Summer Staple – Pea Protein Isolate

In this installment of Summer Staples, let’s explore one key ingredient found in meat alternatives: pea protein isolate.

It’s not just hotdogs and hamburgers hitting the grill this summer, meat alternatives continue to have a broad consumer reach. With the bursting market of meat alternatives, let’s explore one key ingredient found in these products: pea protein isolate.

What is pea protein isolate?

Food manufacturers create pea protein isolate from the yellow pea, Pisum sativum. It is part of the legume family and contains many healthful benefits. A few studies have shown that pea protein may assist in reducing cholesterol levelslowering blood pressureimproving satiety, and increasing muscle.

Food manufacturers create pea protein isolate by drying peas and then processing them into a protein-rich powder that can be used with a combination of ingredients to provide flavor, texture, and balanced nutrition.

Where can I find it?

You will find this ingredient in many protein-rich products such as protein shakes, protein bars, vegan “dairy” products, and in meat substitutes and blends like Beyond BurgerThe BlendChicken-Free Chicken, and more!

It’s also a common protein added to pet foods, especially grain-free pet foods as it provides protein and bulk.

What do I need to know?

Pea protein is full of rich nutrients and possesses all 9 necessary amino acids. However, it is low in one essential amino acid, methionine, so pea protein must be part of a balanced diet.

Pea protein is popping up for sale online as supplements, and it’s important to be mindful about the food products you are purchasing online. Many supplements such as protein powder sold online or from indie brands are not adequately tested for purity standards, meaning you may not receive the advertised product.

While the U.S. FDA can issue a recall for a tainted product, it cannot do so until after it has been on the market. So, if you are purchasing pea protein powders, make sure it is from a reputable company or seller.

Is it safe?

Pea protein isolate was accepted as a GRAS ingredient in 2016 and has been approved by the USDA.

Some companies have marketed pea protein as hypoallergenic because it does not contain any dairy products and is part of the legume family. However, people have recently observed that if you have nut allergies, especially peanut allergies, pea protein may trigger allergic reactions.

Pea protein reactions can be especially troubling for allergy sufferers as products containing pea protein are not required to be labeled as an allergen at this point. However, pea protein will be listed as an ingredient in any food product so you can still get the facts from the label.

Also worth noting, FDA is investigating the long-term use of grain-free, protein-rich dog foods that often contain pea protein. Research is presently being conducted to investigate whether pea protein may contribute to a growing number of dilated cardiomyopathy cases found in dogs, and the FDA and researchers are exploring all ingredients to ensure the utmost safety for our pets.


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