Examining the Effects of Pea Protein… Does It Work?

By: Louise Bradshaw

Not scientifically reviewed by Dr. Eeks

As a vegan, I’m always careful to ensure there’s enough protein in my diet, which can often be challenging. With various protein supplements available, it’s often difficult to decide which is the best. But as I avoid dairy foods, I’m always on the lookout for plant-based solutions to meet my dietary needs.

Among plant-based protein supplements, pea protein is promising. Pea protein can not only compete with animal-based proteins like whey and casein in terms of nutritional value, but it also has very low allergenicity making it a gentler choice for those with sensitive digestive tracts.

Pea protein is extracted directly from yellow peas by removing the outer shell and milling the remaining inner center to produce a fine powder.

Why Do We Need Protein?

Proteins contain 20 amino acids, of which 11 are considered essential. These amino acids must be sourced from foods as we are not able to naturally produce them. Amino acids combine to form complex proteins used in the production of hormones, antibodies, enzymes, and in the immune system, where they contribute to the wellbeing of both skin and muscles.

Our bodies can’t store protein in the same way we store fats and carbs, so instead we source protein from our daily diet. Protein powder is one way to increase the amount of supplemental protein in your diet, especially if you do not consume animal-based proteins.

Pea protein is a plant-based alternative to popular animal-based protein supplements like whey and casein.

The Positives of Pea Protein

Peas, along with beans and lentils are a good source of protein, with pea protein in particular containing a large amount of essential amino acids. Pea protein is made up of 30% essential amino acids, impressive considering that brown rice contains only 28% and soy 27%.

Specifically, pea protein contains:

  • Branched-chain amino acids like leucine (necessary for muscle development)
  • Substantial amounts of threonine, phenylalanine, histidine, and lysine
  • Trace quantities of valine, isoleucine, and methionine

While pea protein alone may not meet every bodily need, it certainly is an effective contributor to a healthy diet. Another positive of pea protein is that it won’t agitate sensitive guts, and doesn’t cause the gas or bloating issues associated with protein sources like soy.

Further benefits to pea protein include:

  • Building muscle – Research indicates that pea protein is comparable to milk-based whey and casein when it comes to developing muscle tissue, with one 3-month study showing that pea protein can match whey protein in muscle mass development.
  • Appetite reduction and control – Pea protein aids in hunger reduction and produces feelings of fullness helping to reduce calorie intake and benefit weight loss.
  • Nutritional value – Pea protein has a very low-fat content and high concentrations of iron and essential amino acids.

Pea protein is also suitable for those suffering from a number of food intolerances and allergies, as well as people with sensitive guts or IBS, and can be safely consumed by people unable to eat:

  • Eggs
  • Soy
  • Nuts
  • Wheat
  • Gluten 
  • Dairy

Does Pea Protein Come in Powder Form?

Yes, generally pea protein will be sold as a powder, however there are 3 different types available.

  • Pea protein isolate – A pure form containing only pea protein and amino acids.
  • Pea protein concentrate – Including additional fats, carbs, and other proteins.
  • Textured pea protein – Used to create meat product alternatives and not generally sold as a dietary supplement.

Does Pea Protein Work? 

For me, pea protein has been a pleasant discovery. I’ve found it to be a healthy protein supplement that aids in muscle development and helps to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol with additional benefits in hunger reduction and appetite control.

What’s best is that along with pea protein’s benefits, I’ve found it to be very easy to add to my daily diet, mostly thanks to its pleasant consistency and creamy texture. Pea protein is ideal for making a range of tasty smoothies, and I’ve also added it to my stews and soups, as well as to baked goods and loads of other delicious pea protein snacks.

Are There Any Negative Effects?

As pea protein is easily digested, negative effects are uncommon, though iIt may not be appropriate for people on a low-sodium diet. Additionally, excessive consumption of any protein can exacerbate kidney issues, so you should always consult a medical professional when considering the consumption of dietary supplements.

A Final Suggestion

Always read the ingredients list on any kind of protein supplement, as manufacturers may add in foods and allergens that could be harmful to your health. Common additives include sugars, sweeteners and artificial colors, so take time to read the label before you make a purchase.

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