The Best Pea Protein Powders, According to a Dietitian

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Pea protein powder is a great plant-based protein option made from extracting protein from peas, which are complete proteins, containing all nine essential amino acids. Pea protein is a good source of branched-chain amino acids, aiding in muscle repair and synthesis, and is also relatively high in iron, an essential mineral that can be low in vegan and vegetarian diets. It is typically well tolerated, easily digested, and provides a creamy texture when blended into drinks and shakes.

Reviewed & Approved

  • Best Overall: Naked Nutrition Pea Protein Powder is a single-ingredient vegan protein powder, making it an excellent plant-based alternative to supplement your protein intake. Free of artificial sweeteners and additives, the formula provides an impressive amount of protein per serving.
  • Best for Athletes: Garden of Life SPORT Organic Plant-Based protein powder is an NSF Certified for Sport formula made using a combination of pea and other plant-based proteins with an added recovery blend with antioxidants from organic fruits.

Always speak with a healthcare professional before adding a supplement to your routine to ensure that the supplement is appropriate for your individual needs and which dosage to take.

According to Functional Medicine Physician Dr. Chistine Maren, D.O., IFMCP, “Pea protein can be an easy and convenient way to add additional protein to the diet. While I'd prefer whole foods, there's a time and place for protein powders to help prevent protein deficiency. This is especially relevant for women who are pregnant or lactating, athletes, and older patients. This also applies to patients who have a lot of food sensitivities or choose to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.” 

While pea protein powder is generally well-tolerated, it is important to monitor your individual tolerance when adding a new supplement to your diet. Additionally, some pea protein supplements can contain added ingredients such as probiotics and herbal blends that may not be suitable for all. When selecting our top list of pea protein powders, we prioritized products that are third party tested, contain quality ingredients and limited additives like sugar, stabilizers, and preservatives.

Is a Pea Protein Supplement Beneficial?

If you are consuming adequate protein from whole foods, adding a protein supplement would likely not be beneficial. If you are someone with increased protein needs or if you generally have difficulty meeting your protein needs from food alone, it may be a good option to supplement with a protein powder.

When additional protein is needed, Dr. Maren recommends pea protein "if patients prefer a plant-based protein powder and/or do not tolerate milk proteins or collagen peptides.”

Populations that may benefit from a pea protein supplement include:

Those with dietary restrictions due to allergies or lifestyle choice: If you are someone with multiple food allergies or follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, it may be more difficult to meet your protein needs from food alone. Pea protein is vegan and typically does not contain any of the top allergens including peanuts, tree nuts, egg, fish, shellfish, cow’s milk, wheat and soy making it a good option for vegans, vegetarians and those with food allergies.

High performance athletes or those looking to increase muscle mass: Pea protein is considered a high quality plant protein because it contains all nine essential amino acids. Additionally, it is a good source of branched chain amino acids, specifically leucine, isoleucine and valine. Research suggests that a pea protein supplement may be as effective as dairy-based proteins for improving overall muscle mass and strength, making it a comparable substitute for athletes looking to increase their protein intake from a non-animal source.

Those with elevated protein needs due to life stage or medical condition: Pregnancy, lactation and later life stages come with increased protein needs. Additionally, some medical conditions require increased protein intake, including cancer, burns, injury and post-operatively. While it is best to focus on protein from food first, supplements can help to meet increased protein needs.

Who May Not Benefit from Pea Protein?

Before adding any new supplement to your daily routine, it is important to review it with a healthcare provider, particularly if you have a diagnosed medical condition or if you are taking any medications.

There are many instances where a pea protein supplement is not necessary and may even be contraindicated, including:

Those already consuming an adequate or high protein diet: If you are consuming adequate protein from food, then adding a protein powder is not necessary. Whole food sources of protein contain other beneficial nutrients, and are therefore typically the preferred way to meet your protein needs.

Those allergic or sensitive to peas: Peas are in the legume family. While pea allergies are rare, if you have an allergy or intolerance to legumes, you should be cautious when introducing pea protein. As with starting any new supplement, it is important to note any adverse reactions and report them to a healthcare provider.

Those on sodium-restricted diets: When compared to other protein powders, pea protein can be higher in sodium. On average, products contain roughly 100-400 mg per serving. If you are following a sodium-restricted diet, consider your total sodium intake for the day to assess if a pea protein powder is suitable for you. 

Those on protein-restricted diets: If you are on a protein-restricted diet due to health concerns, such as kidney disease, we do not recommend supplementing with additional protein unless advised by a healthcare provider.

Best Overall: NAKED nutrition NAKED PEA 1LB Pea Protein Isolate

NAKED nutrition NAKED PEA

NAKED nutrition

Pros
  • Single-ingredient product

  • Free of additives and artificial sweeteners

  • Informed Choice verified

Cons
  • Lacks flavor if mixed into water alone

Naked Pea protein powder is our top pick because it’s a single-ingredient formula made from just yellow peas sourced from US and Canadian Farms and processed without the use of chemicals.

In 2 scoops of the unflavored option, you will receive 27 grams of protein and only 110 milligrams of sodium, making Naked Nutrition Pea protein one of the higher protein loads while contributing one of the lowest amounts of sodium per serving.  

In addition to being independently third-party tested for heavy metals, the powder is non-GMO, and free of artificial flavors and sweeteners. Naked Pea Protein also comes in chocolate or vanilla flavored options. If you are an athlete, this product is also Informed Choice verified, which guarantees the product is free from ingredients banned in professional sports.

Since this powder is unflavored, we recommend mixing into flavored milk or juice, blending it into a smoothie, or making pancakes or muffins with it rather than drinking it mixed into plain water.

Price at time of publication: $16 ($1.07 per serving)

Key protein source(s): Pea protein Serving Size: 2 scoops | Amount of protein per serving: 27 grams | Calories per serving: 120 | Sodium per serving: 110 milligrams | Additional ingredients: The flavored options contain organic coconut sugar and cacao or vanilla flavoring.

Best Bargain: Now Foods NOW Sports Nutrition Pea Protein

Now Foods NOW Sports Nutrition Pea Protein

Amazon

Pros
  • ConsumerLab.com verified

  • Non-GMO, organic and free of major allergens

  • Single-ingredient product

  • Affordable price per serving

Cons
  • Lacks flavor if mixed into water alone

NOW Sports Organic Pea protein is made of pea protein isolate, offering 15 grams of vegan protein per serving. It’s produced in a certified-GMP facility, free of major allergens, certified organic, non-GMO, and ConsumerLab.com and Informed Sport verified. This ensures the product contains what it says it contains without potentially harmful contaminants.

This formula is a good choice for athletes due to its natural richness in branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) and the rigorous third party testing it has gone through, including testing by NOW's onsite labs. It also contains 230 milligrams of sodium per serving, which can help replenish sodium losses through sweat during high intensity workouts.

Price at time of publication: $20 ($0.74 per serving)

Key protein source(s): Pea protein isolate Serving Size: 2 scoops | Amount of protein per serving: 15 grams | Calories per serving: 80 | Sodium per serving: 230 milligrams | Additional Ingredients: none

Best for Athletes: Garden of Life Sport Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder

Garden of Life Sport Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder

Vitamin Shoppe

Pros
  • NSF Certified for Sport and Informed Choice verified

  • Organic, non-GMO, and free of major allergens

  • Contains antioxidant blend for sport recovery

  • 30g of protein per serving

Cons
  • Contains probiotics which may not be suitable for all

  • Expensive

Garden of Life SPORT Organic Plant-Based Protein powder is a blend of proteins from garbanzo, navy beans, lentils, cranberries and peas. One serving provides 30 grams of vegan protein and is NSF Certified for Sport and Informed choice verified, making it a great choice for athletes with increased protein needs. 

In addition to the vegan-friendly complete protein blend, this protein powder also contains an antioxidant blend of organic cherries, apples, turmeric, goji berries and blueberries to aid in muscle recovery and 2 billion CFUs of Bifidobacterium lactis, a probiotic that may aid in immune support.

In addition to third-party certifications, Garden of Life SPORT Organic Plant-Based Protein is USDA organic and non-GMO. The addition of stevia and organic vanilla flavors gives this formula a subtly sweet, vanilla taste.

Price at time of publication: $41 ($2.16 per serving)

Key protein source(s): Pea, Navy Bean, Lentil, Garbanzo and Cranberry Serving Size: 2 scoops | Amount of protein per serving: 30 grams | Calories per serving: 160 | Sodium per serving: 160 milligrams | Additional ingredients: Stevia, Sea Salt, Probiotics, Vanilla Flavoring, Organic Fruit Recovery Blend

Best Organic: NorCal Organic Premium Pea Protein

Source Organic Premium Pea Protein Isolate

Amazon

Pros
  • Single-ingredient product

  • Free of added sweeteners and major allergens

  • USDA Organic and non-GMO

  • Multiple package sizes

Cons
  • Lacks flavor if mixed into water alone

NorCal Organic Pea Protein contains peas grown in Canada that are then milled and packed in the United States. NorCal organic prides itself on working only with farmers who follow organic and sustainable farming practices. 

The single-ingredient product provides 22 grams of protein per serving and is free of major allergens, flavors, and added sugar. NorCal Organic performs third party testing before and after production to ensure their products meet nutritional and heavy metal specifications.

NorCal Organic Pea Protein contains one of the lowest sodium amounts, at just 90 milligrams per serving, making it a suitable option for those that are looking to limit their sodium intake. With three different sizing options, you can purchase travel packs, a two pound or a four pound bag.

Price at time of publication: $38 ($1.09 per serving)

Key protein source(s): Pea Protein Isolate Serving Size: 2 scoops | Amount of protein per serving: 22 grams | Calories per serving: 100 | Sodium per serving: 90 milligrams | Additional Ingredients: None

Best Protein and Vegetable Blend: Designs for Health Organic PurePea Plus with Greens

PurePea Plus

Amazon

Pros
  • USDA Organic, non-GMO peas and free of major allergens

  • Includes blend of organic greens, vegetables, and fruits

  • Contains fiber

Cons
  • Expensive

Designs for Health Organic PurePea Plus contains pea protein and also includes a blend of greens, vegetables and fruits. The organic blends are harvested at their peak of phytonutrient potency and then dried to preserve nutritional integrity. Each serving contains 18 grams of protein as well as 2 grams of dietary fiber. 

Designs for Health follows strict manufacturing practices to ensure high quality and reliable products. The company performs third party testing on their products to ensure purity, quality, and composition. Take note that, while this may be a good choice if you don't eat many fruits and vegetables, it is significantly more expensive than other options. If you eat produce on a regular basis, you may be better off with a more affordable pure pea protein option.

Price at time of publication: $67 ($4.47 per serving)

Key protein source(s): Pea protein Serving Size: 2 scoops | Amount of protein per serving: 18 grams | Calories per serving: 120 | Sodium per serving: 240 milligrams | Additives: Stevia, fruit and vegetable blend

How We Select Supplements

Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements; you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here

We support supplements that are evidence-based and rooted in science. We value certain product attributes that we find to be associated with the highest quality products. We prioritize products that are third-party tested and certified by one of three independent, third party certifiers: USP, NSF, or ConsumerLab.com. When relevant, we also prioritize non-GMO, Organic, and products that are free of unnecessary and potentially harmful additives. 

It's important to note that the FDA does not review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they go to market. Our team of experts has created a detailed, science-backed methodology to choose the supplements we recommend.

What to Look For in Pea Protein Powder

Third-Party Testing

Supplements that are third-party tested are sent to a lab where they are tested to ensure they contain what they say they contain and are not contaminated with specific high-risk, common contaminants. However, it’s important to note:

  1. Third party testing does not test to see if a product is effective or safe for everyone, and it does not ensure the supplement will not interact with other supplements or medications.
  2. Not all third-party testing is created equal. It is not uncommon for supplement companies to pay labs for certificates after conducting minimal to no testing. 
  3. The third party certifications we can trust are: ConsumerLab.com, NSF, and USP. However, these certifications are difficult to obtain and/or expensive for manufacturers, so many companies choose not to get their products tested by one of these three organizations. 
  4. Sometimes products tested by these three companies are more expensive to try to offset the cost they pay for certification.
  5. Just because a supplement is not tested by one of these three companies, it does not mean it’s a bad product. We recommend doing some research on the reputability of the manufacturer, and calling up the manufacturer and their testing lab to determine their protocols and decide if you feel comfortable consuming the supplement.

Protein powders may contain heavy metals in trace amounts. Heavy metals are found in soil and water, which can contaminate food and supplements, including protein powders, but this is only a concern when consumed in excess. Specific factors that influence the level of heavy metals contamination in the food industry are food type, growing conditions and agriculture process. However, recent studies suggest that the amount found in protein powders are not likely to be harmful when consumed in moderation (including daily consumption).

Third party tested protein powders can help ensure that the product is below FDA thresholds for heavy metal contamination. Dr. Maren says, “I’m careful about the brands I use and recommend, since protein powders (like other dietary supplements) can be contaminated. Quality and digestibility are very important! I always look for pharmaceutical-grade companies who test raw materials and utilize third party testing, in addition to GMP-certified.”

Form

Pea protein powders are available in many different formulations. Some are 100% pea-based, while others may be a blend of two or three different protein sources to make up the supplement. Some may have additional vitamins, minerals, digestive enzymes or probiotics added. Be sure to read nutrition labels to make sure all of the ingredients are safe for your individual needs.

Ingredients & Potential Interactions

It is essential to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included, relative to the recommended daily value of that ingredient. Please bring the supplement label to a healthcare provider to review the different ingredients contained in the supplement and any potential interactions between these ingredients and other supplements and medications you are taking.

When finding the best supplement for you, it is important to look out for added ingredients like herbal blends, probiotics, digestive enzymes and performance enhancers that may not be suitable for your individual needs. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Additives: Protein powders may contain added fiber, probiotics, herbal blends, caffeine, vitamins and minerals. These ingredients may interact with certain medications or other supplements, and may come with side effects. Therefore, read the labels and understand each ingredient to decide if a supplement is right for you. Consider consulting a healthcare provider if you are looking to take a supplement with any of these additives.
  • Added Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners: Some protein powders can contain high amounts of added sugar, which should be considered in the context of your total daily intake of sugar. This may be especially important if you have a condition impacting blood sugar such as PCOS or diabetes. Other protein powders can contain artificial sweeteners which can cause gastrointestinal discomfort in some, especially those with conditions like IBS.
  • Performance Enhancers: Certain performance enhancers may be included in protein supplements, particularly those marketed to athletes. Such ingredients may be listed as branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), caffeine, glutamine and creatinine. The safety and efficacy of these ingredients varies. It is important to refer to NIH Guidelines for Exercise and Athletic Performance when evaluating these ingredients and consider consulting with a healthcare provider.
  • Drug-nutrient interactions: If you are taking any medication or currently undergoing medical treatment, it is important to consult a healthcare provider before taking any protein powder supplement to ensure its safety.

Pea Protein Powder Dosage

The DRI (Daily Recommended Intake) for protein as defined by The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight for healthy adults. For reference, that’s 55 grams per day for an adult weighing 150 pounds. However, individual needs vary depending on age, height, weight, body composition, life stage, activity level and overall health status. For example, some athletes may need anywhere between 1.2 to 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight to optimize training and muscle recovery. Additionally, those that are pregnant, lactating, elderly, or with certain medical conditions may have increased needs as well. 

It is best to get your protein from a variety of food sources first, as they contain additional nutrients for optimal health. Also, aim to spread out your protein intake throughout the day for optimal protein absorption and utilization. Assess how much protein is in your diet from whole foods, and consider using protein powders as needed to fill in the gaps to meet your individual protein requirements.

How Much is Too Much?

Protein powder does not have an established upper tolerable limit (UL), as consuming excess protein does not appear to have negative side effects. However, exceeding the RDA ranges for protein does not provide additional benefits and is therefore not recommended.

Additionally, excess protein intake from supplements is not well studied, and some protein powder products can contain ingredients that may cause adverse side effects when consumed in excess such as herbal and enzymatic blends, as well as added vitamins and minerals. Lastly, those with or at risk of chronic kidney disease should follow the protein recommendations of a healthcare provider, as high intakes of protein can negatively impact kidney health in these patient populations.

When choosing to incorporate a protein powder to your daily routine, it is important to remember some key points:

  • Over supplementation of anything, protein powder included, poses the risk of an imbalance of dietary intake. An imbalance of intake could lead to suboptimal consumption of macronutrients such as carbohydrates, fats or protein as well as key vitamins and minerals.
  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends protein intake be spread throughout the day and not to exceed RDAs as prescribed for your individual needs. The recommended protein intake is roughly 0.3 grams/kilogram of body weight per meal, but varies depending on individual protein needs.
  • When determining the best protein powder for you, it is important to first assess how much additional protein you need to meet your goals and find the best supplement to compliment your current dietary intake and lifestyle.
  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends a food first approach to protein intake but notes that high-quality protein powders can be a convenient way to add protein to the diet as needed. They can be particularly helpful for athletes with increased needs, serving as a good post workout snack option if a protein based food is not available.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is pea protein low FODMAP?

    Whether or not a pea protein powder is low FODMAP depends on the processing of the peas and if the powder contains additional ingredients, including some artificial sweeteners that are considered high FODMAP.

    Typically, pea protein powders without artificial sweeteners or additives are considered low FODMAP because they are stripped of almost all of the carbohydrate and fiber content, which is the part of the peas that contain oligosaccharides (the “O” in FODMAP). If you are following a low FODMAP diet, avoid pea protein powders that contain sugar alcohols including sorbitol and xylitol.

  • What peas are used in pea protein?

    Pea protein is typically made from dried yellow peas. The peas are dried, cleaned and split to separate the starch and protein components. The protein is then ground creating a protein powder.

  • Is pea protein a complete protein?

    Yes, pea protein contains all nine essential amino acids making it a complete protein. While all nine essential amino acids are present, the level of methionine is relatively low. If you follow a vegan lifestyle, you can utilize brown rice or quinoa to help boost your methionine intake. If you do not follow a vegan lifestyle, you can compensate with meat, poultry or some fish as all are excellent sources of methionine.

  • Does pea protein cause gas?

    Pea protein is made from isolating the protein from the actual pea. In this process, much of the fiber tends to be processed out, and does not typically cause gas on its own. That being said, some pea protein powders can contain other ingredients such as artificial sweeteners that can cause bloating in some individuals, particularly for those with IBS and other gastrointestinal inflammatory conditions.

  • How does pea protein powder compare to other protein powders?

    In comparison to other plant-based protein powders, pea protein has a similar protein content to both soy protein powder and rice protein powder, which is higher than hemp protein. However, each of these has a different amino acid profile. Pea protein contains all nine essential amino acids and is a good source of BCAAs, but it is lower in methionine and higher in lysine compared to other plant-based proteins.

    Whey protein is the most researched protein powder and is shown to be the most effective in muscle repair and synthesis due to its bioavailability and higher content of essential amino acids and BCAAs.

    Pea protein is a good alternative for those that do not consume animal-based foods or for those with dairy sensitivities or allergies.

Why Trust Verywell Fit

As a lifelong athlete and registered dietitian, Brittany Scanniello is constantly keeping up on the latest sports nutrition research, trends and new products that have hit the market. In her day-to-day, she works with active people, helping to coach them on their nutrition choices for before, during, and after training to ensure they are putting their best foot forward.

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