Is Pea Protein the cleanest, most bioavailable plant-based protein? Maybe…
If you follow healthful eating advocates, you’ve probably heard of The Food Babe, Vani Hari. She’s known for prompting major food chains and manufacturers to remove harmful ingredients from their menus. Can you say Chipotle, Subway, General Mills, and more? But you might not know why in the world she decided to turn the food industry on its head.
Turns out, Vani came from an immigrant family who wanted to become as American as possible. So they decided eating McDonalds and other fast food made them more all-American. Vani describes it as outsourcing her food for most of her life.
The Results of an All-American Diet
In the meantime, she ended up on 9 different prescriptions by her early 20s. And she had to have an emergency appendectomy.
A former debate scholar, Vani knew how to research and argue both sides of any issue. Facing health problems, she decided to take the research of her food and health conditions into her own hands. She was astonished to find the all-American diet might be causing many health issues.
“We really need to be advocates for ourselves. We can’t expect other people to make our food choices.” – Vani Hari, The Holistic Navigator Podcast
And that’s when she decided to change the world. The cool thing is, we all get to reap the benefits of her crusade for healthy food choices. And on top of that, she established one of the cleanest and best plant-based proteins on the market when she began manufacturing the Truvani pea protein brand.
What’s in this article?
- Why pea protein?
- What is bioavailability?
- The different kinds of pea protein
- Is pea protein clean?
- How to make pea protein more effective.
- What are the cons of pea protein?
- The secret benefit of pea protein you’ve never heard
“The food system is made for profit. It is not made for our health.” – Ed Jones
Why Pea Protein?
Vani Hari started Truvani because she was taking a turmeric supplement she loved. But one day she noticed the turmeric supplement manufacturer changed the ingredients, using synthetic fillers. After some research, she realized Procter & Gamble had purchased the company. And that inspired her to create a clean, effective, plant-based protein without synthetics and additives.
Pea Protein Over Other Proteins
You may wonder why Vani would choose to manufacture pea protein other over protein sources. Here’s a list of reasons pea protein may be undervalued as an ideal protein source.
- Less inflammation: Many scientific studies have shown animal-based protein sources increase inflammation in our bodies. However, plant-based proteins can actually decrease our inflammation.
- Fewer possible allergies: Pea protein is gluten free, dairy free, and free of nuts. One of the most popular protein supplements is whey protein because of its bioavailability. But if you have a dairy allergy or you’re vegan, whey won’t work for you. Not sure what bioavailability is? Stick around! We’re defining bioavailability for you below.
- Full amino acids: Here’s something controversial for you. Pea protein actually has all 9 essential amino acids our bodies need to unlock and use protein. I bet you’ve heard differently though, right? Many “experts” say pea protein doesn’t have a full amino acid profile. The reason they can get away with this is because pea protein is low in methionine. But don’t worry! While we LOVE pea protein, we would never suggest using only ONE source to fulfill all your protein needs. PLUS, we have a suggestion below for how to pair your proteins to get the methionine you need.
- Sustainability: Pea protein is one of the most sustainable sources of protein. Peas require less land, water, and fertilizers than animal-based proteins. As a matter of fact, peas are “nitrogen fixing” plants, which means they put nitrogen back into the soil requiring less fertilizers for other plants as well. On top of that, animal protein sources produce more methane, which contributes to “greenhouse gases” and a carbon footprint.
- High Bioavailability: We’ve seen some nutrition “experts” who say pea protein isn’t as great as other protein sources because it’s less bioavailable. First, let’s define bioavailability, and then we’ll talk about how we “score” protein sources on bioavailability. And finally, we’ll hop back into why pea protein = highly bioavailable source of protein.
What is bioavailability?
Bioavailability is the extent to which a nutrient or compound can be absorbed and utilized by the body. Bioavailability is a measure of how effectively a nutrient is digested, absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, and ultimately available for the body’s physiological processes.
Understanding the bioavailability of nutrients is important because it helps determine the effectiveness of a person’s diet in meeting their nutritional needs. Nutrients with low bioavailability may require additional strategies, such as consuming them in combination with other foods or using supplementation, to ensure adequate intake.
So, how do we measure the bioavailability of protein sources?
The PDCAAS stands for Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score. It is a method used to evaluate the protein quality and bioavailability of various protein sources. The PDCAAS takes into account both the amino acid profile of the protein and its digestibility.
The PDCAAS is calculated by comparing the amino acid profile of the protein source to a reference pattern called the “ideal” amino acid profile. The limiting amino acid, which is the essential amino acid present in the lowest proportion relative to the ideal pattern, determines the score.
The PDCAAS ranges from 0 to 1, with 1 being the highest possible score. A PDCAAS of 1 indicates that the protein source contains all essential amino acids in the proper proportions and is highly digestible. This means it provides a high-quality protein that can meet the body’s needs for essential amino acids.
What is the PDCAAS for Pea Protein and other protein sources?
If you’ve ever wondered what protein source gives our bodies access to the most protein, we’ve got your answer. It’s whey protein. Whey protein has a PDCAAS score of 1.0, which is absolutely perfect.
And get this, consuming a piece of meat does NOT give you access to the most protein in that product. That’s right! Meat is LESS bioavailable than whey protein.
Here’s a breakdown of the PDCAAS score for some of the more popular protein sources.
Pea protein isolate 0.93
Turkey 0.92 – 0.93
Soy Beans 0.92
Chicken 0.91 – 0.92
Pea protein 0.83
As you can see, pea protein isolate ranks above many of the meat options for protein. And pure pea protein isn’t looking too shabby either! Pea protein concentrate would fall somewhere between the two.
What’s the Difference Between Pea Protein Isolate, Pea Protein Concentrate, and Pea Protein?
Pea protein isolate is the most common processing method for creating protein powder. It’s the most processed version of the protein powders, stripping everything other than the protein from the peas. Pea concentrate basically removes the pea shell and grinds the peas into powder, leaving some of the carbs, fat, and other micronutrients in the protein powder. And unprocessed pea protein, well, you have to get that by eating peas.
The isolate version of the protein contains the highest concentration of protein. That makes sense because everything else has been stripped away. And eating peas gives you the lowest concentration of protein. Meaning, you have to eat more peas to get the same amount of protein that you would get in the isolate version. Again the concentrate falls between the two.
We prefer the least processed version of the protein while still turning it into an easy-to-use powder. That’s why Truvani uses pea protein concentrate instead of isolate.
Listen to the full interview with Vani Hari on The Holistic Navigator Podcast here.
Is Pea Protein Clean?
And here’s where it gets tricky. If you’re trying to be sure you’re eating healthfully, you want to eat the cleanest possible products. So, the big question is, how clean is pea protein? And the answer is a bit disappointing. Because, it depends…
As Vani began her protein manufacturing quest, she quickly found some huge problems with the pea supply. And it’s the same culprits you might imagine. Heavy metals and glyophosate contaminate almost everything in our food supplies these days.
The thing about heavy metals…
Did you know heavy metals occur naturally in the soil? While pollution does add to our heavy metal in food issue (especially with fish!), it’s normal to have low levels of heavy metals in most plants. And that’s because arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, nickel, and zinc are naturally occurring elements in the earth.
In order to keep it as clean as possible, manufacturers have to test their sources to be sure there are as few heavy metals as possible. And Truvani has an entire testing protocol they share on their website.
That’s why it’s important to understand the testing and transparency of the companies manufacturing your health products. Otherwise, they might not be so healthy!
Try Our TruVani Pea Protein
But Glyophosate, on the Other Hand
Glyophosate, otherwise known as RoundUp, does not naturally occur in the earth. We’ve manufactured that weed killer ourselves. And we’ve overused it. As a result of overuse, glyophosate shows up in almost all of our food supply. Yes, even our organics. Because it leaks into the soil and spreads.
That’s why Vani and the Truvani team constantly tests the pea supply. They are constantly evaluating the levels of glyophosate to make sure the pea protein they produce is as clean as possible.
What about other contaminants?
When we interviewed Vani on the Holistic Navigator podcast, she mentioned other proteins add xantham gum, guar guar gum, and other unnecessary thickening and preserving agents. Vani believes these gums contribute to poor gut health. And that’s why you won’t find any gums in Truvani products.
And here’s one of our pet peeves. Natural flavors! Many times the ingredient “natural flavors” means MSG. What does MSG do? Well, studies from the NCBI link MSG to altered behavior, including the overconsumption of foods with MSG.
Other adverse effects include neurotoxins that cause alzheimer’s, tumors, dementia, parkinson’s, and more, as well as reproductive issues. The list is LONG!
And even if it’s not MSG, these flavors are anything but natural.
According to the FDA, natural flavor mixtures can contain more than 100 chemicals, including solvents, emulsifiers, flavor enhancers, and preservatives. In fact, some natural flavors, classified as safe, are made of more than 90% other substances used to enhance the flavor being created.
Most plant-based protein products use artificial dyes. So, what’s the big deal. Well, take a look at this research article on pubmed about the toxicity of artificial dyes that finds ALL of the currently 9 US-approved dyes raise health concerns. If not hyperactivity, most of these dyes have been linked to some carcinogenic outcome.
Be sure to read the labels of any protein powder you purchase. If you see artificial dyes, you might want to put it back on the shelf.
Pea Protein Builds Muscle Like Whey
Big question about plant-based proteins. Can they help you build muscle as effectively as whey or meat? Well, in this PubMed study, the answer was a resounding yes!
How to Make Pea Protein Even More Effective
Feels like pea protein makes a ton of sense when choosing a protein supplement. But what about the low methionine (an essential amino acid) levels?
You can make your pea protein supplement the MOST effective by mixing it up. That means, don’t let it be your only source of protein. You still want to keep other protein sources clean.
Follow our Nutrition World founder, Ed Jones, and combine your pea protein powder with hemp protein. It’s a rich source of methionine. PLUS, you get extra fiber! And that’s good for your gut.
Ed also likes to add some MCT or coconut oil and greens powders to his pea protein supplement.
Cons of Pea Protein
The biggest complaints we see online for this plant-based protein powder have to do with texture. Some people say pea protein makes things feel chalky or grainy.
Because Truvani removes the pea pod, using only the pea, they say there’s no grainy texture when using their protein powder.
The Secret Benefit You’ve Never Heard
Okay, one extra benefit of pea protein that no one’s ever told you. Vegetarians and frequent blood donors get excited! Did you know pea protein contains 28% – 60% of your iron needs for one day? If you don’t eat meat, this protein could save you from iron deficiency.
The biggest takeaway here? Research your food producers to make sure you are purchasing the cleanest, most effective products for your health. At Nutrition World, we do the research for you. Come by and speak to one of our associates about which products are best for you!