The Surprising Benefits of Pea Protein
Protein is a valuable source of energy that contributes to overall well-being. In fact, the World Health Organization recommends that 10 to 15% of people’s daily diet should consist of some form of protein. Many people fulfill their protein requirements from products derived from animals, such as milk and meat. However, health experts are increasingly advocating a diet that includes grain legumes because of their natural ability to prevent diseases.
Peas are one of the best examples of a legume which is not only high in protein (approximately 90%) but composed of protein which is highly digestible, allowing for maximum absorbability. However, until recently, the value of peas has been largely overlooked. Dieticians seeking to balance protein needs with food sensitivities, concerns regarding soy, saturated fats in meats, and lactose intolerance are discovering that the benefits of the once lowly pea cannot be ignored.
Energy from Pea Protein
The metabolic process enables the body to transform protein into a source of energy necessary to fuel the body by producing essential amino acids which are used to rebuild bones, muscles, and tissue. Protein is considered a vital macronutrient – essential for the sustenance of life.
Fat and carbohydrates are similarly deemed to be macronutrients; however, they can be stored in the body and utilized as needed. Protein cannot be similarly stored; hence, there are no reserves to draw upon. Accordingly, it is vital to consume the appropriate amount of protein on a daily basis. The consequences of inadequate protein intake is grim, particularly in active and older adults, ranging from decreased muscle mass (and attendant decrease in metabolic rates), adverse impact on the immune system (manifesting in impaired wound healing, loss of skin elasticity and a reduction in ability to fight infections). Taken to extreme measures, the body begins to literally use its own tissues in a desperate bid to fill the void, robbing protein from muscle and even brain tissue.
Pea protein delivers large volumes of the necessary branched-chain amino acids: isoleucine, valine, arginine, and lysine. In addition, there is an added benefit to pea protein as compared to other sources of protein. Since pea protein is 100% gluten and allergen free, those individuals with allergies or sensitivities to certain foods find meal replacement powders comprised of this form of protein to be invaluable.
Many individuals find certain types of protein to be difficult to digest because of the manner in which such proteins are metabolized by the body. This is especially true for people who are lactose intolerant and cannot properly digest milk, a primary source of protein. Others find red meat particularly difficult to digest.
With a 98% digestion rate, pea protein is now being used to complement beverages, pastas, dietetic foods, nondairy foods, and a variety of meal replacement shakes. It conveniently blends into many foods and drinks. Furthermore, the high digestion rate means that the nutrients are transmitted more rapidly through the bloodstream and utilized much more quickly by the muscles and organs.
Weight Loss Benefits
Another surprising benefit to the protein found in peas is the degree to which it works effectively to regulate the appetite and encourage significant weight loss. Ghrelin is a substance secreted by the stomach which signals the brain to stimulate the sensation of hunger. In general, ghrelin levels tend to rise within a certain period of time after consumption of a meal in anticipation of the next meal. Pea protein slows this process by forming a greater number of peptides, thus delaying the gastric emptying, lowering ghrelin levels, and sustaining satiety for longer periods of time.
Meal replacement shakes have gained significant popularity with dieters as a low-calorie and convenient way to obtain the protein necessary to retain and enhance muscle mass, while providing a synergistic blend of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and omega fatty acids to optimize health while reducing overall calories and hence losing fat as opposed to muscle. .
Athletes who seek to build muscle mass as a means of sculpting their body often rely upon protein before and after weight training sessions (which, simply put, induces tears in muscles) as the protein serves as an integral part of the muscle rebuilding process.
The chain amino acids in pea protein restore the muscle, the greater the muscle mass, the higher the metabolic rate. Accordingly, protein may be consumed either a few hours prior to or within an hour after the cessation of the physical activity. Consumption of protein after an intense weight training session restores nitrogen levels, balancing both mind and body.
Based upon recent estimates, over 25 million people suffer from chronic kidney disease, a notoriously difficult ailment to treat. Most patients seek dialysis or a kidney transplant as the kidneys cease to effectively function. Thus, doctors and scientists are continually searching for news solutions in an endeavor to delay kidney deterioration.
A major factor in kidney disease is its impact upon the cardiovascular system, resulting in high blood pressure or hypertension. Indeed, such complications are one of the leading causes of death in those plagued by kidney disease. Interestingly, the American Chemical Society has determined that the yellow garden pea contains a protein that lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, which for those struggling with kidney disease can quite literally mean the difference between life and death. Furthermore, recent studies appear to show a potential for the yellow pea’s protein to delay or even prevent kidney damage.
A stimulation of the COX-1 production is speculated to be the reason for the kidney’s response to the protein. COX-1 is an abbreviation for cyclooxygenase -1, and is instrumental in improving kidney function. It should be noted that the researchers further discovered that eating the yellow pea by itself fails to yield the same benefits as the extracted protein hydrolysate activated by enzymes.
Other Advantages of Pea Protein
Peas are a member of the plant family and their protein does not require complicated extraction. Avoiding chemical solvents and fertilizers rich in nitrogen are examples of environmentally safe ways to grow and process peas. Protein powders are derived from pea flour, which is dried naturally and then hydrated. The starch and fiber are separated, followed by coagulation of the protein itself. After purification, a multi-stage dryer is then used to dry the protein and prepare it for consumption.
As a vegetarian diet becomes increasingly the norm to varying levels among the populace, alternative ways to obtain similar or superior nutritional benefits to red meat or poultry will be continue to be of increasing importance to consumers.
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