WHY IS PEA PROTEIN OUTRAGEOUSLY HIGH IN SODIUM?
The emergence to popularity of Pea Protein
For the past few years, Pea Protein has been steadily gaining popularity as a new food trend. A plant-based alternative to whey protein, pea protein boasts a complete profile of 18 amino acids with 9 essentials and 3 branch-chained (BCAAs). Why pea - you may ask? Pea is a legume known for high content of protein with a complete profile of amino acids, making it an economical choice for protein extraction. And what's more? Unlike the long-existing soy counterpart which has been genetically modified for centuries, peas are one of the few foods that are GMO free.
Is Pea Protein really healthy?
If by now you have made the well thought-out choice to join the plant-based team and opt for pea protein instead of whey protein, I assume you are in it for the hypoallergenic clean label benefits that pea protein offers. But, do all pea proteins really offer the same health benefits? If you are like me, who religiously peruses the nutrition facts and ingredient lists of every food I consider ingesting for health purposes, you would notice that most (if not all) pea proteins available in the market are outrageously high in sodium.
With the same serving size of 30 g, whey protein contains 65 mg of sodium while pea protein contains an average of 238 mg of sodium - what is intended to be a simple, health punch breakfast quickly takes up 10% of your recommended daily intake for sodium. One should ask, is this trade-off worth the benefits pea proteins offer?
Go one step further - is the high sodium naturally-occurring in peas? What is mind-boggling is that pea protein is made by extracting proteins from pea flour; data from USDA nutrient database 1 shows that 100 g of pea flour contains 33.3 g protein and only 13 mg naturally-occurring sodium. Assuming that the extraction of protein has 100% yield efficiency with 100% of its sodium being unintentionally co-extracted as a contaminant, 33.3 g of protein should not contain more than 13 mg of naturally-occurring sodium. So where does the excess sodium come from?
Understanding why sodium content is high in Pea Protein Extract
To answer this question, first let me explain to you how your pea protein is made.
Field Peas consist of ~70% globulins and 10-25% albumins with a minor proportion of prolamins and glutelins. These four proteins have different solubility in various solvents: globulins are soluble in dilute salt solution, albumins in water, prolamins in ethanol, and glutelins in dilute alkali solutions.
Since globulins take up the majority of the protein composition in peas, it makes the most sense economically to focus the extraction on globulins. Most (if not all) peas proteins in the industry are extracted by the use of dilute salt solution as the extracting agent.
Field Peas grown in farms are allowed to dry in the pods before harvest. Sun-dried field peas then undergo milling, a mechanical action to remove the outer shells. The result is a flour containing soluble fibers, starches and proteins. The flour is then subjected to wet filtration with dilute salt solution as the extracting agent. From this solution, pea protein is precipitated at its isoelectric point and then freeze dried. The result is pea protein isolate.
Because dilute salt solution is used as an extracting agent, sodium from the salt solution often stays with the extracted protein. This is the reason why most (if not all) pea protein in the market has surprisingly high content of sodium.
Not all Pea Proteins are created the same
The sodium-bound protein solution is then processed in a salt removal chamber, where it is pushed through a resin column. The resin is all natural, obtained from the leaves of furcraea, a succulent plant native to South America. The resin acts as a biosorbent of sodium. In another word, as the sodium-bound protein solution passes through the resin column, the sodium was held back in the column leaving the pure protein to freely pass through.
The result is a pure pea protein extract with no “added" sodium. Fuel your body, nourish your mind, and protect your heart with SoLo Pea Protein - the first and only Pea Protein without the extra sodium!