If you consume a mostly plant-based, vegetarian, or vegan diet, you may be seeking an alternative to the many whey and casein diet shakes currently on the market. In this article, we’ll fill you in on a plant-based protein powder with extraordinary benefits… perhaps even more than whey – and that’s pea protein powder.
If protein powders and meal replacement shakes in general are new to you, you may immediately balk at the idea of putting any type of pea-tasting product into your daily smoothies! But, keep in mind that the best plant-based protein powders (whether it be pea or another type), typically taste great, with no gritty texture – and you won’t even know you’re consuming pea protein!
The bottom line is that whether you eat a purely plant-based diet or not, there are many reasons to get more variety in your diet – and switching up your protein powder from a dairy-based to a plant-based source is a great way to do that. In this article, we’ll go over some major reasons why you definitely want to give plant-based protein powders a try, and in particular, why pea protein powder should be at the top of your list…
What is Pea Protein?
Pea protein is an isolate, the concentrate of peas derived from an extraction process.
The first step in creating pea protein powder is to dry and ground peas into a fine flour. Next, the flour is mixed with water. Starch and fiber are then removed from the flour. The end product is a pea-derived powder that contains all the vitamins and minerals of peas.
Typically, yellow peas are selected for processing into pea protein isolate. Producers of pea protein use yellow peas rather than green ones because green peas have a stronger flavor. Therefore, it’s easier to balance the mild taste of yellow peas in protein drinks and foods.
Why Pea Protein Powder?
Beyond the fact that some people simply choose not to eat any foods that come from animals (meat or dairy-based), others have allergies or food intolerances to these foods. For instance, many people are unable to digest the sugar in milk (called lactose), while a smaller amount of people are actually allergic to dairy.
In looking for a plant-based alternative to the two most popular protein powders available (#1 being whey and #2 being casein), many people turn to soy protein. But, unfortunately, soy in general is highly controversial, for more than one reason. First off, most of the soy grown in the US is genetically-modified, and research shows that these lab-altered foods, (which are manipulated to withstand certain herbicides), may cause health problems – especially for the gut.
In addition, soy in general is an estrogenic food – meaning that it contains properties that actually mimic the estrogen in your own body when you consume it. Although research results vary as to whether or not this poses a problem to human health, some studies show that it may cause hormone-disruption in the body – along with related health issues.
Finally, many people are also allergic to soy, as it’s one of the top 8 most allergenic foods (along with milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, wheat and fish). Therefore, pea protein has become incredibly popular as a plant-based alternative to soy.
There are also other great plant-based proteins, which, when combined with pea protein (like brown rice protein) can be particularly beneficial. But in general, pea protein is special for a number of reasons, which we’ll discuss next…
Benefits of Pea Protein
Many people think that in general, plant-based proteins pale in benefits in comparison to dairy-based ones, namely whey. But in actuality, plant-based proteins, with pea protein as a shining example, can absolutely hold their own in comparison to whey, and even have some additional benefits…
1) Easy to digest
Many people have trouble digesting lactose (the sugar in milk), and may experience gastrointestinal symptoms after consuming whey protein such as gas or bloating. However, in comparison, pea protein is known to be a highly-digestible protein that typically doesn’t cause the same digestive problems.
Some people also mistakenly think that plant-based proteins aren’t as easy to absorb as animal-based proteins, but studies are showing that this isn’t true. Though substances called antinutrients are naturally present in peas (and can interfere with the absorption of nutrients such as protein, vitamins and minerals), they’re almost completely removed during the process of making pea protein isolate (the protein used in pea protein powders).
Studies also show that pea protein, in particular, is highly bioavailable (or absorbable) – almost equally to animal proteins.
3) Contains all 9 essential amino acids
Another common misconception is that plant-proteins don’t contain all the amino acids for total health, namely, the 9 essential amino acids your body can’t make itself. While you’re much better off mixing up a variety of different plant sources in your diet throughout the day, every single plant source, including pea protein, includes every single amino acid… the issue is that the levels of these amino acids vary per plant.
Pea protein is therefore a “complete protein”, however, it is low in the essential amino acid, methionine. But it’s easy to remedy – you just need to get other forms of animal or plant-based protein in your diet to make up for it.
4) Assists with muscle growth
Next up is the ability of pea protein to help you build muscle and assist with your fitness goals. When it comes to the pea protein vs. whey protein debate in the realm of muscle growth, studies lean in favor of plant-based proteins. Basically, you can gain just as much muscle with a pea protein supplement as you can with a whey protein one.
How is that? The composition of pea protein vs. whey offers some insight. For instance, pea protein contains about 9% of the amino acid, leucine, per serving (which is the most important when it comes to muscle-building). In comparison, whey protein contains about 10% to 11%, so the amounts are very close.
In addition, pea protein is a slow-digesting protein whereas whey protein is fast-digesting. Slow-digesting proteins are particularly beneficial for promoting muscle growth, since they supply your muscles with the nutrients they need over an extended time period.
5) Offers additional health benefits
In addition to holding its own as an awesome source of plant-based protein, pea protein powder is also great for your health in many other ways. It’s a wonderful source of iron, containing around 5 – 7.5mg of iron per serving. It also offers good amounts of other nutrients including manganese, folate, copper, phosphorus, vitamins B6 and B2, niacin and molybdenum.
In addition, pea protein is a highly-satiating food, so it’s highly-beneficial for assisting with weight loss. Plus, studies show that it’s also great for heart health – being shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reducing risk factors for heart disease.
6) Flexibility staple in most diets
For vegetarian and vegan diets, pea protein is a solid non-animal derived protein that provides essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
For a keto diet it’s important to look at the products’ carbohydrate content per serving. Protein powders can vary from brand to brand, but generally pea protein offers minimal carbs. This makes it a perfect choice for those following a ketogenic diet!
For Paleo dieters, pea proteins can be considered par for the course, since they have less antinutrients (natural or synthetic compounds that interfere with the absorption of nutrients) than grains and other legumes. Further, fresh peas are generally accepted on the paleo diet.
7 ) Protein is satiating
If you’re looking to lose weight, protein is an important macronutrient to consider throughout the day. When hunger strikes, and you want a quick snack, foods high in protein and curb your appetite. Low-calorie pea protein snacks and drinks can be a quick and satisfying way to hold you over until your next meal.
Now that you know some of the major benefits of pea protein, are you ready to get the best pea protein powder for you?! Check out this guide to finding the best plant-based diet shake, right now!