Among the sea of dairy-free milk cartons that you’ll find at the grocery store, you may notice a new contender on the shelf by the name of pea milk. This new alternative to milk is rapidly growing in popularity and presence, currently available at multiple supermarkets across the United States.
What Is Pea Milk?
Pea milk is a dairy-free alternative to cow’s milk. Unlike nut milk (almond, coconut, or cashew), pea milk is a plant-based milk made from a legume, specifically split peas.
Pea milk manufacturers replicate the protein, fats, and sugars of cow’s milk with plant-based materials to create pea milk. The popular pea milk brands do this without extracting the unique flavor of peas themselves so that this flavor doesn’t carry over to the milk.
Pea Milk Taste
While good pea milk doesn’t tend to have the legume flavor, some versions do tend to have a subtle plant-based flavor. This tends to be more apparent in unsweetened versions of the beverage rather than flavored ones (i.e. vanilla sweetened pea milk).
While pea milk might not carry over the flavor of split peas, it does provide the nutritional benefits that split peas do, specifically the protein content. Pea milk’s boost of protein, low sugar content, and allergen-free profile make it an attractive contender among nut milk and cow’s milk.
Pea Milk vs. Nut Milk
Because pea milk is created from a natural protein source (split peas), pea milk offers a much higher protein content than most nut milk. For instance, almond milk usually contains one gram of protein, as opposed to pea milk, which contains eight grams.
Pea milk is also free of common allergens, unlike nut milk. For anyone who is allergic to nuts but wants or needs to go dairy-free, pea milk is a viable option for them.
In addition, pea milk is void of a common food additive used in dairy-free products called carrageenan. This food additive has been known to trigger sensitivities like increased inflammation and digestive health issues when consumed by some.
Pea Milk vs. Cow’s Milk
From a protein standpoint, pea milk is comparable to cow’s milk. Both contain about eight grams of protein per cup, making them similar on that nutritional front.
Pea milk, however, has an advantage over cow’s milk in its sugar content. Sweetened pea milk typically has about five to six grams of sugar per cup, whereas a cup of two percent cow’s milk contains closer to 12 grams of sugar. Not only that, pea milk has zero milligrams of cholesterol compared to cow’s milk, which has 20 milligrams.
From an environmental perspective, pea milk is superior as it has a lower carbon footprint than cow’s milk. In fact, peas are one of the food crops that have the lowest carbon footprint among all food crops because they require very little water (compared to dairy production) and provide nutrients for the soil they’re grown in.
Pea Milk Isn’t for Everybody
Because unsweetened pea milk has zero grams of sugar, it’s a great option for people on the ketogenic diet. That said, pea milk is made from legumes, so it’s not a good option for those on the paleo diet or anyone sensitive to legumes.
Like other dairy alternatives, pea milk also tends to be more expensive than cow’s milk, which is another aspect to take into consideration. It’s also wise to note that if you are committing to a plant-based diet that’s free of animal products, you ensure you are getting ample sources of protein in your diet elsewhere as well.