Which Protein source is right for you?

Which Protein source is right for you?
Diet & Nutrition

Proteins are the building blocks of our physical bodies and we require sufficient protein in the diet to support crucial functions such as cell structure and tissue biosynthesis, transportation and storage of nutrients and hormones, organ and tissue function, immune function, tissue and cellular repair, detoxification and metabolism.

Proteins are made of amino acids and there are nine essential amino acids that must be obtained from our diets that our bodies cannot synthesise. When we eat protein, this is broken down and used to support the various functions in our bodies. 

Protein is naturally found in our diets in both animal products such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy, as well as plant foods including grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes like beans and peas.  The difference between animal and plant protein is that animal protein is known as complete - it contains all nine essential amino acids.  Plant proteins are often (but not always) incomplete, typically lacking one or two essential amino acids. 

Not all of these protein sources contain the same type and amount of amino acids, and they don't all affect your health and the environment in the same way. We’ve put together the following comparison of a selection of animal and plant proteins versus pea protein, which is our protein of choice in our products. 

Pea protein

Source

Pea protein is a plant protein and is our protein of choice at Nuzest.  Peas are one of the few non-bean members of the legume family. Our peas are derived from sustainably sourced European golden peas (Pisum Sativum).

Dietary Considerations

Pea protein is 100% vegetable and is therefore suitable for vegan diets. It is also highly digestible. Our pea protein is allergen friendly as all allergens including GMOs (in the finished product as well as at any stage of manufacture), gluten, crustaceans, molluscs, eggs, fish, peanuts, soy, milk, nuts, celery, mustard, sesame seeds, lupin, sulphur dioxide and sulphites. The high quality pea protein we use is ideal for anyone with allergies, intolerances or sensitivities to any of these ingredients.

Nutritional Profile

Pea protein is a complete protein. There are 9 essential amino acids that we must obtain from our diets that our bodies cannot synthesise. A complete protein contains all 9 of these essential amino acids.  Certain plant proteins are known to be incomplete, whereas animal protein is generally complete. 

In addition to this, pea protein is rich in branched chain amino acids (or BCAAs), which are of particular interest in sports products because they have beneficial effects for decreasing exercise-induced muscle damage and promoting muscle-protein synthesis. BCAAs also modify the pattern of exercise-related cytokine production making them indispensable for post sport/exercise muscle recovery and immune regulation.

Production & Environmental Considerations

Agriculture is one of the major contributors to the emission of greenhouse gases, associated with climate change. Production of animal sources of protein has higher greenhouse gas emissions than production of plants as protein sources. Compared to animal sources of protein, vegetable sources of protein, such as peas, use less water and require less than 20% of the land required to produce the same amount of animal protein sources.

Other Considerations

Our pea protein is alkaline, and does not contain any components which can interfere with gut permeability such as lectins and phytic acid. 

Whey Protein

Source 

Whey is an animal protein isolated from milk, and makes up about 20% of milk protein (the other 80% is casein, which we will cover next). Whey and casein are by-products of cheese production, where enzymes added to the milk cause it to coagulate into curds of casein and liquid whey.

Dietary Considerations

Being an animal protein, whey is not suitable for a vegan diet. Whey concentrate is not suitable for individuals who are lactose intolerant, as the whey fraction is where lactose is found. However, whey protein isolates should be free of lactose depending on the purity of the protein isolate.

Nutritional Profile

Whey protein is a complete protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids.  Similar to pea protein, and it is also high in branched chain amino acids important for post sport/exercise muscle recovery and immune regulation. 

In a recent randomised clinical trial carried out by the National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in Dijon, France, pea and whey protein were compared against a placebo. The researchers found that, in general, both protein types contributed to equivalent muscle growth, and significantly more than the placebo. Additionally, in a sub-group with the lowest biceps muscle force at the start of the trial, those taking pea protein showed a considerably greater increase in muscle thickness (mass) over the 84 days of the trial compared with those on whey.

Production & Environmental Considerations

Production of animal sources of protein have higher greenhouse gas emissions than production of plants as protein sources. Compared to plant sources of protein, animal sources of protein, such as those obtained through animal agriculture use more water and require more than 80% more land required to produce the same amount of plant protein sources. We should also consider the ethical implications of dairy farming. 

Casein Protein

Source

As already discussed, whey and casein are by products of cheese production, with casein making up 80% of the total protein present in milk. 

Dietary considerations 

As casein is derived from milk, it is not suitable for a vegan diet. Unlike whey, casein does not contain lactose. However, a proportion of dairy intolerances are in fact due to casein and not lactose, and so may still lead to unpleasant gastrointestinal effects in some people. 

Nutritional Profile

Casein is also a complete protein containing all 9 essential amino acids.  However, it is not as rich in branched chain amino acids as whey or pea protein. 

Production & Environmental Considerations 

Casein, being a by-product of cheese production means that it has the same detrimental effects on the environment as whey products and other animal sources of protein. We should also consider the ethical implications of dairy farming. 

Egg Protein

Source

Egg protein is sourced from chicken eggs.

Dietary Considerations 

Eggs and egg protein are not suitable for vegans.

Nutritional Profile

Protein from eggs is a complete protein, containing all essential amino acids and is also rich in branched chain amino acids like pea and whey protein. However, eggs contain 6g of protein per egg, whereas the pea protein in our products contains 19-21g protein per serving, making pea protein a more concentrated source of protein. Whole eggs also contain a significant amount of saturated fat, unlike pea protein.

Production & Environmental Considerations

Conditions for chicken farming are often less than ideal for the chickens, with them living in poor, cramped conditions. This not only affects the lives of the chickens, but also the nutritional quality of the eggs produced. The situation may be better for pasture raised chickens. The production of eggs also has a detrimental effect on the environment, with the emission of greenhouse gases and contamination of land and water. 

Soy Protein

Source 

Soy beans are a member of the legume family like peas. Soy protein concentrate is made from soy flour, without the water-soluble carbohydrates but with the fibre remaining. Soy protein isolate is a more purified form of soy protein which has had most of the non-protein elements removed and contains approximately 90% protein.

Dietary considerations

Soy protein is suitable for a vegan diet. Some people can have soy intolerances and allergies, and soy protein may not be suitable in this case. 

Nutritional Profile

Soy is also a complete source of protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, and is again rich in branched chain amino acids.  

Production & Environmental considerations

Soy beans, being a plant source of protein, use less water and require less than 20% of the land required to produce the same amount of animal protein sources, and contribute less to greenhouse gas emissions.

Other considerations

Sources of soy protein are readily available. Isoflavones, which are a phytonutrient present in soy have been the subject of much discussion as to the safety of soy products. Isoflavones are a plant oestrogen, similar to the hormone oestrogen produced in humans. However, there is conflicting data on the effects this may or may not have on the human body.  Despite this, soy protein isolate should be pure and contain no isoflavones.

Rice protein

Source 

Rice protein is a plant-based protein generally sourced from brown rice.

Dietary Considerations 

Rice protein is suitable for vegans.

Nutritional Profile

Brown rice protein contains all essential  amino acids and is rich in branched chain amino acids3.  However, rice protein is low in the essential amino acid lysine, and is therefore not considered to be a complete protein, unlike pea protein.  

Production & Environmental Considerations

As with other plant based protein sources, the impact on the environment is significantly reduced compared to production of animal proteins through animal agriculture. 


Hemp Protein

Source 

Hemp protein is derived from the seeds of the cannabis plant.

Dietary Considerations 

Being a plant source of protein, hemp is suitable for a vegan diet. 

Nutritional Profile

Hemp protein is an incomplete protein and is low in the essential amino acid lysine, which is important in helping the body absorb other nutrients, as well as supporting immune function. Pea protein on the other hand is a rich source of lysine. Hemp is however rich in methionine, which is vital for healthy cell function and liver health. 

Production & Environmental Considerations

As with other plant based protein sources, the impact on the environment is significantly reduced compared to production of animal proteins through animal agriculture. 

We hope you have found this comparison and summary of various plant and animal protein sources useful. Not all proteins are the same, and your choice of protein will depend on your dietary and nutritional needs, as well as your budgetary, environmental and ethical considerations.   

Further reading: Why we chose the humble pea as our key ingredient

References

1. Negro M, Giardina S, Marzani B, Marzatico F. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation does not enhance athletic performance but affects muscle recovery and the immune system. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2008; 48(3): 347-51.
2. Babault N, Païzis C, Deley G, Guérin-Deremaux L, Saniez MH, Lefranc-Millot C, Allaert FA. Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: a double-blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. Whey protein. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015; 12(1): 3.
3. Kalman DS. Amino Acid Composition of an Organic Brown Rice Protein Concentrate and Isolate Compared to Soy and Whey Concentrates and Isolates. Foods. 2014 Sep; 3(3): 394–402.


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