Pea Protein vs Hemp Protein: Which Protein is Better?
As the world becomes more conscious of how nutrition affects health, protein powders claiming to have the best protein or the highest number of amino acids pop up on the shelves daily. Whey, pumpkin, rice, spirulina, chia, pea and hemp are some of the more common protein powders out there. Two popular plant-based contenders are pea protein and hemp protein, but which is best for you? Is one protein better than the other and what about animal protein vs plant protein? Breaking down the various protein sources is a good place to start.
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What is Hemp Protein?
Hemp is an agricultural product that makes the news a lot these days but not usually associated with food. Hemp is a cannabis plant, which can be confusing. Marijuana is also a cannabis plant, but unlike marijuana, hemp contains little to no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the compound that makes people feel high when they use marijuana.1 Hemp is the key plant behind CBD oil but it is also a plant-based protein source. Hemp protein comes from the hemp seeds and is what nutritionists call a complete protein. Complete proteins have all nine essential amino acids—amino acids the human body needs to thrive but are unable to produce. These amino acids must come from food sources.
What is Pea Protein?
Pea protein comes from split peas, often golden peas.2 The protein processing is done by extracting the protein directly from the split pea. Once harvested, the pea protein goes through a drying process along with rehydration, giving it a flour-like texture. The pea is a sustainable plant—one that triggers a satiety response.3 In other words, eating pea protein creates a feeling of satisfaction that is necessary to control the appetite. It is also a complete protein and the star ingredient in Clean Lean Protein.
Pea Protein vs Hemp Protein: How Do They Compare Nutritionally?
Although both hemp and peas are complete proteins, all that means is they have all nine essential amino acids but not necessarily in the same percentages. Hemp tends to be low in several critical amino acids including lysine, which plays an important role in nutrient absorption and immune system support. It is also slightly higher in fat and carbs while lower in protein per serving. Hemp is high in fiber along with zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, sulfur, calcium and iron.4 Hemp seeds contain about 30 percent healthy fat that includes both omega-3 and omega-6—essential fats that are good for the heart. Like hemp, pea protein contains all the amino acids the body needs to get from food but is low in methionine.5 Methionine is necessary for liver health and different cell functions. Pea protein is a source of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), as well, like arginine, leucine, isoleucine and valine—critical to blood flow, heart health and muscle growth.6 Pea protein offers 90 percent protein content on dry weight while hemp protein offers just 75 percent protein content.7,8
Pea Protein vs Hemp Protein: Which is Better?
Pea protein is considered one of the most comprehensive sources of amino acids and is superior to hemp. With that said, there is no reason one person can’t benefit from a diverse range of plant proteins. Each type, whether it’s hemp, pea, or rice, offers unique benefits and what you don’t get from one you can get from another.
Benefits of Hemp Protein
Once you look beyond the essential amino acids, one of the primary benefits of hemp protein is fiber, which is critical for the digestive system and helps to control the appetite. Hemp contains globular proteins that go into manufacturing enzymes, hormones and antibodies. These globular proteins break down well in the human digestive tract, as well.9
Benefits of Pea Protein
Pea protein provides high-quality protein and is a rich source of arginine. It contains a high level of iron, which is important for those who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet. Iron from plant sources doesn’t absorb as well as it does for animal foods, so it’s necessary to focus on products that have high iron content.10 On average, pea protein products are low on the glycemic index. The concentrated protein makes it a good choice for many diets.
Pea Protein and Hemp Protein: How Do They Taste?
The taste may just be the deciding factor for many shoppers. Hemp protein tends to have a somewhat chalky texture, so when you mix it in liquid, it can be gritty. Hemp protein also has an earthy flavor, so it will work better with flavorful foods like yogurt or fruit. Pea protein dissolves well in any liquid and has a neutral flavor. It will mix with just about anything including water.
Pea Protein vs Hemp Protein: What Do I Choose?
The only way to choose is to try both and see what works best for you. Both pea protein and hemp protein provide real benefits, so why not find ways to work each one into your meal plans? If the flavor is your only deciding factor, Clean Lean Protein, which is made with pea protein, comes in a variety of delicious flavors like Smooth Vanilla, Rich Chocolate, Real Coffee, Wild Strawberry or Just Natural (unflavored), giving you even more options for ways to use it with food or drinks.
What’s important is to keep in mind that plant protein has a lot to offer and doesn’t come with the same consequences as eating animal protein, especially processed meats linked to an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.1 You can try a variety of plant-based proteins or whey protein and decide for yourself what you like and what you want to avoid. Your body will thank you.