Denton Dean; Livestrong.com; "Pea Protein vs. Whey Protein;" October 2010
10. Whey Protein Institute; "Farm to Table"
11. Whey Protein Institute; "Whey Protein Types"
12. Whey Protein Institute; "Nutrition and Research"
13. Whey Protein Institute; "Usage Tips"
14. USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council; Northern Pulse Growers Association; "Pea Protein"
15. Carly Schuna; Livestrong.com; "Yellow Pea Protein Powder;" July 2011
16. Brian Willett; Livestrong.com; "Health Benefits of Pea Protein Isolate;" October 2010
17. Elizabeth Thatcher; Livestrong.com; "Pea Protein Side Effects;" October 2010
18. WeightTraining.com; Pea Protein Isolate"
19. Vitabase.com; "Pea Protein"
20. Kurtis Frank, Sol Orwell; BornFitness;
21. David Janow, et. al.; PRNewswire.com; "First Double Blind Study Proves Plant-Based Rice Protein Has Identical Benefits to Animal-Based Whey Protein;" March 2013
22. William Lynch; Livestrong.com; "What are the Benefits of Pea Protein?" October 2010
23. Superior Protein Suitable for Vegans; "Pea Versus Soy"
24. Superior Protein Suitable for Vegans; "How Are Peas Made Into Protein Powder?"
25. Superior Protein Suitable for Vegans; "Pea Protein and Vegans"
26. Jefferson Adams; Celiac.com; "Study Shows Pea Protein Best For Improving Gluten-Free Bread;" May 2013
27. Kristen S. Montgomery; The Journal of Perinatal Education; "Soy Protein;" Summer 2003
28. University of Maryland Medical Center; "Soy;" Reviewed 2012
29. Plants for a Future; "Lathyrus Aphaca--Yellow-Flowered Pea"
30. Self Nutrition Data; Source: USDA; "Peas, Split"
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