What is pea protein isolate?

Protein is one of the most important nutrients for balanced health. Not only does protein help improve the strength of hair, bones, skin and nails, it’s critical for athletes and others who are looking to maintain their energy or make changes in their body. 

While protein is found naturally in many foods, especially meats and nuts, lots of people enjoy consuming concentrated protein supplements to help them meet their daily targets. Thanks to the advancement of food science technology, consumers can enjoy protein supplements from a variety of different sources depending on their preferences.

Pea protein is one of the most common alternatives to meat or dairy-based proteins. In this article, we’ll discuss pea protein isolate, compare it to other forms of protein, and offer some advice on choosing a dependable source for your protein.

What is pea protein?

If you’ve done any kind of supplement shopping, you’ve likely seen products containing whey protein. Whey is derived from dairy, which is why it’s one of the most readily available types of protein supplements on the market today.

On the other hand, pea protein powder is made from yellow split peas and does not contain any dairy. Because it’s naturally gluten-free and hypoallergenic (in other words, free from common allergens), pea protein is often the protein source of choice for those with dairy allergies. 

While pea protein is not as slow-digesting as casein- another common type of dairy protein- it is absorbed more slowly than whey proteins. That’s what makes pea protein an optimal choice for post-workout recovery, especially for those with whey allergies. 

Finally, certain studies have shown that pea protein is even more satiating than whey, which is especially beneficial for those who want to control their appetite. The isolate form has a few other excellent benefits that make it a great part of anyone’s fitness routine.

What is pea protein isolate made from?

Pea protein isolate is typically produced from yellow peas grown in either North America or Europe. The creation of pea protein isolate happens through a basic food production process that involves removing the pea’s outer shell and milling it into a flour. From there, the pea’s other ingredients like fiber and starch are separated through a filtration process. The pea protein is then distilled into a white precipitate, known as protein powder.

As you’ll see in the next few sections, many people like to use pea protein powder as a regular part of their nutrition regimen.

Is pea protein the same as pea protein isolate?

They are similar but not exactly the same. Pea protein is simply the protein content found in peas, while pea protein isolate refers to the extracted protein created through a chemical process (described above) that separates protein from other elements of peas. 

In other words, the protein you consume when you eat pea protein isolate is similar to the protein you consume when you eat whole peas, just in a slightly different format.

Is pea protein isolate processed?

As mentioned above, pea protein isolate is different from pea protein because of the chemical process it goes through to turn peas into pea protein isolate. Because of this characteristic, pea protein isolate is technically a processed food. However, since it is only minimally processed from its original form, pea protein isolate typically doesn’t have the negative side effects that come with some other types of processed foods that contain high amounts of fillers.

Studies have shown that processed pea protein isolate is safe enough to be used in infant formula. Unless you have a pre-existing health condition, you should be fine to consume pea protein isolate as part of your regular diet.

Is pea protein inflammatory?

Certain kinds of peas, beans and legumes contain high amounts of lectin, a naturally-occurring compound in plants that causes cells to stick together. While lectin is fine to consume in moderation, excessive consumption can cause digestion issues like bloating, diarrhea and inflammation in some cases.

However, it’s important to note that foods with the highest levels of lectin are typically raw. Boiling kidney beans, for example, is enough to remove most lectins so that the beans can be consumed safely. Unless you’re eating a huge amount of lectin every day, you probably don’t have to worry about inflammation from peas or pea protein. Consuming pea protein isolate products can also help avoid lectin, since it’s separated from protein during the extraction process.

Why use pea protein over other protein supplements?

Now that you understand some of the science behind pea protein, it’s important to know why it’s become such a common alternative to whey and other dairy-based protein supplements on the market today:

Another reason pea protein is a popular supplement is the presence of all necessary essential amino acids – branched-chain amino acids (or BCAAs) that can't be produced by the body – in its amino acid profile. Research from 2018 indicates that pea protein is one of the plant protein sources that meets the human requirement for these essential amino acids.

People who are looking to build muscle mass or change their body through weight loss often need to keep up their protein intake by following a high protein diet. While it's best to get protein from whole food sources, those who struggle getting a certain number of grams of protein per day commonly supplement their diet with protein smoothies made from protein powders. 

Choosing a pea protein provider

After you decide what kind of protein powder you want to use as part of your dietary supplement, you’ve got to seek your supplements from a reliable merchant. This can be challenging in the era of ecommerce, as there are many different food and health stores selling protein supplements like pea protein isolate.

Whether online or in your community, seek a store that is upfront and transparent about ingredients in all food products including pea protein isolate. High-quality merchants will be upfront about sweeteners, preservatives and other additives in their products so you can make the best choice for your needs. Quality protein will fit your lifestyle and dietary preferences, whether you need it for muscle growth or as part of your sports nutrition routine.

Final thoughts

Because of its advantages in digestibility, status as a complete protein source with all nine essential amino acids, and lack of dairy or gluten, pea protein isolate is a desirable option for those seeking a healthy whey protein powder alternative. Be sure to look for a provider that offers high-quality protein supplements that help you achieve your ideal version of health.