Plant-based proteins are becoming more and more popular as people are moving away from beef, pork, fowl and fish for essential amino acids. So where does hemp protein fit in this picture and what in the world is it anyway?
Hemp protein has been one of the food pyramid’s best kept secrets for years, but thankfully the secret is out. In fact, it’s what the nutritionists call a high-quality protein as it contains all nine essential amino acids that can be found in animal protein, too.
So if you’re looking to move away from the barnyard for your recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of daily protein, or to supplement your animal protein intake with more micronutrients, hemp protein is a great place to start.
What Is It?
Hemp plants are considered herbs and are part of the cannabis family, which gives them either a good or bad reputation depending on your perspective.
Hemp protein is derived from hemp plant seeds. The oil is extracted from the seeds, which leaves a seed cake that is milled down into a fine powder. That fine powder is the hemp protein that’s often combined with other ingredients to create protein shake mixes and various nutritional supplements.
Growing hemp for protein requires very little fertilizer, so it’s an environmentally friendly crop. Hemp crops also seem resistant to weeds, making the production of hemp protein at the farming stage a bit less labor intensive.
Hemp Protein Benefits
High in fiber content and easily digestible, hemp protein is at the top of the plant-based protein list for additional important nutritional content, too.
Vegans concerned about getting high-quality fatty acids (without eating meat or dairy) can turn to hemp protein for a healthy source of Omega-6 and Omega-3. The percentage of beneficial Linoleic acids in hemp protein is considered ideal, especially with the presence of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). As essential EPA is typically found mainly in animal protein, hemp protein gets extra points for having better quality Omega-3 than many of its fellow nut and seed proteins, too.
Hemp protein is a great substitute for whey protein, which is derived from milk and can cause health concerns for people with lactose intolerance.
Sprinkling hemp seeds over a salad of greens and other vegetables gives the meal an extra boost of filling fiber for healthy, natural carbs and a satisfying crunch. These healthy seeds full of protein are great stirred into coconut milk yogurt, too.
Where Can You Get It?
Most health food stores and large co-op markets carry hemp protein powders, as well as hemp seeds that could be used whole or crushed. Popular brands include Bob’s Mills and Nutiva.
A well-balanced diet can be supplemented by hemp protein with clear benefits, but don’t rely solely on this seed as your only protein source. Keep in mind that eating a variety of healthy proteins is essential to optional nutrition. If you’re strictly an herbivore, enjoy hemp protein with other great protein foods like flaxseeds, nuts, legumes and vegetables like cauliflower, asparagus and peas.