What Goes Into Plant Based Protein?
If you’re shopping for plant based protein supplements, you’ll see that most products are made with the same few main ingredients. The majority of plant based protein supplements are made with either pea, soy, hemp, or brown rice protein. Many companies will offer a protein blend, incorporating something like pumpkin seed for example, to mix with the base protein ingredient. These ingredients are all similar in the sense that they are high protein plant foods that are processed in a way which isolates the protein. Here we will talk about the main types of plant based proteins, their benefits, and any drawbacks they may have.
Soy was one of the most popular plant based proteins in the early stages of the plant based protein explosion. Soy protein is popular amongst manufacturers because it’s cheap and easy to source. Soy plants have many uses: Soy sauce, edamame, tofu, tempeh, soybean oil, etc. It’s a major crop grown in huge quantities around the world. This makes it cheap and easy for manufacturers to use. It’s become less popular in protein supplements due to some concerning research pieces possibly linking high soy consumption to hormone imbalances, and some forms of cancer. Scientists and health professionals are divided on the safety of soy products, but until it’s cleared up many consumers are choosing other sources of protein instead. Soy is still widely used as a plant based, meat alternative. Some people are allergic to soy products, if this is the case, soy protein should be avoided absolutely.
Pea protein is a great choice of protein since it’s full of amino acids, iron, is high in protein, and is hypoallergenic. Pea protein is a complete protein because it contains all 9 essential amino acids that your body needs to function. These amino acids cannot be produced within the body, so they must come from your food. Pea protein also a great source of Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs), especially arginine which is wonderful for a healthy heart and blood flow. It blends best with water, and doesn’t have a gritty or chalky flavor profile like hemp protein might. Compared to the other protein options, pea protein has a higher sodium content. So people on sodium restricted diets should be careful to monitor their sodium while taking a pea based protein
Hemp protein, like pea protein, is special because it contains all 9 essential amino acids. It’s another great choice for a plant based protein supplement. It has less protein per serving than pea or soy protein, and less BCAA’s than pea protein. Hemp protein is touted as being very easily digestible, look for hemp protein processed via “cold press,” because heat has shown to lower the digestibility of hemp protein by up to 10%. The biggest advantage of hemp protein might be that it has very high fiber levels. High fiber diets have been shown to reduce risks of cancer, help maintain a healthy gut biome, and reduce blood sugar levels. It’s less processed than the other options which makes it a little more gritty and chalky tasting, some people love the taste though!
BROWN RICE PROTEIN
Brown rice protein is another vegan, vegetarian, hypoallergenic protein option. While brown rice protein contains all 9 essential amino acids, it contains too little lysine to be considered a complete protein. Due to lacking enough lysine, it’s best to mix brown rice protein with a complete protein such as pea protein, or hemp protein.
There are three primary differentiators of plant based proteins vs. traditional whey protein:
1) Environmental Benefits
2) Ethical Benefits
3) Health Benefits
For more information on this, check out the full blog: https://greenpeakslabs.com/blogs/news/whats-different-about-plant-based-protein-powder
In conclusion these are all great alternatives to animal sourced proteins like whey or casein. Pea protein is our favorite at Green Peaks, it’s the closest plant based option to whey in terms of nutritional content. It’s high BCAA content, complete amino acid profile, high protein levels, and neutral taste make it number 1 in our books. Hemp protein comes in at a very close second though. The only drawbacks with hemp protein is that it’s lower in protein and BCAA’s compared to pea protein or animal based proteins. Also since hemp is less refined than the other plant options it has a more gritty, chalky taste. Many people try to minimize consumption of soy based proteins. I understand that the studies which label soy as potentially hazardous are still debated. However, until we can know for sure that it won’t affect our hormones, or increase risk for cancer, it’s best to be looking for other options. Brown rice is a pretty good protein source, but there are better options available in the same realm of plant based proteins. If you’re interested in brown rice proteins, maybe look for a product that blends brown rice with another, more complete protein source.