Pea vs. Soy Protein: Which Protein is Right for You?
If you’re looking for a plant-based protein powder to add to your diet, you may be overwhelmed by the various choices on the market. With so many to chose, it’s wise to learn about the different products available before making any purchases. Soy protein and pea protein are two very popular proteins on the market, and learning their similarities and differences can help you select the protein that is right for you.
What is Soy Protein?
Soy protein powders are made from soybeans, a widely grown crop. Soybean crops are subsidized, meaning federal dollars are placed towards ensuring their growth in the United States. For this reason, soy products, including soy protein, are often inexpensive compared to other forms of protein.
Once soybeans are harvested, the protein is isolated from soybean meal that has been dehulled and defattened. The remaining protein is then separated and dried, resulting in a high protein concentrated substance.
Soy and Pea Protein Nutrition
Soy protein offers a major advantage over many other plant-based proteins: it contains a full amino acid profile. Most other plant-based protein powders on the market do not offer a complete array of all essential amino acids necessary for human nutrition, giving soy an amino acid edge over many competitors.
Pea protein, meanwhile, has a nearly complete amino acid profile, although it lacks a few nonessential amino acids (that the body produces anyway). Both soy and pea protein are wise choices when in the market for high-quality plant-based proteins rich with amino acids.
Soy protein is often praised for its health benefits. Soy contains isoflavones, which are a family of phytochemical compounds, are often touted for their health benefits. The USFDA has also authorized the use of food labels to make health claims associated with soy protein and a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, based on studies that have shown intake of 25 grams of soy protein each day in combination with a low-fat diet results in reductions of LDL cholesterol levels.
Some studies have examined soy isoflavones and their potential use in prevention of breast cancer and reduction of hot flashes, but data is not overwhelmingly strong to support such claims.
Pea protein has its own unique health benefits. In addition to being highly bioavailable and satiating, it is rich in vitamins D, E, K, and A. To learn more about pea protein, check out this article.
Both soy and pea protein contain between 17-22 grams of protein per 100 calorie serving (exact amounts vary between brands). Nuzest Clean Lean Protein, for instance, contains 20-21 grams of protein per serving, depending on flavor.
Concerns with Soy Protein
Soy protein is subject to some controversy. First, many express concern that soy crops in the United States are often genetically modified (contain GMOs). As mentioned above, soy production occurs at large scale and is subsidized, and is therefore relatively cheap. Consequently, soy is prevalent in many other foods from salad dressings to granola bars to preservatives, causing some to monitor and limit the amount of soy they consume.
Moreover, some people avoid soy protein as it is known to impact hormonal levels, as isoflavones produce weak estrogen-like substances in the body. However, studies have shown that soy protein does not significantly increase circulating estradiol levels in humans consuming soy.
Lastly, soy is one of the 8 most common allergens. Many who are allergic to soy protein must avoid it completely.
Pea protein has far less controversy surrounding its production, health impacts, and genetic modification. It is also hypoallergenic, and easily digestible for most.
Whether you select pea protein, soy protein, or a combination of the two, informing yourself about various plant-based proteins on the market can help you decide which protein supplementation is best for you.