September 25, 2017
Ben & Jerrys Chunky Monkey

Finding Your Inner Peas

by Jeanine Barone  |  

Pea protein is the new trend in foods. Here are some pea-containing products now available, some marketed specifically as dairy or soy alternatives or as vegan and thus “cruelty-free.”

  • Ben & Jerry’s sells several non-dairy frozen desserts that contain pea protein. A half-cup of the Chunky Monkey, for example, has 260 calories, 14 grams fat (8 grams saturated), negligible sodium (15 milligrams)—and only 2 grams of protein. It also has 26 grams of sugar from such sweeteners as liquid sugar, corn syrup solids, and dried cane syrup, and just one gram of fiber.
  • Beyond Meat manufactures faux beef and chicken strips, patties, and ground “meat” all containing pea protein (some also contain soy protein isolate). For example, the 4-ounce Beast Burger has 260 calories, 16 grams of fat (2 saturated), and 23 grams of protein from pea protein isolate—nearly as much as you’d get in a “real” burger. The patty also has 480 milligrams of sodium.
  • Daiya manufactures a line of dairy-free Greek yogurt alternatives with pea protein. One 150-calorie cup of its blueberry yogurt, for example, contains 8 grams of protein (comparable to what’s in dairy yogurt), along with 4.5 grams of fat (4 grams saturated, because of the coconut cream), 3 grams of fiber (from chicory root extract), 115 milligrams of sodium, and 13 grams of sugar, mostly from evaporated cane sugar and blueberry juice concentrate. The company also makes other pea-containing products, including dairy-free “pepperoni” pizza and cheese-style “shreds.”
  • Gardein offers a variety of meatless products, many containing pea protein. A serving (2.5 ounces) of sweet and sour porkless bites, for example, has 120 calories, 3 grams of fat (0 saturated), and 13 grams of protein—plus 430 milligrams of sodium. But most of the protein comes from other vegetarian sources, namely wheat gluten and soy protein concentrate.
  • Just Mayo, which uses pea protein in place of eggs, has 100 calories, 10 grams of fat (0.5 grams saturated), and 75 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon (similar to regular mayo). But, as with regular mayo, it has negligible protein, since so little pea protein is actually used. Just Mayo has been the source of a series of controversies, with the American Egg Board launching a major campaign to undermine what it viewed as unfair competition, the Securities and Exchange Commission opening an inquiry into whether the company bought up large quantities of its own product to make it seem more popular than it really was, and the FDA warning the company that the product should not be called “mayo” since it doesn’t contain eggs and thus doesn’t meet the standard of identity for “mayonnaise.” (The FDA eventually decided that Just Mayo could keep “mayo” in the name.)
  • Orgain has a line of vegan protein shakes, as well as powders that you can mix into water, smoothies, or other beverages. Pea protein is the first ingredient, but the products also contain protein from brown rice and chia and hemp seeds. Two rounded scoops of the creamy chocolate fudge provide 150 calories, 4 grams fat (0 saturated), 21 grams protein, and 125 milligrams of sodium. Most of the sweetness comes from sugar alcohols (5 grams per serving) and the zero-calorie/low-calorie sweeteners stevia and monk fruit extract.
  • Ripple “Pea Milk" is a plant-based milk alternative with pea protein that is intended for people who can’t or don’t want to consume dairy or soy. With a thin, skim milk-like consistency, it is high in protein (8 grams per cup), fortified with calcium (45 percent of the Daily Value, more than cow’s milk), and contains very small amounts of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, from added algal oil. It comes unsweetened (described as chalky), original flavor (with 6 grams of added sugar per cup), and flavored (very sweet, with 15 to 17 grams of added sugar).
  • StarLite Cuisine has created a line of “Pea Protein” enchiladas. A serving (two pieces) has from 360 to 430 calories, 15 to 23 grams of fat (1.5 to 3.5 grams saturated), and 13 to 14 grams of protein, plus 6 to 7 grams of fiber, along with 430 to 620 milligrams of sodium.
  • Vega manufactures several vitamin-fortified vegan products, including protein mixes for smoothies, ready-to-drink shakes, and snack bars, all made with pea protein or a blend of pea protein and brown rice protein. The Chocolate Peanut Butter bar has 200 calories, 9 grams of fat (4.5 grams saturated), 11 grams of protein, 65 milligrams of sodium, 4 grams of fiber, and 12 grams of sugar (after protein, sugar is the next ingredient).