Did you know that hemp seeds are one of nature’s best sources for plant-based protein? If you’re looking to increase your protein intake from a natural and vegan source, then hemp protein powder just might be the perfect choice for you.
In fact, hemp protein powder is arguably the best vegan protein powder with 20 amino acids, including the nine essential amino acids that your body is unable to produce on its own and must obtain from dietary sources.
Hemp protein powder is not only a protein powerhouse, but it’s also inherently loaded with more healthy omega fatty acids and fiber than many other common protein powders. It doesn’t stop there — hemp has also been shown to improve fatigue and have positive effects on the immune system — and these are just some of the benefits of hemp protein powder. (1) What are the others? Let’s take a look.
What Is Hemp Protein Powder?
Hemp is a distinct variety of the Cannabis sativa plant, which can be grown to maximize the fibers in the stalk of the plant or seed production. Hemp has barely or even no measurable levels of the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabinoid most known for its psychoactive properties.
THC has been researched extensively, and science has shown us that when it’s not smoked, it has substantial health benefits with veritably no side effects. Hemp typically contains about 0.3 percent to 1.5 percent THC, whereas marijuana contains about 5 percent to 10 percent or more THC. So don’t worry — eating hemp certainly will not get you high. Hemp consumption is safe, healthy and legal.
Hemp protein powder and hemp seed oil are both made from the seeds of the hemp plant. Hemp protein powder is easy on the taste buds with a faintly nutty flavor.
Hemp seeds are a powerhouse when it comes to protein with at least 20 amino acids, including the nine essential amino acids (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine). Amino acids are organic compounds that combine to form proteins, and together, amino acids and proteins are the building blocks of the human body.
Hemp protein provides the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 in a healthy 3:1 ratio. Hemp is also one of the few sources of the hard-to-get gamma linolenic acid (GLA), a healthy, plant-derived omega-6 metabolized differently than other less healthy omega-6s. GLA-rich foods like hemp seeds have been observed to help people with:
- Breast pain
- Diabetes and diabetic neuropathy
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Multiple sclerosis
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Skin allergies
Hemp Protein Powder Nutrition Profile
Hemp protein powder is made from hemp seeds, which provide a solid nutritional boost similar to flaxseeds. Hemp protein powder packs a health punch of dietary fiber, chlorophyll, minerals and antioxidants without any saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium or sugar.
A serving — about 4 tablespoons (30 grams) — of an organic, high-quality hemp protein powder contains about (2):
- 120 calories
- 11 grams carbohydrates
- 12 grams protein
- 3 grams fat
- 5 grams fiber
- 260 milligrams magnesium (65 percent DV)
- 6.3 milligrams iron (35 percent DV)
- 380 milligrams potassium (11 percent DV)
- 60 milligrams calcium (6 percent DV)
6 Health Benefits of Hemp Protein Powder
Whether you’re a training athlete, a moderate exerciser or not currently very physically active, there is a wide range of hemp protein powder benefits making it a good choice for just about anyone, including the following.
1. Increases Protein Intake
First and foremost, by consuming hemp protein powder regularly you directly and easily increase your overall protein intake. Why is protein so important? In your body, proteins actually make up the vital organs, muscles, tissues and even some hormones. Proteins also develop, grow and maintain just about every part of you. In addition, they boost metabolism and increase your fat-burning potential. (3)
Without proper daily protein intake, it’s common to find yourself struggling to lose weight, fighting fatigue, suffering from mood swings and many other health issues. As a high-protein source, hemp protein powder helps prevent protein deficiency and get the protein you need.
2. Improves Heart Health
Hemp seeds have an ideal 3:1 balance of omega-3 fatty acids vs. omega-6 fatty acids, which promotes cardiovascular health. More specifically, hemp protein powder contains linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that some studies suggest helps prevent coronary heart disease. (4)
Hemp seeds are also heart-healthy, high-fiber foods. I recommend adding hemp protein powder to a morning smoothie to naturally lower blood pressure, reduce LDL cholesterol, raise HDL cholesterol and improve triglycerides.
3. Decreases Osteoporosis Risk
Hemp is naturally high in the essential omega-6 fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA). Some studies suggest that people who do not get enough essential fatty acids — especially GLA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) — are more likely to have bone loss than those with normal levels of these fatty acids.
In a study of women over 65 with osteoporosis, those who took GLA and EPA supplements had less bone loss over three years than those who took a placebo. Many of the women studied also experienced an increase in bone density. (5) That’s why you should add hemp protein powder to your osteoporosis diet.
4. Cleanses the Colon
Hemp protein powder is rich in soluble and unsoluble fiber. Both forms of fiber naturally cleanse the colon, reducing constipation and toxins in the body. Some studies even suggest that fiber protects against the development of colorectal cancer.
5. Reduces Sugar Cravings
The high nutrient content of hemp protein powder makes it a perfect ally in the fight against the craving for unhealthy sweets. Hemp seed food products offer a healthy dose of dietary fiber, which helps regulate blood glucose. When you keep your glucose levels steady, you’re much less likely to experience energy crashes and aren’t as likely to crave sugar to fill the void.
6. Boosts the Immune System
By consuming hemp protein powder, you can easily give your immune system a boost! Hemp seeds contain the globular plant proteins edestin (65 percent to 67 percent) and albumin (33 percent to 35 percent). These globular proteins are responsible for enzymatic functions in the blood plasma along with antibody formation, making them critical for strong immune function.
Edestin is considered the most easily digestible protein and is very similar to protein in the human body. Hemp contains the highest known levels of edestin in the plant kingdom, making it a superior source of protein. Albumin is another highly digestible, high-quality source of plant protein. Hemp seeds are also free of trypsin inhibitors and oligosaccharides, two things that negatively affect the absorption and digestibility of other plant sources of protein. (7)
Best Vegan/Vegetarian Protein Powders
The three top-selling protein powders are whey, soy and rice. Whey proteins are globular proteins derived as by-products of cheese production, soy proteins are derived from dehulled and defatted soybeans, and rice proteins are extracted from sprouted brown rice.
Whey protein can be an excellent choice for vegetarians. It’s a smart choice if you’re looking to build muscle, lose excess weight and support overall health. Whey is highly absorbable and super-easy to digest. It’s even tolerable by people who are lactose-intolerant. However, since whey protein powder is derived from cheese production, it’s clearly not an option for vegans.
While soy protein can be an option for vegans and vegetarians, I stick with my recommendation to steer clear of soy protein. Is soy bad for you? Because of the phytoestrogen load as well as the fact that most soy is genetically engineered, the answer is “yes.” Unlike soy beans, hemp seeds are not subjected to genetic modification.
Brown rice protein powder and pea protein powder are both good options for vegetarians as well as vegans. Both powders are gluten- and dairy-free. Brown rice protein is packed with incredible antioxidants and nutrients to support weight loss. Pea protein has a lot to offer too, but neither brown rice or pea protein has as impressive of an amino acid profile as hemp.
A great thing about hemp protein powder is that not only can it be purchased in a certified organic form, but hemp farmers also say that its cultivation in general hardly requires pesticides, herbicides or petrochemical fertilizers. It just happens to be one of those plants that lends itself to organic agricultural methods, and this makes hemp a comparatively safer plant source of protein in general.
Protein-rich hemp not only offers a complete amino acid profile, but it’s also easily digestible so having hemp protein powder pre-workout won’t cause stomach issues while your exercise.
Hemp Protein Powder History & Interesting Facts
The hemp plant, Cannabis sativa, has been cultivated by humans for thousands of years, mainly for its strength as a fiber and for medicinal uses. Some of the earliest archeological hemp evidence (about 10,000 B.C.) comes from rope imprints on broken Chinese pottery. (10) Hemp’s many uses include food products, textiles, building materials, bioplastics, fuel and more.
Hemp was once widely grown in the U.S. for its fiber. George Washington was even a hemp farmer. In the early 20th century, hemp-derived cellulose was promoted as an affordable and renewable raw material for plastics. After World War II, fears that industrial hemp was the same as marijuana discouraged farmers from growing hemp. The last crop of hemp was grown in Wisconsin in 1958, and by 1970, the Controlled Substances Act formally prohibited cultivation. Today’s hemp utilized to make hemp protein powder is imported mainly from other countries like Canada. (11)
Several years ago, because of issues with drug testing, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration tried to pass a law banning the sale of hemp products (that were ingested or applied) in the U.S. This caused health food stores to pull hemp products off the shelves.
After additional research from Canada, it was found that drug tests did not confuse hemp and marijuana, nor did hemp products create the “high” associated with marijuana. Hemp products made their way back onto the shelves in health food stores, and demand has been on the increase.
How to Use Hemp Protein Powder
On average, a person needs about half of his or her body weight in protein each day. The ratio is even higher if you’re an athlete. By including hemp protein in your diet, you can easily meet your daily protein needs.
Look for a hemp protein powder that only has one ingredient: hemp protein. You don’t want any added hexane, dairy, lactose or sweeteners. The typical recommendation for hemp protein powder is one to four tablespoons per day.
You can use hemp protein just like you use any other protein powder. Add it to a smoothie or shake for breakfast or a pre- or post-workout protein boost. You can also simply blend hemp protein powder with your favorite milk.
You can also try adding hemp protein powder to hot cereal, yogurt, pancakes, granola bars, protein bars, muffins, brownies, cakes and breads. You can use hemp protein to replace up to 25 percent of the flour in baked goods, which adds protein, fiber, healthy fats and lots of nutrients to your finished product!
Here are some delicious recipes you don’t want to miss — simply use hemp as your protein powder of choice:
- Superhuman Shake for Strength and Muscle
- Thin Mint Protein Smoothie
- Berry Protein Smoothie
- Dark Chocolate Protein Truffles
Hemp Protein Powder Side Effects
Like any protein supplement, hemp protein powder should be consumed in relation to overall dietary protein goals and how much dietary protein is consumed via other sources. Protein goals vary from person to person so check with a nutritionist if you are unsure of your needs.
A few hemp protein powder side effects are possible. If you have any health or general concerns, consult your doctor before you buy hemp protein powder, especially if you take blood-thinning medication. Hemp protein powder can sometimes cause mild diarrhea, but the best way to avoid this is to start with a very low dosage (one teaspoon) and slowly increase.
People that get herpes infections (including cold sores) need to be careful when it comes to hemp protein powder since the protein from hemp seeds contains significantly high levels of the amino acid arginine. Arginine is important for wound healing, hormone production and immune function, but high levels of arginine in the diet actually encourage herpes infection since arginine is required by the virus to replicate viral proteins. People with recurring, chronic or acute herpes infections should most likely refrain from consuming hemp seed products daily.
The main warning with hemp seed protein is for people who suffer from autoimmune conditions. Hemp seed protein comprises up to 65 percent globulin edistin, which is required by the human body for making blood proteins and immune system boosters, such as antibodies and gamma globulin. While this nutrition is beneficial for the majority of the population, victims of autoimmune conditions may find hemp seed products are too stimulating on the immune system.
There has been no research yet on hemp seed products and autoimmune conditions — however it’s known that the combination of essential fatty acids and amino acids in hemp seed increases white blood cells in animals and humans. Readers suffering from autoimmune conditions or who are taking immunosupressive drugs should use hemp seed protein with caution. (12)
Hemp Protein Powder Takeaways
- Hemp seeds are one of nature’s best sources for plant-based protein.
- Hemp protein powder has 20 amino acids, including the nine essential amino acids that your body is unable to produce on its own and must obtain from dietary sources.
- THC has substantial health benefits with veritably no side effects when not smoked.
- Hemp consumption is safe, healthy and legal — and it won’t get you high.
- Hemp protein powder increases protein intake, improves heart health, decreases osteoporosis risk, cleanses the colon, reduces sugar cravings and boosts the immune system.
- Hemp protein powder is typically the safest option, as it rarely has additives or pesticides added.