Are you looking for a plant-based protein supplement? If so, then you should consider pea protein isolate. Fun Fact: Peas date back 8,000 years ago to ancient Greece when street vendors offered hot pea soup. Today beans and peas are still popular food and provide a good protein source for vegans/vegetarians in particular. There is no question peas are high-protein but you might be wondering about pea protein isolate amino acid profile. A “complete protein” is the food like whey protein that includes all 9 essential amino acids (EAAs) that people must get from food. Peas are also high in other nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, which makes them a good choice for peas & carrots or dried peas.
There’s some debate sometimes about what qualifies as a complete protein. For example, some foods contain some of all EAAs. However, they might be low in one or two aminos, which means you’re not technically getting all the EAAs you need for the day. That’s usually a quick fix like kidney beans & brown rice, which combines two incomplete proteins to make a complete one. The big question is whether the little pea has all EAAs and enough of them. Regardless of the answer, there is no question peas are a superfood.
What Exactly Is Pea Protein?
Protein powders have been trending for several decades. The most popular ones are animal-sourced like whey/casein (milk), beef, and eggs. However, there are also plant-based proteins like wheat, quinoa, and soybean. These are also high-protein, and in some cases, like soy are complete proteins.
Pea protein is another veggie protein powder that’s become quite popular among athletes, weightlifters, and bodybuilders. It is extracted from the garden pea known as Pisum sativum. The legume-based protein contains all the 9 essential aminos needed daily. The human body doesn’t produce these amino acids, which makes them “essential.” There are a total of 20 aminos, and the other 11 are produced by the body (non-essential aminos).
It’s always good to maintain a healthy and well-balanced diet that’s based on real food. You could then supplement it with options like protein powders. However, these products should never, ever replace real food. That’s because it’s the best source of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, etc.
When picking a vegetarian protein, it’s a good idea to pick a product that contains no sugars. The reason is it can affect how well the body absorbs the protein. You’ll want to maximize the absorption, so make sure to minimize the sugars.
There are other reasons why you should go with proteins with few/no additives. This affects issues like the overall nutritional value. Lots of added sugar can affect the nutrients you get from the product. It can also make it tougher to digest. So watch out for added salt/sugar and artificial colors/sweeteners/preservatives.
A key benefit of pea protein is it’s allergy-friendly. Some of the most common types of allergies include shellfish, eggs, soy, nuts, peanuts, and milk. It’s possible to have a pea/bean allergy, but it’s very unlikely.
Another benefit of pea protein powder is it doesn’t have any genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This is important since there’s no solid proof that GMOs are safe.
Pea Protein Isolate: Amino Acid Profile
Let’s get to the nitty-gritty of pea protein’s macronutrients and micronutrients. Protein powder “isolate” is made through the process of separating the protein and ground-up yellow peas. It makes a light brown powder.
The nutritional value of these products differs based on various brands. That’s because they have different sources of peas and different processing methods. However, it’s common to get 15g of protein in two scoops of well-known brands of protein powders. This is quite high for a plant-based protein.
In terms of whether or not pea protein is a “complete” protein, there’s some room for debate. Here’s why. The protein provides all 9 essential amino acids (EAAs) required by the human body. However, it’s somewhat low in methionine.
So the vegetable protein is “complete” in that it has some of all of the EAAs. It’s just low in one of them. This is a quick fix. You can add high-methionine foods to your diet including:
- Brown rice
It’s also worth noting that protein powder shouldn’t even be replacing real food anyway. For example, you could go with combos like beef/peas or brown rice/peas to turn the legume into a truly complete protein.
Another plus of pea protein is it’s high in certain aminos known as branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). These have been trending in recent years and include the powerhouse amino acid leucine. BCAAs are important for muscle growth, heart health, blood circulation, etc.
One negative of plant-based proteins, in general, is they’re ironically tougher to digest/absorb than animal proteins. The good news is pea proteins are one of the easiest vegetable proteins to digest. Others include chickpeas and soybeans.
Another benefit of pea protein is they work with different diets like Vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free. Peas also aren’t among the top-8 foods that trigger food allergies.
Pea Protein Powder: Nutrition Facts
Peas are easily a superfood. They’re high in nutrients like protein and fiber. Most protein powders also provide up to 7.5mg/serving of iron, which is over 40% of the daily value. One caveat is that iron is tougher to absorb in plant-based foods.
This is an easy fix. Just add some Vitamin C to your diet like citrus fruits. It can boost the body’s iron abruption by nearly two-thirds.
Here are the nutrition facts for a basic pea protein isolate (2 scoops):
The 80 calories are just 4% of your daily total on a 2,000-calorie diet. Another plus is you’re getting lots of protein, iron, fiber, etc. so these aren’t empty calories. You’re getting lots of nutrients, which is a plus.
There’s just 1g of carbs in 2 scoops of pea protein. This makes it Keto-friendly and a good option for other low-carb diets like Atkins and South Beach. This is important because these diets often only allow up to 50g of carbs/day.
This is one of the main perks of pea protein. You get 15g of proteins in this protein powder. This is quite high for a plant-based protein and makes it worth considering as a supplement of protein from real food.
There’s just 1.5 g of total fat from the protein powder. This is a low amount so it’s a good option if you’re on a low-fat diet, for example. It’s important to get enough healthy fat from various sources. You could boost your intake from foods like fish, whole grains, nuts/seeds, and dairy.
The main one you get is 5mg of iron. This provides a high percentage of your daily intake of the mineral. If you’re vegan/vegetarian this is a plus since it can be tough to get certain nutrients from plant-based foods including iron in pea protein isolate amino acid profile.