What is Pea Protein?
Pea protein is exactly what it sounds like. It’s protein extracted from peas. Peas are ground to remove the fiber and starch, a process which leaves just the protein. Nutritionally speaking, peas are one of the top sources of plant-based protein, a fact that many people don’t realize. A standard serving of pea protein powder contains approximately 20-25 grams of protein.
Is Pea Protein or Whey Protein Better for You?
Whey protein does provide a good amount of amino acids, which is why it’s often chosen by athletes looking to supplement their protein intake. However, whey is derived from cow’s milk, so if you are trying to eliminate dairy or if you are simply allergic to it, whey protein is not for you.
Even if you don’t have an actual allergy to whey, some people find it difficult to digest and as a result suffer bloating, upset stomach, and fatigue. The plant-based nature of pea protein, on the other hand, makes it much easier on our tummies. The digestibility of any nutrient is essential to being able to benefit from it. If your body can’t digest it easily, it can’t do you much good!
What are the Benefits of Pea Protein?
- Pea protein is gaining in popularity due to the fact that it is made from veggie protein and doesn’t contain common allergens including soy, whey, or gluten.
- Pea protein contains all 9 essential amino acids. In previous podcasts we’ve explained the importance of eating foods containing amino acids to help the body maintain energy, repair damaged cells, build muscle, and regulate immune function.
- Pea protein is rich in iron. Larissa has been anemic for a good part of her adult life and when we became vegetarians, some of the medical guidance she initially received was that she should eat some meat to obtain iron. We know through research that plants can provide us plenty of iron; peas are a great example. Most pea protein products contain around 5–7.5 milligrams of iron per serving.
- Pea protein can also help with weight loss since it’s easily digestible and helps you feel full longer.
- Pea protein is more sustainable than animal-derived proteins. Processing plant-based proteins in general uses less energy resources, thereby leaving a much smaller carbon footprint. Peas specifically use less water and land to produce (about 20% less!)
How to Pick a Pea Protein Powder
Going into the protein powder section of a store (virtually or in person) can be overwhelming. There are a lot of choices and the labels can be very confusing.
Assuming you’ve already decided on pea protein as your choice, a good first step is to check the sugar content. Larissa is diabetic so this is always something we look at, but diabetes isn’t the only reason to monitor sugar intake. Look for a protein powder that is low in sugar while also keeping in mind that artificial sweeteners are even worse than natural sugar–try to avoid those as well! Remember, sometimes companies hide the sugar by calling it something else; here’s an article that will help familiarize you with some of the names.
In addition to sugar, fillers, and artificial ingredients, another factor to pay attention to is how the pea protein powder is processed. “Isolate” processing has the highest concentration of protein. “Concentrate” and “textured” are two other methods of processing protein that yield lower protein values. Therefore, look for powders that specify “isolate”.
We hope this episode has helped you get to know pea protein a little bit better and provided you with an option for your protein needs.
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Recipe of the Week
Trisha says, “Whipped up some vegan chocolate chip cookies for my kids when they get home from school on this rainy Friday. Ok maybe I had a couple too. You may have to adjust the flour slightly. If you follow the recipe my tend to come out a bit flat, adding a 1/2 cup more of flour makes them a bit cakier. But they taste delicious either way!”
- VZ Ep. 53 – Sugar
- VZ 007: Getting Enough Protein as a Vegetarian or Vegan
- 56 Most Common Names for Sugar
- VZ 035: Breakfast Protein Options for Vegetarians
Thanks for listening!
Peace and Veggies,
Vickie and Larissa