Pea protein supplements are made from protein isolated from yellow or golden peas grown in USA, Canada and Northern Europe. The appeal of pea protein supplements is that it contains all nine essential amino acids, a quality rarely found in vegetarian food sources.
How is it made?
Milling: the outer shell of peas is removed by mechanical milling to obtain yellow pea flour which contains pea protein along with fiber, starch, vitamins and minerals.
Filtration: fiber and starch are removed from the flour using wet filtration as the pea protein is easily dissolved in water but fiber and starch do not. Centrifugation is done to remove remaining impurities.
Precipitation: the protein is then precipitated to its isoelectric point, which means the pH of solution is first adjusted to around 4.5 using mild hydrochloric acid (also found in our stomachs) followed by centrifugation. The supernatant (remainder) of centrifugation is pea protein.
Spray drying: the pH of protein is first adjusted back to 7 after which it is spray dried to obtain pea protein isolate powder.
Protein quality: pea protein contains all 9 essential amino acids and is a good source of branched chain amino acids both of which are required for building and maintaining muscle mass. However it is low in one essential amino acid, methionine.
Allergen free: Pea protein is one of the best protein supplement alternative available in the market for those who suffer from common 8 food allergies and celiac disease (milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, shellfish and wheat).
For vegans: not only is it a good option for vegetarians, it is very much appealing for vegans as well as it does not have any animal derived ingredient.
Heart health: preliminary studies on rats have shown that pea protein isolate can reduce cholesterol levels. Limited studies in humans and rats conclude that pea protein hydrolysate (partially digested protein) can help reduce blood pressure while no similar effects have been seen in subjects consuming pea protein isolate.
Rich iron source: most pea protein products provide around 5-7.5 mg of iron per serving which translates to about 28-42% recommended daily intake of iron for premenopausal women and 62-94% of RDI for men and postmenopausal women.
The takeaway Box:
Pea protein is naturally vegan, gluten free and hypoallergenic, making it one the best vegetarian protein supplement for those who can’t consume whey or for those who follow a vegan or gluten free diet. In comparison to whey protein, it is low in methionine and is not as easily digested but has similar effects in satiety, muscle growth and recovery. For those taking pea protein supplements, I recommend adding brown rice which is a good source of methionine along with vitamin C and lactic acid containing foods which will enhance iron absorption. Most pea protein supplements are high in sodium, potassium and phosphorus, so if you are recommended to keep these minerals in check then consult your nutritionist before consumption.
Abou-Samra, R., Keersmaekers, L., Brienza, D., Mukherjee, R., & Macé, K. (2011). Effect of different protein sources on satiation and short-term satiety when consumed as a starter. Nutrition journal, 10, 139. https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-10-139
Babault, N., Païzis, C., Deley, G., Guérin-Deremaux, L., Saniez, M. H., Lefranc-Millot, C., & Allaert, F. A. (2015). Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: a double-blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. Whey protein. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 3. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-014-0064-5
Cui, L., Bandillo, N., Wang, Y., Ohm, J. B., Chen, B., & Rao, J. (2020). Functionality and structure of yellow pea protein isolate as affected by cultivars and extraction pH. Food Hydrocolloids, 108, 106008.
Li, H., Prairie, N., Udenigwe, C. C., Adebiyi, A. P., Tappia, P. S., Aukema, H. M., Jones, P. J., & Aluko, R. E. (2011). Blood pressure lowering effect of a pea protein hydrolysate in hypertensive rats and humans. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 59(18), 9854–9860. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf201911p
Rigamonti, E., Parolini, C., Marchesi, M., Diani, E., Brambilla, S., Sirtori, C. R., & Chiesa, G. (2010). Hypolipidemic effect of dietary pea proteins: Impact on genes regulating hepatic lipid metabolism. Molecular nutrition & food research, 54 Suppl 1, S24–S30. https://doi.org/10.1002/mnfr.200900251