Soy Protein Vs. Pea Protein – And the Winner?

There are numerous plant-based protein sources you can include in your diet. Soy protein and pea protein are the most popular choices for vegetarians or people looking for additional protein sources for different reasons. However, it can difficult to decide which one is best for you.

This article presents a detailed comparison between soy protein and pea protein to help you make an informed decision.

All You Need to Know About Soy Protein

Soy protein is made with soybeans, which is a commonly grown crop. It is one of the most significant sources of protein for vegetarians and individuals who are allergic to or want to avoid dairy foods. Since soybean crops are subsidized in the country, soy protein is also inexpensive as compared to other protein sources.  

The Nutritional Value of Soy Protein

Soy protein powder is created from defatted flakes of soybean, which are cleaned with water or alcohol to remove all the dietary fiber and sugars. Afterward, the flakes are dehydrated and transformed into a  powdery form.

Soy protein powder doesn’t include any cholesterol and has an extremely low amount of fat. 20 grams of soy protein powder contains the following nutritional value:

  • Fat – 1 gram
  • Carbohydrates – 2 gram
  • Protein – 23 grams
  • Fiber – 1.6 grams
  • Iron – 4.1 mg 
  • Magnesium – 10.9 mg
  • Calories – 95

While it is a great protein source, it also includes phytates that are known to reduce the absorption of minerals.

Major Benefits of Soy Protein

Soy is a complete protein, unlike the majority of the plant-based protein sources. It contains a significant amount of amino acids that can’t be produced in your body and must be attained from food sources.

For muscle building, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are highly important. According to a study, individuals drinking 5.6 grams of BCAAa after a workout can increase their chances of muscle protein synthesis by 22% in comparison to individuals drinking placebo.

Soy is also beneficial when mixed with other forms of proteins. Research suggests combining soy and dairy proteins for higher muscle protein synthesis in comparison to other plant-based protein sources or taking soy alone.

Some other benefits offered by soy protein include the strengthening of cardiovascular and immune functions, enhancing muscle strength, decreased cholesterol level, reduced blood pressure, and delayed menopause.

All You Need to Know About Pea Protein

Pea protein powder is made after extracting the protein content from yellow peas. It is mostly utilized to enhance the content of protein in shakes and smoothies. It is not just a good source of protein, but also contains a high amount of iron.

Pea protein enhances your heart health, aids weight loss, and increases muscle growth. Many individuals use pea protein powder as a post-workout beverage by mixing it in water, juices, or smoothies. It can also be added to cereals, porridge, oatmeal, and even baked goods.

The Nutritional Value of Pea Protein

Protein is isolated from yellow peas to create a beige-colored pea protein powder. The nutritional value of 20 grams of this protein source is as follows:

  • Fat – 1.2 gram
  • Carbohydrates – 0.6 gram
  • Protein – 17 grams
  • Fiber – 1 gram
  • Iron – 5 mg 
  • Calcium – 7.2 mg
  • Calories – 81.2

It is important to note that nutritional facts may vary between different brands.

Major Benefits of Pea Protein

This protein source includes all the nine essential amino acids that are required by the body, and have a low amount of methionine. However, this can be compensated by adding methionine-rich foods like brown rice, fish, and eggs.

Pea protein also includes a right amount of branched-chain amino acids, particularly arginine, valine, isoleucine, and leucine. Arginine promotes heart health and a healthy flow of blood. The other three amino acids enhance the growth of muscles. However, to maximize the muscle growth effect of pea protein, it is essential to consume it within two hours of your workout.

Even though animal proteins are easier to absorb and digest as compared to plant-based proteins, research has shown that pea protein is among the most easily digestible of all plant-based protein sources.

Most of the pea protein powder products include around 5 to 7.5 mg of iron, which is 28% to 42% of the recommended daily intake for premenopausal women, and between 62% to 94% daily requirement for postmenopausal women, and men.

The iron consumed from plant foods is known to be less absorbable than animal products. However, this can be compensated by having this protein source with foods rich in vitamin C to boost the iron absorption.

Other benefits offered by pea protein powder include improved gastrointestinal health, increased muscle strength, enhanced cardiovascular health, and appetite control due to increased satiety hormones.

Concerns Regarding Soy Protein

There is plenty of controversy about soy protein. Many people argue that soy crops across the country are genetically modified. Since the product of soy is produced at a larger scale and therefore is cheap, it is included in many foods, including preservatives, granola bars, and salad dressings. Consequently, various people have now started restricting their consumption of soy products.

Some are also concerned that soy protein might affect the hormonal levels since the product includes isoflavones that create weakened estrogen-like compounds. However, research indicates that this is not the case.

Moreover, soy is known to be the eighth most common allergen,  which means several people can’t consume soy protein at all.

On the other hand, pea protein is not a source of such controversies. It can be easily digested and is also hypoallergenic.

Which is a Better Choice for You?

Soy protein contains higher protein content and lower calories as compared to pea protein. However, pea protein offers other beneficial nutritional sources, like iron. Soy protein doesn’t have carbs and sugar content, but pea protein provides both.

Hence, pea protein can offer you more energy for doing physical activities, like an intense workout. Moreover, these components are also crucial in controlling food cravings, which can lead to increased weight loss without muscle loss.

On the other hand, soy protein contains more minerals and vitamins that compensates for the lack of sugar and carbs.

It all comes down to your personal preferences. If you are a weight lifter or bodybuilder who wants to enhance their muscle strength and mass, then soy protein is the right choice. The higher quantity of protein will improve the appearance and size of your muscles.

If you want to lose fat, while strengthening and toning your muscles, then pea protein is the right choice for you. The dietary fiber in this protein source also helps with weight loss by keeping you fuller for longer. It is also a good alternative for people who are allergic to soy products.

You must also consider the right dose of the protein source you are opting for. According to research, consuming 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight is the right dose for muscle building. Avoid exceeding this dose.

A higher dose can cause health issues since your liver will start struggling to process a large amount of protein. It might result in side effects like diarrhea, nausea, and increased ammonia levels in the blood.

Soy products are also known to cause some mild intestinal and stomach side effects, including nausea, bloating, and constipation. It can cause allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, itching, and rash in certain individuals.  In conclusion, both soy protein and pea protein are excellent plant-based sources of protein. They provide a good source of supplemental protein, while also offering distinctive nutritional value. Keep all these similarities and differences in mind when you decide which protein source you want to take. Moreover, be sure to consult an expert regarding the right dose of your chosen plant-based protein to make the best possible decision for your specific health requirements.