With the top 9 allergens being main sources of dietary protein for many, it may be challenging to meet your daily protein needs if you have one or multiple food allergies or intolerances. On top of that, what if you're an athlete or someone with higher protein needs? Then it may be even harder. Here's why rice and pea protein powder are some of the best hypoallergenic protein sources to help fill your daily protein needs.
What is the difference between a food allergy and intolerance?
According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), approximately 32 million Americans have food allergies. That is about 1 in every 10 adults and 1 in every 13 children or roughly 2 kids in every classroom.
A food allergy is when someone has an immune system reaction shortly after eating even the slightest amount of a certain trigger food or foods. All food allergies can be potentially life-threatening. Mild and moderate symptoms can range from digestive issues, to hives or swelling but in some people, food allergies can cause severe, life-threatening anaphylaxis. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include breathing difficulties, clammy skin, feeling faint, loss of consciousness, fast heartbeat and more.
Is it estimated that up to 20% of the world's population may be affected by food intolerances according to the National Library of Medicine. An intolerance is less severe than an allergy and produces symptoms that don't involve the immune system. Food intolerances can come and go over the years
For example, an intolerance to lactose, the sugar in milk may cause stomach issues like bloating, stomach cramps or diarrhea.
What are the top 9 allergens?
People with food allergies are mainly allergic to these 9 top foods:
- Tree Nuts
The top 9 allergens all happen to be sources of dietary protein. Unlike those without food allergies, people with one or more food allergy must rely on alternative food sources or supplements to get their protein, especially if protein needs are higher such as with athletes or anyone partaking in high/intense physical activity.
Meeting your daily protein needs is important because protein is the building block of muscle and virtually all cells and thus essential to human life. Check out "Protein 101" for more information on protein's functions and benefits.
What is the best allergen-free protein?
If you're allergic to a single food, then your protein options aren't that limited, but when you have multiple food allergies and intolerances then it becomes harder to find suitable protein sources. Meat and poultry are hypoallergenic options for anyone with an omnivorous diet, but not if you are vegan or following a plant-based diet.
Rice protein and pea protein powders are both convenient and hypoallergenic protein sources that would be suitable for vegans with food allergies or non-vegans just looking for something other than meat and poultry. Growing Naturals' rice and pea protein are free from the top 9 allergens and additionally gluten-free (typically less than 10 parts per million) for those with a gluten allergy.
What about whey protein? We review the reasons below why whey protein (though popular) isn't the best option for food allergies and sensitive stomachs.
Rice Protein for Food Allergies
Being made from one of the most hypoallergenic foods, rice protein powder is one of the top choices for anyone with food allergies or a sensitive stomach. Plus, here are more reasons why rice protein is best:
- Pure and clean. We don't mix rice protein with any other proteins because we know how finicky sensitive stomachs can be. You get single-source, clean rice protein with very few added ingredients, especially with our Original/ Unflavored version.
- Nothing artificial. The few added ingredients in rice protein are thoughtfully selected to be all natural, non-GMO, free from top 9 allergens, gluten-free and plant-based.
- Rich in protein, low in carbs. Our rice protein powders are a rich source of plant-based protein, providing 15-16 grams of protein (and <6g carbs) per scoop. It takes 4 cups of cooked rice to provide approximately the same amount of protein.
- Highly digestible vegan protein. Unlike the protein in whole plant food sources which aren't fully absorbed due to the presence of fibers, rice protein has been gently processed from whole rice to remove most of the starch and fiber. This makes it easy for the body to absorb and get 100% of the protein. We've also third-party lab-tested rice protein to confirm it's high digestibility.
- Low FODMAP. Rice protein is a low FODMAP food at any serving size. FODMAPs are specific types of carbohydrates that may be improperly digested and cause of stomach issues for many, such as those with IBS.
- Easy and versatile use. Rice protein powder is ready to use and doesn't require any cooking. It can be added to many foods including, soups, oatmeal, cookies, smoothies and more. In fact, here are 20 creative ways to use protein powder (that aren't shakes or smoothies).
- Clinically tested as good as whey. Yes, rice protein builds and maintains muscle! Our specific GN rice protein was used in 3 studies to date showing that it was just as good as whey at building and maintaining muscle in college- AND pro-athletes.
Pea Protein for Food Allergies
Pea protein powder is another plant-based protein that may be suitable for people with food allergies or sensitive stomachs. Our pea protein powder is made from yellow split peas. While there are some people with an allergy to peas, it is a rare allergy. Here are additional reasons pea protein is a top hypoallergenic protein choice:
- Pure and clean. Like our rice protein, we keep pea protein pure without mixing it with other proteins and with few added ingredients. In fact, our Original Pea has zero added ingredients.
- Nothing artificial. The few added ingredients in our pea proteins are thoughtfully selected to be all natural, non-GMO, free from top 9 allergens, gluten-free and plant-based.
- Rich in protein, low in carbs. Our pea protein powders are a rich source of plant-based protein, providing 15-16 grams of protein (and <4g carbs) per small scoop. It takes 1 cup of cooked split peas to provide approximately the same amount of protein.
- Highly digestible vegan protein. Unlike the protein in whole plant food sources which aren't fully absorbed due to the presence of fibers, pea protein (similar to rice protein) has been gently processed from yellow peas to remove most of the starch and fiber. This makes it easy for the body to absorb and get 100% of the protein. We've also third-party lab-tested pea protein to confirm it's high digestibility.
- Low FODMAP. Pea protein is considered a low FODMAP food at a maximum of 2 scoops/servings per day. FODMAPs are specific types of carbohydrates that may be improperly digested and cause of stomach issues for many, such as those with IBS.
- Easy and versatile use, and great for baking! Pea protein powder is ready to use and doesn't require any cooking. It can be added to many foods. Check out 20 creative ways to use protein powder (that aren't shakes or smoothies). Plus, pea protein powder is an excellent egg-substitute and as such works wonderfully in baked goods.
- Builds and maintains muscle mass. Though not clinically tested, as a dietary protein source, pea protein can be used in addition to other proteins in the diet to help fill daily protein needs of athletes or anyone and thus maintain or build muscle mass.
Why Whey and Soy Protein are not Good for Food Allergies or Sensitive Stomachs
While whey and soy protein are popular protein supplements especially among athletes and exercise enthusiasts, they aren't the best choices if you have food allergies or intolerances. Here are a few reasons why:
- Made from major allergens. When cheese is made, whey is the by liquid by-product that is separated from the curds. It's refined and then dried up into a powder form. Since it's made from milk, whey is definitely not a good option for anyone with milk allergies. The same goes for soy protein being made from soy beans.
- Whey contains lactose. Because whey is made from milk, it naturally contains the milk sugar lactose, which 68% of the population is intolerant to. Though many whey protein powders claim not to contain lactose, often this means they have a minimal amount of lactose in their product. However, even minimal amounts may cause bloating or other digestive issues in those with sensitive stomachs.
- Often made with too many additives. Whey and soy protein powders are often made with a ton of additives (natural or artificial) the likes of which don't agree with sensitive stomachs.
Here's a whole other article about why whey protein gives you gas and has been even linked to acne breakouts.
As you can see, both rice and pea protein are some of the best hypoallergenic and rich protein sources for those with food allergies, intolerances or sensitive stomachs.
By: Scarlett Full, in-house Registered Dietitian