Ask the Experts: Soursop; Pea Protein

Q: What is soursop, allegedly the next “super fruit,” and should I include it in my diet?

A: This is one fruit you might want to skip. While the soursop’s seeds contain beneficial fatty acids which may defend cells against certain cancers, according to preliminary research, more clinical trials are needed to understand this fruit’s real health potential. More importantly, safety concerns, including possible neurological impairments, have been reported by people consuming whole soursop fruit and concentrated soursop supplements. As with all supplements, practice caution and consult with your health care provider first.

Just what is soursoup? It’s the tropical fruit of the graviola tree, an evergreen native to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Its leaves, fruit, seeds and stems are used in traditional medicines, as well as in sweets, ice cream, juice, and tea. The fiber- and vitamin C-rich fruit, encased in prickly green skin, has a sour, yet somewhat sweet taste. This exotic fruit has been used by alternative medicine practitioners for a variety of health issues, including stomach ailments, fever, parasitic infections, high blood pressure and rheumatism.

—Victoria Shanta Retelny, RDN

Q: I’ve been seeing pea protein in lots of food products lately; is this a healthy trend?

A: As plant-based eating becomes increasingly popular, and concerns surrounding allergies to dairy, eggs, and soy mount, the interest in pea protein has followed suit. Pea protein—made from dehydrated ground yellow split peas—is be-coming increasingly available as a protein ingredient in powdered shake mixes, foods and beverages.

Split peas are naturally rich in protein; in particular, in the branched chain amino acids isoleucine, leucine, and valine, which have been shown to reduce muscle breakdown and fatigue during physical activity. However, pea protein is “incomplete,” meaning that it lacks good amounts of all nine essential amino acids, though this can be re-solved by consuming it with other protein sources throughout the course of a day, such as grains, beans, and nuts. Pea protein is concentrated; one ounce contains about 25 grams (g) of protein, compared to 10 g in one-fourth cup of dried, uncooked yellow split peas.

From an environmental standpoint, pea protein is a more sustainable option compared to animal proteins; it requires fewer resources, such as water, fossil fuels and fertilizers to produce. It’s typically less costly than other protein powders, such as whey protein. Studies also suggest potential benefits from this protein source, such as increased satiety and reduced blood pressure, though more research is needed to confirm benefits.

—McKenzie Hall, RD

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