Hemp is an incredible plant. And finally, thanks to legislation put forth in the U.S. Farm Bill, it is a plant that's legal to cultivate here in the United States.
While hemp is of course used to make some of the market's highest quality CBD products
, few people know that it's also full of nutritional benefits - such as protein. In this article, we highlight everything you need to know about hemp protein, and how you can incorporate it into your daily routine.
The Hemp Plant Is Full of Protein
Protein is an essential part of anyone's diet. Humans usually get protein from meat, fish, and poultry, though recently more and more have been focusing on practical plant-based alternatives. Believe it or not, hemp contains one of the highest ratios of usable protein across all plant-based options.
Part of the draw to hemp seeds is their rich, nutty flavor. Hemp seeds and hemp seeds hearts can be added to just about anything, including smoothies, cereals, oatmeal, salads, and more. High-density hemp protein powders are also becoming increasingly popular, though they are a bit more bitter and not as tasty as pure shelled hemp seeds.
Amazing Facts About Hemp Protein
Compared to other plant proteins, hemp protein is a genuine powerhouse. There are lots of reasons to love the hemp plant, but its high protein content is one of the most significant. Let's take a look at some hemp protein facts that you probably weren't aware of, as well as some of the key benefits of hemp protein.
1. It’s a Complete Protein
A complete protein is one that possesses all nine essential amino acids. It's rare to find a plant-based source that has all nine, making hemp somewhat of a rarity in this field.
While this is excellent, it's worth noting that hemp possesses varying quantities of each amino acid. For example, while hemp protein has a similar amino acid profile to egg whites and soy, it contains relatively low levels of lysine.
That being said, just ¼ cup (30g) of hemp protein contains around 15g of protein alongside 120 calories. Compared to meat, this may not sound like a lot, but it's one of the best plant-based sources around.
2. It’s Better for the Planet
For vegetarians and vegans, finding a reliable source of plant-based protein is essential - not to mention difficult. Research
has indicated that plant-based proteins are a suitable replacement for animal sources, and they may also be more environmentally friendly.
Also, since hemp can be sustainably farmed, it could have very real implications as far as becoming a practical, widespread source of protein for future generations.
3. It's Easy to Digest
Research from 2010
indicates that 91-98% of the protein in ground hemp seed is digestible. This means that the body can make use of all the beneficial amino acids that are present.
The quality of hemp protein could be due to the presence of edestin and albumin, which are proteins that are easily broken down by the human body. Along with lentils, hemp protein is an easily digestible, high-quality source of plant-based protein that everyone should incorporate into their diet.
It's also worth noting that heat can reduce the digestibility of hemp by up to 10%. As a result, try and only buy hemp protein products that are made from cold-pressed hemp seeds.
4. Hemp Seeds Contain Other Nutrients
Alongside protein, hemp seeds are packed with other nutrients. For one, hemp is extremely high in fiber. Just ¼ cup of hemp protein contains 18% of men's (and 28% of women's) Recommended Daily Intake (RDI).
In comparison, other plant-based proteins – like pea, soy, and rice – are so refined that they contain little fiber. The fiber content of hemp also means that it keeps you fuller for longer, which is ideal for those attempting to lose weight or cut out snacking.
Lastly, hemp protein contains lots of unsaturated fat – this is the 'healthy fat' that is essential for heart health. The essential fatty acids it contains include omega 3 and omega 6. The ideal ratio of these acids is 3:1, but the typical Western diet provides roughly 15:1. This could be a driver of heart disease. Luckily, hemp seeds contain the ideal 3:1 ratio.
Are There Any Risks to Eating Hemp Protein?
Hemp protein is generally safe. However, everything has a downside. High quantities of hemp protein can trigger some side effects, including gas, bloating, and diarrhea. This is due to the high fiber content.
Secondly, there could be trace amounts of THC in hemp seeds. There is not enough to produce a high, but it does mean that there could be THC in your body. For reference, research suggests that you would need to eat more than 300g of hulled hemp seeds daily to risk flagging positive on a urinalysis. As a result, it's highly unlikely.
Taking the Right Amount of Hemp Protein
As a general rule of thumb, adults should consume 0.36g of protein per pound of body weight each day, or 0.8g per kilogram. When exercising, you may need to consume more than this to support muscle growth and repair.
For the best results, consume several tablespoons of hemp protein powder within two hours of exercising. If you aren't working out, you can take it at any time of day.
Summary on Hemp Protein - And Where to Get It
Hemp protein is a fantastic source of protein for vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores. It can be consumed both raw in the form of "hemp hearts," or as a hemp protein powder. It's easy to cook using hemp seeds, but using a protein shake may be more beneficial for those that are looking to build muscle.
Many protein and supplement brands stock hemp protein powder. Take a look at brands' vegan sections to see if they stock hemp. Also, when shopping, be sure to look for cold-pressed hemp seeds, as these are less processed and therefore possess a higher quality overall.