With grocery and health food store aisles stocked with supplements and plant-based protein powders, it’s difficult to know which one to pick. Why should you choose hemp protein powder over the bargain-priced tubs of chocolate flavored soy and whey options?
Let’s dive into the breakdown of what hemp protein is, how it’s made, and why it’s beneficial for your body and better for the environment.
Hemp, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, is classified as any derivative of the Cannabis sativa L. plant with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of less than 0.3% on a dry weight basis. This means that hemp contains extremely low levels of the psychoactive component THC and it won’t alter how you’re able to operate. Consuming it also shouldn’t result in a positive drug test.
Hemp protein powder is made using the whole hemp seed and consists of grinding it into a meal, and then removing the seed’s oil. The leftover seed meal is later milled into hemp powder.
Considered a superfood for the immense amount of nutritional benefits, hemp protein powder is rich in fiber, protein and omega-3, and 6 fatty acids.
While the consumption of protein is necessary for our bodies to function, the quality and digestibility matter as well. In a study administered by the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, hemp seed meal scored 90.8–97.5% on protein digestibility and 46–51% on protein digestibility corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS)— preferred method for measuring protein value in human nutrition. On average, hemp protein powder contains around fifteen grams of protein in every 3 tablespoons. While that’s similar to other plant proteins, the high digestibility score is what makes a difference in the case of what protein powder you should consume.
Just because it’s easily digestible doesn’t mean hemp protein powder contains a lesser amount of fiber. Measuring at around 8–10 grams per 3 tablespoons, a serving of hemp protein powder contains a little over ⅓ of the recommended daily fiber intake. With a high fiber concentration, hemp protein powder may help lowering the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and works to improve overall colon health.
Hemp protein powder is also rich in omega–3 and omega–6 fatty acids, both playing a crucial role in brain function, skin, and bone health. With the ever-changing diet culture in the United States, fat tends to be something people stray away from, but these fatty acids are essential for our bodies to function properly. Omega–3 fatty acids are a fundamental part of cell membranes and affect the role of cell receptors in those membranes. Omega–6 fatty acids are only available through consumption and are essential for regulating healthy metabolism and caring for healthy skin, hair, and bone function.
Apart from health benefits, consuming hemp protein powder is an affordable and more environmentally-friendly option, if farmed and harvested responsibly, when it comes to protein powders. In comparison to whey protein, animal byproducts use more water and produce more greenhouse gases than plant-based foods. As far as cost, when comparing plant-based protein powders like soy, pea, and other blends, hemp falls on the more affordable side while still taking quality and responsible farming practices into consideration.