Whether you’re a vegan or you simply prefer plant-based protein, you’ve probably heard of pea protein. It’s a great alternative to protein powders containing dairy ingredients — like casein and whey proteins — that may irritate some people’s digestive systems.
Pea protein is, in fact, highly prized for its well-balanced amino acid profile that allows you to meet most of your daily protein requirements. Being a plant-based protein, it also doesn’t lose out to whey protein, in terms of muscle building and strength. Plus, the mighty pea has several health benefits, including antioxidative and antihypertensive properties.
But does all of this sound too good to be true? Are there any pea protein dangers you should know before jumping on the plant-based bandwagon? Keep reading to find the answer to your most pressing question — we promise it’ll be worth your time!
What Is Pea Protein?
Pea protein is an excellent source of protein typically derived from yellow peas. Grinding whole peas into a smooth powder allows you to reap all the nutritional benefits of the former without consuming large amounts of peas.
It can take many forms, such as:
- Pea protein isolate
- Pea protein concentrate
- Pea flour
According to a 2022 study, the pea seed contains:
- 20-25% protein
- 40-45% starch
- 10-20% fiber
- 8 essential amino acids your body needs but cannot produce on its own. Pea protein only lacks methionine and cysteine, which you can easily supplement with other food sources through your diet.
- Not only is pea protein ideal for vegans and vegetarians, but it’s also gluten- and dairy-free. So, if you’re on a special diet that requires you to avoid gluten and dairy, why not give pea protein a try? Just make sure you aren’t allergic or intolerant to the mighty pea!
- Due to the way it’s created, the fiber content of pea protein is significantly lower than that of whole peas. Keep this in mind when trying to meet your daily fiber intake, and add other high fiber plants to your diet if needed.
Pea Protein Dangers: What You Need To Look Out For
The good news is that consuming pea protein generally has few side effects. That said, there are a few things to take note of before you add the jar of pea protein powder you’ve been eyeing to your shopping cart.
Heavy metals are the leading pea protein danger everyone needs to know about.
A shocking study by the Clean Label Project discovered that plant-based protein powders, like pea protein, actually contain dangerously high levels of heavy metals. Think lead, BPA (a chemical commonly used in plastic products), cadmium, and arsenic, which were “present in top-selling nutritional protein powder supplement products.”
In fact, the study revealed that:
- 75% of the 53 brands tested “had measurable levels of lead.”
- 55% of the brands had “measurable levels of BPA.”
- Products that were certified organic had “twice as much heavy metals.”
So, does this mean pea protein powder is out of the picture for those pursuing a plant-based diet? That depends on whether you’ve carefully researched which brand to buy from.
While pea protein powders are considered dietary supplements that aren’t strictly regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), countless brands take product testing very seriously to ensure their protein powders are safe for human consumption.
Case in point: Zen Principle’s Organic Pea Protein Powder is regularly tested for heavy metals. All tests show extremely low levels of heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead) and are well within the range considered safe for humans.
Increased Risk of Gout
Did you know that pea protein has a high purine content? Purine is metabolized to uric acid in the body, and in excessively high doses, can be challenging for your kidneys to expel from your system.
Higher-than-normal levels of uric acid in your bloodstream intensify your risk of gout. It’s a form of inflammatory arthritis that causes painful joints.
Due to this potential pea protein danger, it’s best to consult your primary doctor if you have kidney-related health conditions before including it in your meals.
Potential Likelihood of Digestive Discomfort
For some people, digestive discomfort is possible even when ingesting plant-based proteins like pea protein powder.
Per a 2012 medical paper published in the British Journal of Nutrition, the fiber present in the seed coats of peas dampens the “digestibility of starch in peas.” What’s more, pea starch is infused with amylose, a type of complex carbohydrate composed of long, unbranched chains.
As you can imagine, this notches up the difficulty factor of digesting pea starch. It’s no wonder that some of us may struggle with bloating, a gassy stomach, or even constipation and diarrhea after ingesting pure pea protein.
But fret not. There’s a workaround solution in the form of hydrolyzed pea protein powder. The term “hydrolyzed” means that the amino acid chains in the pea protein have been fragmented into smaller pieces, making it easier for your body to digest and absorb the pea goodness.
Fillers and Additives
Because you’re consuming pea protein for its nutritional benefits, choose one with a clean ingredient list without fillers and additives like artificial colorings and sweeteners.
To avoid this pea protein danger, opt for a single-ingredient pea protein powder. Zen Principle’s Organic Pea Protein Powder is the perfect match. It’s composed of:
- 80% organic pea protein extracted from organic yellow peas, and
- 20% dietary fiber, carbohydrates, fats, calcium, iron, and potassium from organic yellow peas
We sustainably source fresh, raw peas from small organic farms in the U.S. and Canada. Instead of freeze-drying, we carefully dry the peas at the ideal low temperature to preserve their precious nutrients.
Due to the 100% natural ingredients used in our pea protein powder, expect variations in aroma, color, taste, and solubility as nature intended.
Unwanted Weight Gain
You may not know this, but some pea protein powders can cause you to gain unwanted weight. We’re talking about flavored pea proteins that have been naturally or artificially sweetened.
So, if you want to shave off a few pounds, choose unflavored pea protein powders.
Pea Protein Is Generally Safe for Humans
When supplementing with pea protein, consume it the right way by avoiding the above mentioned pea protein dangers.
For starters, choose one not laden with excessive amounts of heavy metals or infused with fillers and additives. While pea protein can increase the risk of gout and digestive problems in some people, it’s typically safe for human consumption.
Of course, always remember to check in with a licensed healthcare professional if you’re trying a new dietary supplement. This is especially so for individuals with underlying medical conditions.