Pea protein is one of the most important and popular source of plant-based protein, especially for the vegans, that offer all the good nutrition that the body requires to function adequately. However, the main question that often confuses people is that: Is pea protein a complete protein? Well, we’ll get to that eventually but before that, we must have a clear insight of what a complete protein is, the nutrition quality that pea protein contains and also, if it is a good option for regular protein source.
Understanding Essential and Non-Essential Amino Acids
Foods containing high amount of protein are broken down into amino acids during food digestion since our body requires a large amount of amino acids to maintain excellent health and proper bodily functioning. Amino acids are commonly categorized into two types- Essential and Non-essential amino acids. There are about 20 amino acids that are used to break down proteins into our body, and among them only 9 are considered as essential amino acids. Further, only three among these 9 amino acids are branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).
Essential amino acids are generally considered those that the body cannot produce by itself and has to be supplemented from outside through food or supplements. They are extremely essential for a variety of important body functions and hence, they cannot be neglected. Non-essential amino acids are produced by the body through the essential amino acids or in the general process of protein breakdown. Additionally, another type of amino acids, known as the Conditional amino acids, is usually required in times of stress and illness.
What is “Complete Source of Protein”?
A complete source of protein generally refers to the food items or sources that contain all the nine essential amino acids that our body requires to function properly. These amino acids are extremely necessary for our body to obtain all the required nutrition in order to carry out healthy bodily processes.
Omnivores usually get their source of regular complete protein from animal-based products such as fish, milk, egg, poultry, cheese, etc. In case of vegan or vegetarian source of complete protein, soy and Quinoa are the best plant-based examples. Therefore, foods that do not contain all the necessary nine amino acids are considered as “incomplete protein sources”.
Is Pea Protein a Complete Source of Protein?
Well, to be honest, the answer is technically no. Don’t get me wrong, pea protein can be considered an excellent food alternative for vegans. Theoretically, a food has to have all the nine essential amino acids in adequate quantities to be considered as a complete protein. Although pea protein does contain the essential amino acids, it is not officially a complete protein due to the inadequate quantity of methionine+cysteine present in it.
It is suggested that a complete protein must provide at least 25 mg/g of the below mentioned amino acid wherein pea protein delivers only up to 11 mg/g. While chicken, eggs, cheese, etc can be good sources to obtain methionine+cysteine for the body, there are several vegan options that provide the same. Apart from that, pea protein is extremely beneficial, holding almost every other amino acid profile intact in terms of their proportions, and also one of the top best supplements for people practicing veganism.
|Essential Amino Acids||Complete Protein (%)||Pea Protein (%)|
What is Methionine And Why is it Important?
Amino acids are essentially the building blocks that our bodies use to make proteins. Methionine is one of the essential amino acids that is largely found in meat, fish, dairy products, as well as in vegan-friendly plant-based food sources. Methionine is used to prevent liver damage, treating depression, allergies and asthma, as well as treating schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, etc.
Some research-based reports have also suggested that Methionine can also help reduce radiation side effects, alcoholism, colon cancer and various other conditions as well. It basically prevents the breakdown products of acetaminophen from damaging the liver.
What foods to Pair with Pea Protein to Make It A Complete Protein?
You can easily find pea protein powder supplements (check our guide on Best Vegan Protein Powders) at the supermarket to satisfy your requirements of daily protein intake. However, if you ask me personally, I would suggest preparing and following a balanced plant-based everyday diet based on methionine-rich pea protein sources to obtain all the necessary nutrition for your body. To choose from the plate, nuts, grains and seeds are the best sources of pea protein that are rich in methionine.
Let’s look at some of the other items that offer similar nutrition at the best amount of methionine present in them:
|Food Items||Methionine (G) per 100 Grams|
|Vital wheat gluten||0.98|
Verdict | Can Vegans Rely On Pea Protein For Their Daily Protein Requirements?
Pea protein contains all the essential amino acids and meets the criteria for completeness. It is also extremely well absorbed with a nearly 90% digestion and absorption rate. It is easier on the tummy, and performs equal to the standard protein whey, for the development and retention of muscle tissue. Pea protein may even be more satiating than other proteins as it helps you to feel fuller as well as aids for body fat loss.
Vegans can rely on pea protein for their daily intake of protein sources, as long as they fix some source of good Methionine with it so they don’t miss out on a complete balanced diet.