These are all great options for anyone sensitive or allergic to dairy, soy, or gluten.
With food allergies and intolerances on the rise, many people are seeking out foods that are free from triggering ingredients (think wheat, gluten, dairy, and soy). Enter pea protein, a plant-based powerhouse ingredient that's used in milks, yogurts, snack bars, faux meats, veggie burgers, and protein powder.
Pea protein comes from yellow split peas, which are part of the pulse family, along with beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas. In addition to being naturally gluten-free, pulses rarely trigger allergies—and they’re tied to a number of health perks, from weight loss to a lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
The results of research published in the British Journal of Nutrition suggest pulses can help reduce a person's belly fat in just one month. For the study, the authors tracked overweight women with high cholesterol for four weeks: Twice a day the women ate muffins containing either whole pea flour (equivalent to a half cup of pulse), fractionated pea flour (pea hulls only), or white wheat flour. At the end of the study period, the women who had been snacking on the whole pea flour muffins had the lowest waist-to-hip ratios.
Pea protein powder can also make a great addition to post-workout smoothies. According to a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, athletes who consumed pea protein powder experienced the same degree of muscle building as those who consumed whey protein powder.
So, where can you find pea protein? Here are six products I like that are made with this trending ingredient. Each one is also vegan; and soy-, wheat-, and gluten-free.
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets.
Lemon Cashew Rise Protein Bars
In addition to making whey protein bars, Rise offers three vegan bars made with pea protein. My favorite is the Lemon Cashew bar, comprised simply of organic cashews, organic coconut nectar, pea protein, and organic lemon extract. Each full-size bar (you can also buy minis) provides 15 grams of protein; 23 grams of carb with 1 gram as fiber; 13 grams of fat; and 10% of your daily iron needs. They’re great for post-workout recovery, or as a substantial snack to tide you over when you have a long stretch between meals.
Less Naked Pea Vanilla Protein Powder
This non-GMO powder packs 25 grams of plant protein per two scoop serving, along with 16% of your daily iron needs and 12% of your calcium requirement. I like the fact that it’s sweetened with coconut sugar rather than stevia (read: no odd aftertaste), but contains just 5 grams of sugar. The only ingredients are pea protein powder, organic coconut sugar, and natural vanilla flavor—that’s it. It’s terrific in smoothies, added to oatmeal, or to bolster the protein content of pancakes and muffins.
Dr. Praeger’s All American Veggie Burgers
Each of these burgers packs 25 grams of protein; 13 grams of carb, with a whopping 8 grams as fiber (28% of the daily target); 15 grams of fat; 35% of your daily iron needs; and 6% of your potassium needs. And they’re made with real food ingredients: hydrated pea protein (pea protein, water, and black beans), carrot, sweet potato, butternut squash, expeller pressed canola oil, onions, brown rice flour, natural flavors, sesame oil, roasted garlic, sea salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper. I like them baked in the oven, then crumbled and served over a bed of leafy greens along with sliced avocado.
Daiya Blueberry Greek Yogurt Alternative
Many plant-based yogurt alternatives provide little protein, but Daiya’s inclusion of pea protein pumps up the protein content to 8 grams per single-serve container. One serving of blueberry also contains 4.5 grams of fat; 20 grams of carb with 3 as fiber; 20% of the daily recommended calcium intake; and 10% of your iron needs. Eat it as is, in smoothies and smoothie bowls, overnight oats, or as a pretty party dip served with fresh fruit kabobs.
Ripple Unsweetened Vanilla Pea Milk
Every flavor of Ripple pea milk provides the same amount of protein in cow's milk—8 grams per 8-ounce cup. The unsweetened vanilla version contains 80 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of carb, and no sugar. It provides 45% of the daily target for calcium, 30% for vitamin D, and 10% for iron.
I like it in coffee, oatmeal, smoothies, and chia pudding; and I use the plain unsweetened version in savory soups and sauces. The brand’s recipe blog offers much more culinary inspiration, from summer corn soup to creamy pumpkin pasta. Ripple also makes a Greek yogurt alternative. Each 5.3-ounce single-serve container has 12 grams of plant protein.
Beyond Meat's Sweet Italian Beyond Sausage
I’m not typically a fan of fake meats, but after trying the sweet Italian version of Beyond Sausage at Wurstküche in Los Angeles, I couldn’t wait to eat it again. The company’s beef-like burgers and crumbles, also made from pea protein, are available in many stores across the country, in addition to restaurants like Bareburger and TGI Fridays. The sausages, however, are currently only available at a few restaurants in Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco. But the company plants to roll the sausages out in retail stores nationwide this spring.