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Nutritional Spotlight: Pea Protein

While we’re inundated with sources of protein, a 2018 survey by researchers at Abbott and The Ohio State University revealed that one out of three women over 50 is deficient. With soy and whey under scrutiny is pea protein our salvation?

The fervor for pea protein may have stemmed from the growing population of vegans, but there are several other reasons pea protein has grown in popularity. One, it’s easier to digest than most plant proteins. It also leaves you feeling fuller (hello, weight loss). It’s safe for all allergies and food sensitivities and good for women who want to build muscle.

Pea protein, which is sourced from yellow split peas, is a high-quality, super-clean protein. A great source of iron, it’s also rich in almost all the essential amino acids the body requires (from food sources). It is abundant in lysine (promotes bone strength; increases collagen production), leucine (for muscle building), and arginine (for heart health, fighting inflammation, athletic performance, and more), but there is debate about whether it’s a “complete” protein, as it is low in methionine (a metabolism booster). 

Benefits

Pea protein is a staple of ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicines, which tout peas for keeping the liver and digestion strong.  More recently, animal studies found pea protein powder can reduce some risk factors for heart disease — from elevated cholesterol to high blood pressure.

Packed with antioxidants, pea protein also soothes inflammation. Researchers at Yale School of Medicine identified inflammation as a common factor in many age-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s, gout, arthritis, and diabetes. “[Inflammation is] downright bad for your body, even when it’s not causing an outright disease. It lowers bone density, reduces cognitive function, and creates insulin resistance,” according to researcher Vishwa Deep Dixit, who goes on to say that inflammation can be reduced by the right diet. And the fact that pea protein doesn’t give you gas or cause bloating like other proteins? No study needed to tell you that is a win.

Finally, we don’t have to tell you that loss of muscle mass and weight gain can be synonymous with aging. But we are happy to share that pea protein lowers the appetite-increasing hormone ghrelin and increases the hormone cholecystokinin, which curtails cravings. And evidence suggests that since the body digests pea protein more slowly than other proteins, it’s better for muscle growth over the long term.

pea protein foods

Best Bets

We enjoy pea protein in a variety of foods, including the occasional pint of ice cream. Pea protein’s nutritional content may vary by brand and whether it is a concentrate or isolate — so read the labels. And enjoy some of our favorites:

1. Dr. Praeger’s Veggie Burgers

2. Wink Frozen Dessert

3. Ripple Chocolate Milk

4. Rise Protein Bars

5. Less Naked Pea Protein Powder

Photos: Top, Dlerick; all others courtesy of the companies

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