When most of us think of protein, images of eggs, seafood, and chicken likely come to mind—but high-quality protein doesn’t need to come from an animal.
In fact, diets high in plant-based protein have been linked to several health benefits—such as lower body weight, lower cholesterol, and lower blood pressure levels. They’re also known to lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.
While there are a handful of plant-based proteins available—such as soy or pea protein powders—hemp protein is considered to be one of the most high quality, all-natural plant-based proteins out there.
What is hemp protein?
Made from the seeds of the hemp plant, hemp protein is an excellent source of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, and a strong amino acid profile.
It’s produced by first extracting oil from the hemp seeds, then grinding the remaining seeds into a fine powder.
During this process, the psychoactive ingredient THC—aka tetrahydrocannabinol—is removed, so consuming hemp protein powder will not get you high or cause you to fail a drug test. It’s completely safe and legal.
What are the benefits?
Many health experts consider hemp protein to have a superior nutritional value compared to other plant proteins.
For one, hemp protein is full of amino acids. Twenty of them, to be exact, including the nine essential ones that the body is unable to produce on its own.
“Whenever we’re discussing plant-based proteins the main concern is always, it is enough protein? Unlike other plant-based protein, hemp protein is a complete protein, offering all nine essential amino acids, where other plant-based proteins do not,” registered dietician Brigitte Zeitlin, owner of BZ Nutrition and Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods RD Partner, told Remedy Review.
“This makes hemp protein a total protein powerhouse,” she added.
Thanks to all those amino acids, hemp protein is highly digestible. And the easier a protein can be digested, the more efficiently the body can use it to build and repair tissue.
It’s also packed with both soluble and insoluble fiber, which, according to the Harvard Public School of Health, can reduce the risk of heart disease, diverticular disease, and constipation. Aka, it can provide you with a bit of a colon cleanse, if that’s what you’re after.
Most hemp protein powders contain at least 10 grams of fiber per serving, which accounts for approximately half of the FDA’s 20-35-gram recommended daily value. On the contrary, soy, pea, and rice protein powders tend to be highly refined and, consequently, contain limited amounts of fiber.
That’s not all.
A recent study found that hemp seeds contain strong antioxidant properties, which protect your body from oxidative damage—you know, the cellular damage that leads to aging, cancer, and other diseases.
Hemp seeds are also rich in essential fatty acids and contain an ideal 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, making them a heart healthy supplement.
“Hemp protein powder is great to add to your diet when you’re looking to increase your intake of all those nutrients, especially omega 3 and 6,” Zietlin said, “and is also a wonderful source to get your daily protein.”
Who is it ideal for?
Hemp protein isn’t just for our vegan and vegetarian friends.
Dr. Olivia Rose, a naturopathic doctor at Vitarock, has seen her fair share of meat-eaters adopt a more plant-based diet for health reasons.
“Hemp protein may not only appeal to vegetarians and vegans, but also to the carnivores and omnivores who are looking for healthy additions to their diets,” Rose said. “Dairy and legume sensitivity is also common in my practice, which means that hemp protein is a more digestible option over whey and pea protein supplements for these individuals.”
She’s also seen many people swap out the meat-based proteins for environmental reasons.
“Meat-focused or omnivorous diets generate more green house emissions mainly from the methane gas produced from animal manure,” Rose explained. “Plant-based diets don’t generate as much green house emissions, require less water, and lead to less rain forest destruction.”
Lastly, because hemp protein is stacked with amino acids, it’s a healthful supplement for athletes. That’s because athletes require more protein to maintain their muscle mass.
During intense workouts, the body breaks down protein in our muscles and—with the help of amino acids—rebuilds them over the course of a day or two.
What’s it go best with?
Hemp protein is incredibly versatile and can be used similarly to other protein supplements.
Additionally, many people find hemp protein powder to have a nutty, earthy taste that blends well with many recipes.
Try adding it to a shake or a smoothie or mixed with plant or dairy-based milk, coffee, or hot cereals—such as oatmeal, quinoa, or buckwheat.
Hemp protein is fair game for children, too, and can be added to their favorite snacks or drinks to boost nutritional value and keep them feeling full and satisfied.
What kind of hemp protein should I buy?
Hemp protein powders can be purchased online, at a traditional grocery store, or a health food store. But before you pick up just any bottle, there are a few key items you want to be on the look out for.
“Before you buy a hemp protein powder, always read the label,” Rose advised. “Look for non GMO or organic brands and check that it contains no additional additives, such as synthetic sweeteners.”
Skip the powders that contain excessive amounts of sugar and avoid those with cumbersome ingredient lists.
Lastly, look for hemp protein made from cold-pressed seeds. Research has shown that intense heat can lower the digestibility of hemp seed meal by about 10%.
Listen, we all need to get our protein from somewhere. Our body needs it to keep up with daily repair and maintenance.
According to many health experts, there are few protein sources as nutritional as hemp. So, do your body and the environment a solid, and give hemp protein a go.