Made from yellow split peas, pea protein is full of both essential and non-essential amino acids but is stripped of the vegetable’s carbohydrates and fiber. The end product has amino acids similar to those found in legumes.
Pea protein contains more protein than soy but is easier to digest. It does not contain any gluten or dairy which makes it more hypoallergenic than other protein powders. Other protein supplements such as whey, egg and soy, can cause allergic reactions which can grow worse with repeated use.
Since it is plant-based, pea protein is vegetarian and vegan friendly. A plant-based diet can help prevent a variety of health problems including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Pea protein is also high in vitamin A and K. Vitamin A, an antioxidant, is beneficial to eye health, immunity and cell growth. It also helps to reduce inflammation.
Vitamin K, on the other hand, plays a role in preventing age-related maladies. It helps reduce deteriorating bones, prevent osteoporosis and hardening of the arteries.
Pea protein is naturally cholesterol and fat free. It also contains the amino acids lysine, glutamine, leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which promote a healthy digestive tract.
Pea protein health benefits
Pea protein provides a number of health benefits, including:
- Supports heart health
- Aids in weight loss
- Increases muscle mass
Pea Protein supports heart health
Since it is extracted from plants, pea protein can be part of both vegetarian and vegan diets.
According to a report released by the American Heart Association, people who got 70 percent or more of their food from grains, fruits and vegetables, were 20 percent less likely to die from heart disease.
Also, vegetarian and vegan diets have been found to contribute to heart healthy diets since they are high in fiber and low in saturated fats. However, both vegetarian and vegan diets need to contain sufficient amounts of protein.
Pea protein provides a protein source without the saturated fat contained in other proteins such as red meat. It has been found to lower high blood pressure and reduce inflammation which can decrease the risk of coronary heart disease.
Results of a Canadian study published in 2009 suggested there was a twenty percent decrease in blood pressure levels of rats after they took pea protein for eight weeks.
In another study, researchers found that consuming plant-based proteins rather than animal-based proteins decreased inflammation and, therefore, decreased the risk of coronary heart disease. Inflammation is one of the causes of most heart diseases.
Peas and pea protein have also been shown to lower blood pressure levels.
Pea protein aids in weight loss
Protein is a vital ingredient in the search for weight loss. It helps maintain muscle mass while losing fat. Yet, many people cut protein calories when trying to lose weight. The result is they lose weight and muscle mass rather than losing fat.
Pea protein adds another benefit to your weight loss efforts. It contains peptides that help lower the amount of the hunger hormone, Ghrelin. Consequently, the stomach is fuller for longer which helps you feel full and prevents you from overeating.
In addition to contributing to weight loss, pea protein promotes healthy digestion.
Pea protein aids in maintaining muscle mass and sports performance
As a protein source, pea protein can help your body recover after working out and can increase muscle mass. A 2015 study found that pea protein helped build muscle when used after workouts as a recovery supplement just as well as dairy-based proteins.
Pea protein contains several amino acids, each of which adds to its benefits as a post-recovery supplement:
- Arginine is especially needed by the body during times of sickness or stress, such as working out or sports performance.
- Lysine to balance nitrogen levels in muscles.
- The Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine and valine help to maintain muscle tissue during stress.
- Glutamine helps to restore nitrogen levels after stress or sports performance.
Pea protein can improve kidney health, lower blood pressure
Pea protein may lower blood pressure levels and increase urine levels in patients with chronic kidney disease.
In a 2009 study that examined the effects of pea protein on rats with polycystic kidney disease, researchers noted that after eating pea protein for 8 weeks the rats experienced decreased blood pressure levels compared to rats on a normal diet.
High blood pressure is a significant risk factor of chronic kidney disease. The researchers also found that the urine output of the rats increased markedly. Increased urine levels allow for the release of more toxins.
The researchers noted that they would not have gotten the same results by just giving the rats peas to eat.
Pea protein may decrease blood pressure, potentially delaying or preventing kidney damage and helping people with kidney disease possibly live longer.
Who may benefit from taking a pea protein powder?
Anyone wanting to add a gentle, hypoallergenic protein source to their diet would benefit from using pea protein powder. Also, vegetarians and vegans would benefit from using pea protein powder as it adds a healthy, plant-based protein source to their daily diet.
Anyone should consider taking a pea protein who wants to:
- Lose weight but not muscle mass
- Focus on a plant-based, vegetarian or vegan diet
- Protect their heart health
- Reduce blood pressure
- Maintain kidney health
Pea protein powders are widely available. You can mix powder supplements with juice, water, dairy and non-diary milk products, as well as fruits and vegetables to make a healthy meal replacement, snack or post-workout recovery smoothie.
You can also add it to other foods for a healthy, high protein kick. Add it to pancake batter, cookie dough, oatmeal, dips, bread dough, cereal and more. Pea protein is a versatile ingredient that can add protein and vitamins to almost anything.
Does pea protein have any side effects?
Since pea protein is plant-based, side effects and allergies are rare. Also, pea protein is vegetarian and vegan friendly since it contains no animal products.
Pea protein interactions and combinations
There are no known interactions between pea protein and prescription and non-prescription medications.
Pea protein dosage recommendations
Even the daily intake of 20 g pea protein can have a positive effect on the overall health. Anyone who wants to support muscle growth can take - depending on the body weight - 50 to 100g pea protein per day, divided in 2 to 3 servings.
Why take a pea protein supplement?
There are a variety of reasons for using a pea protein supplement. It’s easier on digestion than other protein supplements, such as whey. Since it’s made with peas, it does not contain soy. Many people are allergic to soy and cannot consume protein supplements that list it as an ingredient.
You may choose to take a pea protein supplement if you have a diet that requires the following:
- No soy
- No whey