Did you know that hemp seeds are one of nature’s most valuable sources for plant-based protein? If you want to increase your protein intake from a vegan and natural source, then hemp protein may be just what you’re looking for. In fact, some suggest that hemp protein is the best vegan protein containing 20 amino acids. This includes nine of the essential amino acids that the body is unable to produce on its own and therefore must obtain from dietary sources.
As more people become aware of the associated benefits of hemp protein, they’re flocking to the hemp-based supplement. The sales of hemp-based products have increased by between 10 to 20% since 2011, accounting for nearly $700 million in revenue every year. But what is it about hemp that makes it so appealing to consumers?
Hemp doesn’t only have a high protein count, but the protein is also more easily digestible and absorbed in comparison to other plant-based proteins. It’s also high in essential fatty acids and fiber, and its protein is more soluble than other plant-based proteins, which makes it an easy addition to your morning smoothie.
What is Hemp?
Hemp is a distinct variety of the cannabis sativa plant, and it can be grown to maximize the fibers in the stalk of the plant or seed production. Hemp contains just about zero, or very small traces of the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the cannabinoid that is known for making users high.
THC has been thoroughly researched, and science has found that when it isn’t smoked, it has significant health benefits with very few (if any) side effects. Hemp typically contains 0.3% to 1.5% THC, whereas marijuana contains about 5% to 10% or more THC. So not to worry, hemp most certainly won’t get you high. Hemp consumption is completely legal, safe, and healthy.
Hemp seed oil and hemp protein powder are both made from the seeds of the hemp plant. Hemp protein powder is typically easy on the taste buds and has a faintly nutty flavor.
What is Hemp Protein?
The hemp plant produces shelled seeds that are often referred to as “hemp hearts.” To make hemp protein, manufacturers first need to remove the outer shell of the hemp seed and then place the de-shelled seed through a cold-pressing process that will remove some of its natural oil content. They then grind the seeds into a fine powder and sift it to produce a uniform product.
According to the Michigan Medicine Frankel Cardiovascular Center, hemp protein has around 35% to 50% protein, 20% to 25 % carbohydrates – which mostly come from fiber, and 10% fat – which is largely in the form of essential fatty acids.
Protein is present in just about every part of the body. It keeps the skin, bones, hair, and muscles strong, and allows for various chemical reactions to take place and make sure the blood is healthy.
Hemp protein is a fairly rich source of macronutrient, specifically for a plant-based product. A three-tablespoon serving of hemp protein provides 9.75 grams of protein. However, it’s not just the amount of protein that is beneficial – it’s also the quality.
What Makes Hemp Protein Superior?
Protein is divided into two major categories; complete proteins and incomplete proteins. Complete proteins have all the essential amino acids, aka – the amino acids that the body doesn’t make on its own. Incomplete proteins are proteins that are either deficient in or missing at least one of the essential amino acids. According to the FDA, most vegan or plant-based proteins are incomplete proteins.
However, hemp protein is different. A report published in Food Research International in January 2019 noted that unlike other plant-based protein sources, hemp has all the essential amino acids the body needs, making it a complete protein.
Hemp protein offers the essential fatty acids Omega-3 and Omega-6 in a healthy ratio of 3:1. Also, hemp is one of the few sources gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) – which is a hard-to-get, healthy, plant-derived omega-6 that is metabolized differently than other, less healthy omega-6s. GLA-rich food (like hemp seeds) are known to help people with the following health problems:
- High blood pressure
- Skin allergies
- Heart disease
- Breast pain
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Benefits of Hemp Protein
Protein powders are nutritional supplements often used by athletes and bodybuilders who are trying to gain weight or increase muscle mass.
One of the most popular varieties is hemp protein powder, which is made by grinding the pressed hemp seeds into a fine powder. It has an earthy and nutty taste and is typically added to smoothies and shakes to boost protein intake.
Here are some of the many benefits of consuming hemp protein.
Easy to Digest
Generally, animal proteins are easier to digest than plant proteins, but studies show that 91-98% of the protein found in ground hemp seed is digestible. This means that the body can use just about all of the amino acids found in hemp protein for important bodily functions, like repair and maintenance.
Researchers suggest that hemp is so easy to digest because it contains the proteins albumin and edestin, which the body can break down quickly.
Good Source of Fiber
Hemp protein is a rich source of fiber. Although the plant contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, the large majority is in the form of insoluble fiber. Unlike other sources of protein that may be constipating, hemp protein could help improve bowel movements, which makes them more frequent and easier to pass because of its high, insoluble fiber content.
High-fiber diets have been linked to a variety of health benefits, including healthier gut bacteria, improved blood sugar, and reduced risk of bowel cancer.
Lots of Unsaturated Fatty Acids
Just like essential amino acids, essential fatty acids are those that the body is unable to make. This means that you need to get them from your diet for you to stay as healthy as possible. Hemp protein contains about 80% polyunsaturated fat and offers a balance of both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, like gamma-linolenic acid (GLA and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
These kinds of fat keep the heart healthy and lower the risk of stroke, heart attack, or heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids also play a part in eye and brain health and contribute to the proper development of the nervous system.
Cleansing the Colon
As we’ve already discussed, hemp protein is rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Both of these types of fiber naturally cleanse the colon, reducing toxins in the body and constipation. Some studies have even suggested that fiber helps to protect against the development of colorectal cancer.
Reduces Sugar Cravings
The high nutrient of hemp protein makes it a great ally for the fight against cravings for unhealthy sweets. Hemp protein offers a healthy dose of dietary fiber, which helps to regulate blood glucose. When you keep glucose levels steady, you’re far less likely to experience energy crashes and aren’t as likely to have cravings for sugar to fill the void.
Boosts the Immune System
Consuming hemp protein is a great way to give the immune system a boost. Hemp seeds contain the globular plant proteins albumin (33-35%) and edestin (65-67%). These proteins are responsible for enzymatic functions in the blood plasma along with antibody formation, which makes them critical for strong immune function.
How to Use Hemp Protein?
On average, an individual needs about half of their body weight in protein each day. If you’re an athlete, the ratio is even higher. By including hemp protein in your diet, you are easily able to meet your daily protein needs.
Look for a hemp protein product that only has one ingredient: Hemp protein. You don’t want any added dairy, hexane, sweeteners, and lactose. The typical recommendation for hemp protein is one to four tablespoons per day.
You can use hemp protein just as you would any other protein powder. Add it to a shake or smoothie for breakfast, or maybe for a pre-workout or post-workout protein boost. You can also blend hemp protein with your favorite milk.
Furthermore, hemp protein powder can be added to hot cereal, muffins, protein bars, yogurt, brownies, bread, cake, and more. Hemp protein can be used to replace up to 25% of the flour in baked goods, which adds healthy fats, fiber, protein, and lots of nutrients to the finished product.
Final Thoughts on Hemp Protein
Hemp protein is a complete protein that is packed with fiber, minerals, nutrients, antioxidants, and heart-healthy unsaturated fats. It’s a great source of protein, especially for vegans. While there are various health benefits associated with hemp, you should avoid eating excessive amounts. The most healthful option is to eat a varied diet that contains a wide range of nutrients.