Plant-based protein powders are popular among vegans, vegetarians, and those who want to reduce their intake of animal products. However, not all plant-based protein powders are created equal. Some of the most common ones are soy, pea, and hemp protein powders. How do they differ in terms of processing, amino acid profile, and taste? Let’s find out.
Soy protein powder is made from soybeans that are defatted, dehulled, and processed into either soy protein isolate or soy protein concentrate. Soy protein isolate has a higher protein content (about 90%) than soy protein concentrate (about 70%), but also a lower amount of phytochemicals and fiber.
Pea protein powder is made from yellow peas that are dried, ground, and separated into starch and protein fractions. The protein fraction is then purified and concentrated into pea protein isolate, which has a protein content of about 80%2.
Hemp protein powder is made from hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts, that are cold-pressed to remove the oil. The remaining seed cake is then milled into a fine powder that contains about 50% protein, along with fiber, healthy fats, minerals, and antioxidants.
Amino Acid Profile
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and some of them are essential, meaning that they cannot be synthesized by the body and must be obtained from food. A complete protein source contains all nine essential amino acids in adequate amounts.
Soy protein is a complete protein source that has a similar amino acid profile to egg whites and soy. However, some people may have concerns about the potential effects of soy on hormone levels, thyroid function, and digestion.
Pea protein is also a complete protein source that has a high amount of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are important for muscle growth and recovery. However, pea protein is low in methionine, an essential amino acid that is involved in metabolism and detoxification.
Hemp protein is also a complete protein source that contains all nine essential amino acids, but more research is needed on its quality. Some studies have shown that hemp has relatively low levels of lysine, an essential amino acid that is important for collagen synthesis and immune function. However, other studies have found that hemp has a similar amino acid profile to egg whites and soy.
Taste is a subjective factor that may vary depending on personal preference and how the protein powder is used. However, some general observations can be made based on the characteristics of each plant-based protein powder.
Soy protein powder has a mild flavor that can blend well with other ingredients in smoothies, shakes, or baked goods. However, some people may find it chalky or metallic tasting.
Pea protein powder has a slightly sweet flavor that can complement fruity or chocolatey flavors. However, some people may find it gritty or earthy tasting.
Hemp protein powder has a nutty and grassy flavor that can add some depth and complexity to smoothies, shakes, or baked goods. However, some people may find it bitter or too strong tasting. Hemp protein powder also has a coarser texture than other plant-based protein powders because it is less refined.
Organic hemp protein is different from other plant-based protein powders in terms of processing, amino acid profile, and taste. Hemp protein powder is less processed than soy or pea protein powders and retains more of its natural nutrients. Hemp protein powder is also a complete protein source that contains all nine essential amino acids, but its quality may vary depending on the source and method of analysis. Hemp protein powder has a distinctive nutty and grassy flavor that may appeal to some people but not others.