Until the 2018 Farm Bill, growing hemp in the United States was an illegal practice. The plant was erroneously lumped in with marijuana because they come from the same plant family. Of course, hemp is a far cry from its psychoactive cousin.
The truth is that hemp has a number of beneficial uses, spanning from textiles and paper to bioplastics and even food. Hemp has also been a source of nutrition for humans for millennia - now, it is time to rekindle our love for this delicious, protein-filled food.
As more people become aware that meat and dairy farming is not sustainable, there is a push for plant-based protein sources that can meet our needs. Could hemp be the planet's saving grace in this regard? Let's take a little closer look.
There’s Protein in Hemp?!
Believe it or not, hemp is actually packed full of protein and is one of the best sources of plant-based protein you can get. It’s mostly the seeds of the hemp plant which contain protein, however, not the leaves or the flowers (which iswhat CBD oils are made out of).
Many plant-based protein powders are made using hemp seeds. The seeds are ground up and pressed into a fine powder, which can be used as-is or in combo with other protein sources.
Hemp protein powder has an unmistakably earthy, nutty taste, so it is often flavored to appeal to a wider audience. Of course, if you enjoy that earthy flavor you can consume the seeds themselves or enjoy your hemp protein powder raw.
The importance of protein to our overall health cannot be understated. Protein is a “building block” that is used to manufacture nearly every cellular component in our bodies.
For example, it is protein which helps to recover after injury, helps to generate muscle, and helps the immune system do its job. In order to survive, we need to consume a healthy amount of quality protein - it's as simple as that.
And to be sure, people who lead an active lifestyle are especially in need of protein to help their bodies keep up. Protein is of course readily available in meat and fish, so why should we find a way to incorporate hemp protein into our daily diet?
Why Hemp Protein is Beneficial
Compared to other plant-based protein, hemp protein is a legitimate powerhouse. It’s also a pretty sustainable crop to grow, and doesn’t damage soil. Now that hemp is legal throughout the USA, we could be growing it en masse.
Let’s check out some of the major benefits of hemp-based protein.
1. It’s a Complete Protein
Hemp contains all nine essential amino acids. This is pretty impressive as it’s quite rare for a plant source to contain all nine. That being said, research is inconclusive regarding the quantities of each amino acid contained within hemp.
It has been suggested that hemp has a similar amino acid profile to egg whites and soy. However, it’s could have low levels of lysine, which means you would need to look to other sources for this particular amino acid.
A ¼ cup (30g) serving of hemp protein contains approximately 15g of protein packed into just 120 calories. Admittedly this is not a lot compared to something like beef, but for plant-based protein, it doesn't get much better.
2. It’s Plant-Based
Speaking of plant-based, a growing number of people are turning toward vegetarian or vegan diets. Be this for moral, ethical, or environmental reasons, millions are trying to cut down on meat consumption in order to help maintain a healthy planet.
Whatever the reason, plant-based proteins are becoming more popular - and will likely become increasingly important for our survival in the future. As mentioned above, few plant sources offer a complete range of protein. Soy is high-quality protein, but there are concerns about cultivating soy and its impacts on the environment.
Hemp, on the other hand, is easy and quick to grow, and is often grown organically. It doesn’t require much space, it's incredibly beneficial for soil renewal, and of course, it's a complete protein source.
3. Hemp Protein is Easy to Digest
Most animal proteins are easier to digest than plant proteins. However, hemp wins out in this one as research has shown that up to 98% of protein from hemp seeds is digestible. Further, all nine amino acids will be used by your body.
Some scientists believe that this "protein quality" is down to the proteins edestin and albumin, which are broken down easily by the human body. Hemp protein is often talked about on the same level as lentil, which is another fantastic plant-based protein source.
When buying hemp protein, make sure to look out for cold-pressed hemp seeds as heat processing may reduce digestibility by up to 10%.
4. Hemp Seed Protein Contains Other Nutrients
Alongside protein, hemp seeds possess a number of other nutritional benefits. For starters, hemp is extremely high in fiber; just ¼ cup of hemp protein contains 7-8g of fiber (this is 18% of men’s recommended daily intake (RDI) and 28% of women’s).
Other plant proteins, such as pea, soy, and rice, are so refined that they contain very little fiber. Once again, hemp wins in this category. The combination of fiber and protein in hemp should keep you feeling fuller for longer, and will help you to cut unnecessary snacking out of your diet.
Hemp protein also contains unsaturated fats – these are the "healthy fats" that are good for heart health. Hemp seeds possess the ideal ratio of 3:1 omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. The typical Western diet provides a 15:1 ratio of this, which could be one of the reasons why heart disease is so prevalent in the West.
Finally, protein from hemp seeds contains minerals like magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc, plus an assortment of antioxidants to help you stay healthy.
Need any other justification as to why hemp seeds should be considered a superfood?
Precautions to Take with Hemp Protein
Of course, all good things have a downside, and this applies to hemp protein as well. Hemp protein is generally safe, but there can be some side effects that you should know about.
For example, the high quantities of fiber in hemp protein may lead to gas, bloating, and diarrhea if you consume too much. Consume hemp protein slowly, and be careful how much you eat at any one time.
Secondly, there could be very tiny trace amounts of THC in hemp seeds. It’s of course nowhere near enough to produce a high, but it does mean THC will be in your body, which is something to be aware of if you have to take workplace drug tests.
For reference, however, research suggests that eating 300g of hulled hemp seeds every day will not interfere with a urinalysis. In other words, it would be extremely unlikely to fail a drug test because of hemp seed consumption.
It should also go without saying that if you have an allergy to hemp, you should not consume hemp protein as it may cause a reaction.
The Right Dosage of Hemp Protein
As a general rule of thumb, adults should consume 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day. This translates to 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. If you exercise, you will need to consume more than this in order to support muscle growth and recovery.
For instance, according to the International Society of Sports Nutrition people who exercise regularly should eat up to 0.9 g per pound (2 g per kg) of bodyweight each day.
For optimum results, consume several tablespoons of hemp protein powder within two hours after exercising. If you are an athlete, it is best to consume 5-7 tablespoons. Regular people can consume less than that.
Where to Buy Hemp Protein Online
As you now know, hemp protein comes from the seeds of the hemp plant. You can eat these seeds raw or as “hemp hearts”, which is a shelled version of the seeds.
If you don’t want to eat the seeds raw, however, it is pretty easy to cook using hemp seeds. In fact, the earthy, nutty taste can make for a delicious addition to many recipes.
Alternatively, you can simply buy hemp protein powder online. Hemp protein can easily be mixed into a shake or added to a smoothie, meaning you barely even have to think about consuming your daily protein. When buying hemp protein, however, be sure to look out for cold-pressed hemp. This is the least processed, and is therefore generally considered to be the highest quality.