Picture this: you’re drinking a can of Twrl Milk Tea Latte when you taste a delightfully creamy and milky flavor that pairs perfectly with the delicate smokiness of the tea. Curious, you look at the ingredients, only to find an unexpected component - pea milk. “There are a thousand different types of milk out there. Why pea milk?”, you might ask. In this blog post, we’re going to be examining why we use pea milk for our beverages, and the science and processes behind such a wonderful dairy alternative.
How it’s made
Pea milk is usually derived from yellow split peas (Pisum sativum), an ingredient common to south and east Asian cuisines. During production, the peas are ground up into a flour, and the proteins within that powder are separated from the rest of the powder. This protein undergoes a purification process, which then is mixed with water and flavorings and stabilizers, like vanilla extract and vegetable oil. This isolation of protein is what gives pea milk its milk-like consistency without the vegetal pea flavor, which comes from the other amino acids and extraneous materials removed during the production process.
Why we use it
First off, pea milk fulfills our mission of creating a vegan, allergen-free drink that everyone can enjoy. In fact, 1 in 10 adults and 1 in 13 children have a food allergy, or around 32 million Americans. That’s why we avoid using ingredients containing major allergens within them - like soy and nut milks. We believe that food and drink should be something that brings people together, and pea milk is our key to making our product available for all.
Beyond that, pea milk is actually healthier than many other milk alternatives. It contains 5 times more protein than almond milk, and 3 times more protein and 75% less carbohydrates than oat milk.
This difference in protein levels is what gives pea milk a richer, creamier, and ultimately more delicious mouthfeel when compared to other milk, all while having one-ninth the amount of saturated fat in dairy and coconut milk. When compared to cow’s milk, pea milk has more vitamin D, half the sugar, and 150% more calcium than cow’s milk.
As such, pea milk might be considered as the perfect milk alternative when it comes to taste and nutrition, alone; the high protein content makes pea milk taste extremely close to the texture of dairy, all while being much healthier than the real deal. Pea milk, when compared to other milk products, also has a bigger impact on muscle and bone growth, while limiting sugar and fat intake.
Peas also contain an abundance of BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids), which are a class of amino acids vital for bodily functions. There are 20 amino acids that make up the proteins in the human body, and 9 of these are considered as “essential amino acids”, or amino acids that can’t be produced by the body and must be consumed. 3 of these essential amino acids are BCAAs - leucine, isoleucine, and valine - and play a big role in muscle health. Leucine activates a pathway in the body that stimulates muscle protein synthesis, or muscle growth. According to healthline.com, “in one study, people who consumed a drink with 5.6 grams of BCAAs after their resistance workout had a 22% greater increase in muscle protein synthesis compared to those who consumed a placebo drink”. BCAAs can also decrease muscle soreness by reducing the amount of delayed muscle onset soreness, or DOMS. These amino acids have been shown to decrease the amount of muscle damage and the level of creatine kinase (an indicator of muscle damage), both of which reduce DOMS. Besides just benefitting muscles, BCAAs can also help with reducing exercise fatigue. BCAA levels decrease during exercise, causing levels of essential amino acid tryptophan in the brain to increase, which is then converted to serotonin, a chemical that contributes to fatigue during exercise. As such, supplementing BCAAs can help decrease this level of serotonin, allowing you to focus better during exercise. Overall, because of the multiple muscle and fatigue-related effects of BCAAs, pea milk is perfect for an after-workout drink.
Besides the multitude of health benefits for your body and your muscles, pea milk is also extremely sustainable compared to milk and other milk alternatives. Growing almonds takes 100x the amount of water compared to pea milk, while producing milk takes 25x the amount of water. Pea milk also emits 86% less greenhouse gasses than almond milk and 75% less than cow’s milk.
As Mighty Pea co-founder Tom Watkins puts it,
“The intense water irrigation needed to make almond milk, the deforestation from soy milk and the poor nutritional profile for lots of other plant milks like oat and coconut, have become more exposed to the public eye in the last few years. When you compare the process behind pea milk with the others, it can be really eye-opening.”
Furthermore, pea plants have an interesting property - they regenerate the soil they’re planted in. The key to why this is is the element nitrogen. Nitrogen is crucial for the growth, production of chloroplasts, and the assembly of amino acids within plants, and as such is depleted from the soil extremely easily. In fact, nitrogen is the most commonly deficient nutrient in many soils across the world, and the most commonly supplied plant nutrient. However, peas might be a solution to this problem. Legumes, which includes peas, have formed a symbiotic relationship with bacteria called rhizobia living in their root nodules. These rhizobia “fix” nitrogen gas from the atmosphere, turning it into a more readily available form of nitrogen within the ground and enriching the soil. After the legume dies, the root nodules break down and releases both more nitrogen and the rhizobia so they can infect a new host. In fact, coupled with the pea’s short maturity cycle, this property makes pea’s the perfect cover crop to be planted in the fall, enriching the soil for next season’s planting season.
Overall, pea milk is not only healthier for both the body and the environment, but also mimics the smooth, creamy deliciousness of cow’s milk. Now isn’t that a-pea-lling!