Hemp Protein – The Ultimate Vegan Superfood

by Alfred van der Heide
hemp protein powder

hemp protein powderProtein powders have been very popular in the past few decades with bodybuilders, athletes and those who are trying to gain weight. Hemp protein powder has recently become popular with the same group of people, as well as vegetarians, vegans and with those who are health conscious. In fact, it is often referred to as a superfood which is the rage these days. It is of particular interest to vegan bodybuilders and athletes and other vegans who want to make sure they get enough protein without animal products.

You already know it as one of the three primary macronutrients that make up your diet (the other two being fat and carbohydrates). Protein is considered the building block of life and is found in every cell of the body. Protein is made up of amino acids that are attached in long chains. There are hundreds of products from supplements to energy bars designed to make it easy to get your protein fix. There are even entire diets based on upping your protein intakes, such as the Atkins diet or the paleo diet.

The 7 Best Types of Protein Available

Protein comes from a variety of sources and is available in several formulations. People use them to increase muscle mass, improve overall body composition and help meet their protein needs. The different types of protein are as follows;

  1. Whey Protein
  2. Casein Protein
  3. Egg Protein
  4. Pea Protein
  5. Hemp Protein
  6. Brown Rice Protein
  7. Mixed Plant Proteins

 

What is hemp protein?

Many people raise their eyebrows when they hear about hemp protein powder when they learn that hemp is cannabis. Most of the time people confuse hemp with marijuana and they tend to worry about eating anything linked to marijuana considering that the latter is still illegal in most parts of the world!

hemp protein powder

a typically sized 30-gram scoop of hemp protein powder.

The truth of the matter is that cannabis has many different strains and varieties. Hemp is the name given to strains of cannabis with little to no THC. This is the type of cannabis grown more like a food and supplement product for its seeds as it has no mind-altering properties. Hemp is also grown for medicinal purposes if it contains high levels of cannabidiol (CBD) which is not mind-altering, rather a powerful anti-inflammatory being used in many new products now. We are interested in the varieties known as industrial hemp which contain fewer cannabinoids and they are grown for their seeds and fiber and do not have a mind-altering effect. It is from the industrial hemp varieties that hemp protein powder is made.

Protein powders are popular nutritional supplements used by athletes, bodybuilders and those trying to gain weight or increase muscle mass. Hemp protein powder is one of the more popular varieties, made by grinding pressed hemp seeds into a fine powder. It has an earthy, nutty taste and is often added to shakes or smoothies to boost protein intake. Hemp is a high-quality vegan protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, plus fiber, healthy fats, and minerals.

Nutritional Forms of Hemp

Hemp is so versatile it can be added to your diet in four separate ways.hemp plant

  1. Whole hemp seeds – hemp seeds have been illegal in some countries (due to their relation to marijuana), so they’re often sold as sterilized seeds. While sterilizing does damage some of the hemp seed oil, it doesn’t affect the fiber and protein content. Speaking of fiber, you know how whole grain bread is better for you and have more fiber than processed white flour bread? Well, the same can be said for hemp seeds. Hemp seeds in their hard shells are crunchy sources of insoluble fiber. If you’re looking to add more delicious fiber to your diet, crunch on hemp seeds in their shells.
  2. Shelled Hemp Seeds – you should prefer shelled hemp seeds not only because they taste better, but because they have higher protein levels than their unshelled version. One ounce of hemp seeds contains 10 g of protein! Hemp seeds without their shells go by names such as hulled hemp seed, hemp hearts, shelled hemp, and even hemp nut. The hemp heart is a soft seed with a delicate, nutty flavor similar to pine nuts. A popular way to eat them is sprinkled in Greek yogurt parfaits, topping overnight oats, and added to almond butter dipped apples.
  3. Hemp Seed Oil – Oil made from pressed hemp seeds is high in EFAs. These “good fats” come from long-chain polyunsaturated fats. However, these polyunsaturated fats have relatively low smoke points, which means they can oxidize at high temperatures – something you don’t want. You shouldn’t cook with hemp seed oil, but it makes a delicious nutty oil for salad dressings. Ensure you keep your hemp seed oil in the fridge to prevent oxidation.
  4. Hemp Protein Powder / Flour – If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you probably know all about hemp protein. Hemp protein is made from the leftovers of hemp seed oil pressings. If there’s less than 35% protein listed on your powdered hemp product, it constitutes hemp flour instead of hemp protein because there’s more fiber than protein. Anything over 35% is considered hemp protein, which is what you want because hemp is a complete protein that contains all of your essential amino acids. Unlike whey, there are absolutely no animal products or lactose in hemp protein, which makes it a decent option for vegans.

 

How hemp protein powder is made

First, ripe and healthy hemp seeds are cold-pressed to extract hemp seed oil. The by-product of oil pressing is called hemp cake. This cake is then dried and ground into hemp protein powder which is then sifted to remove the larger particles of seed shells to remain with fine protein powder.
The product was named “hemp protein powder” because it is high in protein content. In fact, it is 65% high-quality and absorbable protein, and it is a complete protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids. This makes it ideal for individuals following a plant-based diet and active people who need a high intake of proteins. It is one of the best sources of protein, even better than legumes such as beans.

How to add hemp protein to your diet?

Try incorporating hemp seeds into the diet by:

  • Sprinkling whole or ground seeds on cereal or yogurt.
  • Adding the seeds to smoothies.
  • Baking with hemp seeds and others rich in omega-3s.
  • Making hemp milk at home using whole seeds.
  • Sprinkling hemp seeds, along with other seeds or nuts, on a salad.
  • People can find hemp seeds in some supermarkets, health food stores, and online.
  • Online stores also offer other hemp products, such as hemp milk, which may be fortified with extra nutrients, and hemp protein powder, which is a plant-based alternative to whey protein powder.
  • More information can be found here.

hemp seeds white background 

Things to Consider when Buying Hemp Protein

It can be confusing on what hemp protein to buy just by browsing online. Here are the general guidelines to consider when making your purchase.

  1. Protein Amount – The protein amount offered per serving is different per product. The protein amount can vary from 11g to 20g per serving. There seem to be two trends. If it is a Protein + Fibre product, the portion of protein is less a portion of fiber increases.
  2. Flavour – In the current marketplace, there are not many brands that offer flavored options. Only a few offer Chocolate and Vanilla flavors. All other brands offer the Original flavor, which essentially means there’s no flavor added mixed in. These original hemp protein powders have a bit of a nutty taste.
  3. Organic – Most hemp protein brands advertise on their packaging or nutrition label if they offer Organic Hemp. About half of hemp products on the market are organic options. Even without being organic, most hemp proteins are non-GMO, non-irradiated, and chemical-free. Most brands also do not add or mix any artificial ingredients in their protein.
  4. Reviews – Even the hemp protein market is getting flooded with various brands claiming they offer the best quality or value. It’s quite difficult for a customer to compare the different products to see which one provides the highest amount of protein or the lowest price. To help with your purchase, read an unbiased review that analyses the quality, price, flavor and overall value of hemp protein powders.

 

Benefits of consuming Hemp Protein

Consider these 15 incredible benefits of hemp protein

Boosts Immune System

Consuming hemp protein is a simple yet highly effective way to supply the body with a nutritious boost. Hemp contains the globular proteins – edestin and albumin which make up the fluid in a portion of the blood plasma. Hence hemp protein is essential to support a healthy immune system. Hemp protein powder is great for boosting the immune system. It is rich in antioxidants that protect the body from oxidative damage, preventing many diseases including cancer. It contains zinc which stimulates the function of the immune system. It also contains the globular plant proteins edestin (65%-67%) and albumin (33%-35%). The globular proteins play a major role in enzymatic functions in the blood plasma and contribute to antibody formation which makes them crucial for strong immune function.

Increases Energy Levels

Swap your daily dose of caffeine for hemp protein and see how energetic your body feels. Hemp protein powder contains fatty acids which when ingested, produce twice as much energy as carbohydrates. In addition, proteins take longer to break down in the body. Which, in turn, causes energy to be released much slower. Not only does hemp increase energy levels but it also sustains the energy throughout the day. Since hemp protein powder is made from hemp seeds, it generally contains some oil remains. The protein powder generally has about 10% of the original fat which is unsaturated and has an ideal 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids. The 3:1 ratio is a magic number because we have evolved to live by that ratio. Unfortunately, the western diet is very unbalanced with around 15:1 ratio of these essential fatty acids. This imbalance, with too much omega-6 and too little omega-3, has been linked to many chronic health problems such as heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and inflammatory diseases. Hemp protein powder, with the ideal ratio of the fatty acids, corrects the imbalance and prevents chronic diseases.
Hemp protein powder also contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which regulates hormones in the body by supporting prostaglandin production. Moderate consumption of GLA can help to reduce symptoms related to high blood pressure, diabetic neuropathy, some forms of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, ADHD, allergies, acne, and eczema.
Since hemp protein powder contains fat, it can go rancid. Therefore, it should be stored in the refrigerator after opening.

Strengthens Hair

An ultra-high concentration of healthy fats helps promote healthy hair growth. hemp protein is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, and omega-9 fatty acids. Research suggests omega-3 fatty acids are shown to reverse hair loss. Also, omega-3 fatty acids also add sheen and luster to the hair.

Reduces Inflammation

A recent study shows that ingesting the GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) protein in hemp alleviated arthritis symptoms by 20%. It intervenes with the body’s ability to produce pro-inflammatory molecules and reduces chronic inflammation.

Improves Digestion

Although many protein producers claim their products contain minimal levels of lactose, conventional protein powders like whey are loaded with lactose. For those who are lactose intolerant even a small amount can cause a chain reaction resulting in bloating, gassiness, and other internal distress from consuming lactose. On the other hand, hemp protein aids in digestion. Due to the high concentration of soluble and insoluble fiber, hemp protein puts the digestive tract at ease.

Repairs Muscle

Protein is key to building muscle, hence when it comes to restoring muscle tissue, bodybuilders and athletes turn to protein powders. However, what many people are not aware of is that hemp is a complete protein source. Better yet, as a plant-based protein, hemp protein powder supplies the body with sufficient protein but is also hypoallergenic and suitable for people with soy, gluten, egg, or dairy sensitivities. Hemp protein contains all essential amino acids that help repair body muscle and tissue. According to research, hemp seeds contain almost as much protein as soybeans. In every 30 grams of hemp seeds, there are about 9.5g of protein. Once the oil is extracted from the seeds and the protein powder is made, this increases to about 50% of protein by weight. The powder is a complete source of protein because it contains all the essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks for all proteins (bones, muscles, organs, tissue, brain, hair, nails, etc.). Since the body cannot synthesize these amino acids, a person has to get them through diet. This is why they are called essential amino acids. Because it contains essential amino acids, hemp protein powder is a valuable addition to a vegetarian or vegan diet, as well as anyone looking for a healthy source of protein.

Research results on the number of amino acids found in hemp protein powder vary. One study found that the amino acid profile of hemp protein powder is similar to the amino acid profile of egg whites and soy, which are both considered to be high-quality protein sources. Another study found that hemp protein powder had low levels of lysine (an amino acid) but had high levels of the other essential amino acids. It can, therefore, be concluded that the quality of the protein varies from variety to variety of hemp or from the place the hemp was grown. However, people who prefer vegan, the raw protein will do well to take hemp protein powder because it contains many other essential nutrients.
Hemp is easily digestible, and thus the body benefits from all of the amino acids with minimal waste. This is especially beneficial when the body needs to repair itself and for general body repair and maintenance.

Conditions Scalp

hemp protein naturally conditions the scalp, because hemp seeds contain Vitamin E, as well as a high concentration of essential fatty acids, hence hemp, is excellent for soothing the scalp. Hemp protein can be consumed in tablet or powder form.

Fight Heart Disease

Consumption of hemp protein has shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. It is loaded with fiber, healthy fats, and other vital nutrients. Additionally, hemp protein also contains high amounts of amino acids arginine, which is used for the production of nitric oxide. This gaseous substance in the body causes the blood vessels to expand, which in turn leads to lowered levels of blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease.

Builds Lean Muscle

Not only does hemp offer a complete amino acid profile, but it also includes all muscle-building amino acids such as BCAA (branched-chain amino acids). No wonder hemp protein is considered to be one of nature’s Superfood. BCAA increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis, simultaneously preventing loss of muscle tissue. Hemp also contains globulins albumin and edestin – two of the most abundant proteins in the human body.

Curbs Hunger Cravings

hemp protein powder helps curb hunger cravings and makes you feel fuller for a more extended period. The secret? Hemp is rich in fiber. Fiber not only promotes a healthy digestive system but also helps you feel fuller for longer. Also, fiber has also shown to reduce cravings and sustain weight loss. The higher fiber content of hemp is believed to help prevent chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer

Relieves Eczema

The essential fatty acids jampacked in hemp protein act as an internal moisturizer. As a result, hemp protein combats the dry and cracking skin by reducing irritation.

woman with bad skin

Reduces Osteoporosis Risk

There are some factors that influence the onset of osteoporosis. However, studies suggest that people who have a deficit in essential fatty acids are more likely to experience bone loss. Hemp protein is crammed with these essential fatty acids that reduce the risk of Osteoporosis.

Cleanses the Colon

hemp protein can reduce constipation and remove toxins from the body. Hemp is easily absorbed by the body due to its high fiber content as it contains both insoluble and soluble fiber. Hence it naturally cleanses the Colon. Additionally, it also lowers your risk of developing diarrhea or hemorrhoids. Hemp seeds are also rich in fiber but the amount of fiber differs among the powders depending on whether the seeds were hulled or dehulled before expressing the oil. The majority of the products on the market contain 7 to 8 grams of fiber in every 30 grams which makes up 18% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of fiber for men and 28% for women.

Fiber is important in everyone’s diet because it promotes a healthy gut by increasing probiotics in the gut, stabilizes blood sugar levels, reduces appetite and keeps the belly feeling full longer and therefore promotes weight management. High fiber keeps the gut clean as it promotes fast movement of waste out of the body and therefore reduces the risk of bowel cancer.
High fiber content makes hemp protein powder more attractive as a supplement than soy, pea or rice powders which contain very little fiber.

Boosts Metabolism

Protein intake is vital to our health, hence supporting healthy protein levels boosts the metabolism as well as increases the fat-burning potential. Thus, hemp which is a high protein source prevents protein deficiency in the body.

Regulates Cholesterol Levels

hemp seeds are loaded with healthy fats our bodies do not produce. Hence if you need to lower or control your cholesterol levels, hemp protein powder is a fantastic source. The essential fatty acids in hemp help reduce levels of unhealthy fats, they also decrease the build of plaque in the arteries. Thus, the easy to incorporate in drinks or meals, hemp protein can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels for maximum health.

Lots of minerals and antioxidants

Hemp protein powder is a rich source of minerals such as magnesium, calcium, manganese, iron, phosphorous, potassium, copper, zinc and iron. Some nutritional labels on supplements claim that hemp protein powder contains up to 52% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of iron and 80% of magnesium per serving. The minerals enhance health as follows.

  • Magnesium mineralizes bones by promoting potassium and calcium absorption and activates B vitamins.
    Calcium helps with bone development, maintains normal heart function, prevents blood clot formation and maintains healthy blood pressure.
  • Manganese contributes to the formation of bone, tissue, and reproductive hormones and ensures proper brain function.
    Iron is one of the major components of hemoglobin and myoglobin and is crucial for the formation of hormones, cells, amino acids, neurotransmitters, and hemp protein.
  • Phosphorus encourages bone development, tissue growth, and regeneration, and rebalances cell fluid.
  • Potassium promotes heart health and body balance.
  • Zinc stimulates the immune system, assists with the metabolization of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, and accelerates wound healing.

Hemp protein powder also has antioxidant properties since it contains compounds such as lignanamides which are strong antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect the body from oxidative stress which causes cell damage which leads to chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.

Check out this video for more benefits of hemp protein

 

The disadvantage of consuming Hemp Protein

There are several drawbacks associated with the consumption of hemp proteinhemp seeds

  • High-Fat Content – hemp protein is known to contain a high amount of fat which is considered to be a high amount as compared to other protein sources such as whey and casein. Though hemp protein includes a good amount of healthy fats, it has been reported that a high amount of fat slows down the process of nutrient absorption after workouts.
  • Low Protein Content – hemp protein provides you with around 15 grams of protein per serving. However, it is much less as compared to other protein sources such as whey and casein. According to research, it has been observed that consuming around 20-25 grams of protein is necessary to promote muscle recovery and growth.
  • High Carbohydrate Content – hemp protein powders are known to possess a high amount of carbohydrates as compared to other protein sources such as whey and casein. Hence if your goal is to lose weight, it is advisable that you consume less hemp protein and consume whey protein regularly.
  • High fiber Content – hemp protein contains a high amount of fiber. So, if you aim to gain muscle mass, it is advisable that you avoid consuming hemp protein as its high fiber content causes you to feel full, thereby preventing you from eating enough to promote muscle growth.
  • Low Protein Quality – hemp protein is known to possess low-quality protein as compared to other protein sources. Low protein quality indicates that only some of the protein present in hemp protein is absorbed into the body.
  • Low in Vitamin and Minerals – hemp protein is known to contain a meager number of essential vitamins and minerals, which are required by the body for optimal functioning.

Recap

  • Hemp protein is a popular protein supplement for many reasons.
    It is popular with vegans and vegetarians because it is a full protein.
  • Although its protein content may be lower than that of other protein powders, the other beneficial nutrients that it contains make it popular with many people.
  • People love the many ways it can be used in protein drinks, for making pancakes and protein bars, for baking loaves of bread and cakes, for sprinkling on salads and cereals and for adding it to smoothies.
  • Another reason for its popularity is that it works with many different diets such as gluten-free, vegetarian, Kato, vegan, paleo, and whole-food and it has many health benefits.
    Hemp protein powder is brownish-green in color and has an earthy, nutty (maybe grassy) taste that many people like though others find it to be too strong.

The Bottom Line is that hemp protein powder is a complete protein that packs antioxidants, minerals, fiber, and heart-healthy unsaturated fats. It’s a good choice, especially for vegans, but maybe less nutritious than other plant-based proteins such as soy. While it’s generally safe, it can cause side effects or adverse reactions in some people. More research is needed to determine the quality of hemp protein powder, but it is an excellent choice for those looking for a nutritious protein powder with fiber and healthy fats.

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1 comment

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Fitoru Fitness December 10, 2019 - 1:42 am

I am on a diet which I ate mostly protein foods! It is nice that you also tackle The disadvantage of consuming hemp Protein! This an interesting article and worth reading! Thanks

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