If you're like most people, when you think about protein powder you are likely focused on whey or casein. This can be limiting for some individuals, though, if they deal with lactose intolerance or try to avoid animal products for other reasons.
But, because of the stranglehold that milk products have on the world of protein supplements, several lesser known plant proteins go relatively unnoticed. Which is a shame, because they can be extremely useful and beneficial alternatives to animal-based supplements.
To remedy this sad situation, let's take a look at two high-quality plant proteins that you should be using: pea and rice protein.
Pea Protein Basics
As you may have deduced, pea protein is made from peas. Specifically, the vegetable of choice here is the yellow split pea – typically featured in soups. But that humble vegetable is a rich source of protein that – unlike soy and other vegetarian protein sources – has no risk of allergies attached to it.
Pea protein also has significantly less fat and carbs than most whey supplements, and may even have slightly more protein than some products out there. The concern that some people have when it comes to pea – and plant proteins in general – is that it is not technically a “complete” protein.
This means that it does not contain adequate levels of all the amino acids that your body cannot make itself. This issue can be remedied, though. Which brings us neatly to our next vegetable protein.
Rice Protein Overview
Derived from brown rice, rice protein has an excellent amino acid profile as well. Perhaps even more interesting, however, is that fact that rice protein powder naturally complements and completes pea protein powder. So, while these protein powders can be eaten with foods that fill in their amino acid profile gaps, they can also be taken together to accomplish the same goal.
Again, rice protein has the benefit of being allergen-free and remarkably low in fat but rice in protein. When looking at a rice protein powder, though, it's important to find those that are free of the heavy-metals that are commonly found in rice products.
Other, Not-So-Great Plant Proteins
Of course, rice and pea aren't the only plant proteins on the market – but they are among the best. Soy, for example, has ruled the vegetarian protein world for a long time but has recently received some bad press that called its authority into question.
While soy is a complete protein – a rarity among plants – it is also fairly high in phytoestrogens. Although they are produced by plants, these chemicals behave like estrogen in the human body, upsetting the natural hormonal balance.
The research into the full effects of these substances has been controversial, however. Still many choose to avoid soy as much as possible. Soy also has the ability to cause allergies in some people.
Another popular plant protein that may not be as beneficial as once believed is hemp, derived from the seeds of the cannabis plant. For starters, its association with marijuana (although the seeds have no hallucinatory effects, sorry) mean that cultivation and production of help is limited in some countries.
Ultimately, this makes it noticeably more expensive than some other protein options. Hemp protein is also fairly high in fat and carbohydrates, while having less protein then its competitors and being less biologically available. In short, hemp protein supplements are lower-quality products sold at higher prices.