Most adults are quite aware of the correlation between marijuana and hemp. In fact, the only thing that’s different between the two plants is that marijuana contains the mind altering drug THC, whereas hemp contains little to none (~0.3 – 1.5%).
Hemp has been used for ages to make cordage and clothing, and lately has been adapted for use in textiles and as a substitute for many other manufacturing materials such as plastic. One thing that isn’t talked about as much is the nutritional health benefits one can get from consuming ground hemp seeds as a protein source.
Hemp is one of a handful of vegetable sources that contain all 9 essential amino acids and 11 non-essential aminos. This food is considered a godsend by vegans, particularly those who engage in strenuous activity and need more complete protein sources to recover. The protein is most often the seeds, but some like to grind up the entire plant.
Even if you’re not a vegetarian, hemp has several health benefits to offer, including, but not limited to the ability to reduce meat intake for any number of reasons, to improve health and increase longevity.
Keep reading to learn more about this amazing vegetable-based protein source and all the health benefits it can offer.
Hemp Protein Nutritional Breakdown
Each 28 gram (~4 tbsp) serving of hemp protein powder contains:
• 120 calories
• 11 grams carbohydrates
• 12 grams protein
• 3 grams fat
• 5 grams fiber
• 260 milligrams magnesium (65% D.V.)
• 6.3 milligrams iron (35% D.V.)
• 380 milligrams potassium (11% D.V.)
• 60 milligrams calcium (6% D.V.)
Hemp Protein Benefits
1. Complete Amino Profile
Until the last couple of decades, the stark reality about plant-based dietary sources of protein was that people just couldn’t get all 9 essential amino acids needed to maintain good health.
Athletes and bodybuilders once found it particularly difficult to refrain from eating meat for protein, as the most common sources of plant protein simply didn’t have all the aminos need to sustain the building blocks of human life.
Hemp contains adequate amounts of all 9 essential aminos, along with 11 non-essentials that ensure you’re always getting everything your body needs to recover.
2. Loaded With Fiber
Fiber is essential for keeping our bowels moving and our blood healthy. A single 4 tablespoon serving of hemp protein containing 28 grams of hemp seed powder offers around 5 grams of fiber. This is nearly a third of our daily requirements in a relatively small serving size.
Even better, most of the carbohydrates contained in hemp protein are encased in this fiber, making it a very low glycemic food that’s appropriate for diabetics and those on low carb diets trying to lose weight.
3. Iron and Calcium
Four tablespoons of hemp protein offers up a healthy punch of calcium at 15% D.V. and iron at 23% D.V. Both can be difficult to come by when abstaining from meat and dairy products, and each are essential for health throughout the body including bone maintenance, and in the formation of the red bloods cells that transport oxygen throughout the body.
4. Great Source of Essential Plant Fats
Hemp protein comes with a healthy dose of plant fats at 5% D.V., per 28 grams including a perfect 3:1 ratio of omega 3 and 6 fats. Many commercially produced foods have way too much omega 6 and very little, if any, omega 3s – which are normally derived from eating fish.
Omega 6 fats are indeed essential, but consuming too many can lead to a host of health problems including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Omega 3s counteract omega 6 fats and act as potent antioxidants through the body.
5. Antioxidant Rich Food
While many are aware of the benefits from consuming plenty of omega 3s, GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acid); a fatty acid, rarely gets as much fanfare for its role as a potent antioxidant in the body.
GLA is an eicosanoid that helps regulate inflammatory responses and blood pressure, as well as pain and immune responses. Consuming enough in larger doses has shown to help relieve breast pain from premenstrual syndrome as reducing the signs and severity of the skin ailment eczema.
A GLA-rich diet may also help with rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, neuropathy, and attention deficit disorder.
6. Balances Good and Bad Cholesterol
The abundance of omega 3s and GLA are thought to be the main reason behind hemp protein’s ability to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) levels in the blood.
More research is needed, but both fatty acids have been shown to help balance cholesterol naturally, and many have reported hemp protein supplements helped them achieve this goal. The high levels of natural plant fiber in hemp protein also has a massive impact on serum cholesterol levels.
7. Boosts Immune Function
There are two healthful plant proteins in hemp protein powder that help to regulate immune system function in the body; edestin and albumin. Both are easily digested and absorbed by the body and are considered critical components in the formation of the antibodies that protect the body from foreign invaders.
There are several plants containing these proteins, but what makes hemp powder different is the fact that it doesn’t contain trypsin inhibitors or oligosaccharides, which are known to block the absorption of these and other proteins when consumed.
8. Brain Health and Function
The human brain is the fattiest organ in the body, and thus needs dietary fat to repair itself and thrive during daily activities.
There are no specific studies pointing to hemp protein improving brain health or cognitive function, but there are several that the show promising results of consuming essential fatty acids like omega 3 and GLA, in addition to foods like hemp protein that are rich in antioxidants.
9. Weight Loss
A strict diet often means cutting out high fat protein sources such as meat and dairy in order to reduce calories. This has a two-fold negative effect where muscle is lost, which reduces metabolism, making it harder to burn off calories.
Essentially, protein is the last thing a dieter wants to eliminate from their diet, but it’s hard to find a high quality, low-cal source of complete protein to incorporate into the diet.
Hemp protein helps alleviate this problem by packing 12 grams of muscle-saving protein into each serving, while only containing 112 total calories. It’s also slow-digesting compared to other low-cal options like whey protein, meaning less will be wasted by the body.
How to Choose Quality Hemp Protein
No two products are made alike. This is so true when choosing a hemp protein product. There are of course a few different things you need to look for on the label before making a buying decision.
Here are 3 to keep your eyes open for:
1. Organic: This isn’t essential, but if you insist on buying only organically grown products, you’ll want to look for a USDA organic rating for sure.
2. Non-GMO: This should be the minimum standard you insist on, and all the products we recommend are non-GMO by default.
3. Cold-Pressed from seeds: Cold pressing negates the need for dangerous, health-robbing solvents like hexane being used to remove the protein from the seed. This process takes longer, and generally costs more, but is well worth it if you’re trying to avoid poisoning your nervous system!
Recommended Brands of Hemp Protein
1. Bob’s Red Mill Hemp Protein (View on Amazon)
You really can’t go wrong trusting any product made by Bob’s Red Mill. They’ve been around forever, and are the go-to brand for any and all plant seed and nut products. This 4 pound pack of 16 oz vacuum-sealed bags of hemp protein are no exception. Bob’s Red Mill doesn’t use hexane or any other unnatural chemicals to extract the protein from their hemp seeds, and claim this powder to be ground finely enough to act as a flour substitute in all your favorite recipes.
2. Nutiva Hemp Protein (View on Amazon)
Nutiva makes this 3 pound bag of cold-pressed organic hemp protein specifically for the health conscious. No chemicals are used in the making of the flour, and the finished product boasts a 66% edestin protein content, so you know it’s going to provide maximum benefit to your tissues and immune system function. It costs a little more than Bob’s Red Mill per serving, but a USDA organic certification tells you this product delivers where others may not.
3. Navitas Organics (View on Amazon)
Navitas Organics offers a few smaller bag sizes of their organic hemp protein for people who want to test the waters, or simply don’t plan to consume pounds of this specific protein every month. Navitas has several certifications to meet the demands of discerning consumers of their products including Kosher-friendly, USDA organic, non-GMO, vegan friendly, and a gluten-free guarantee.
Hemp protein is arguably the cleanest way to get all the complete protein your body needs to repair itself and grow new tissues. Most sources of protein we put in our body are either incomplete, or when considering the case of animal proteins, cause some level of toxicity in addition to the benefits they offer.
Whether you choose to consume hemp protein because you’re a vegan looking for a complete protein source, or simply want to get more protein without causing undue stress to your digestive system like meat can do, everyone can benefit from adding this superfood to their diet.