Hemp protein powder – the plant-based protein superfood?
The trend for healthier and better foods seems to be something that is set to continue.
This can be shown by the rise of the plant-based movement – 200% growth year-on-year in the US alone – and the accompanying explosion of vegan options in supermarkets and restaurants, especially in the West.
With this growth has come the increased interest in alternative food supplements, such as plant-based protein supplements.
So with this focus becoming more widely accepted, it makes sense that people are willing to experiment and try new types of additions to their daily regime, which includes Hemp protein.
What is hemp protein powder?
Hemp powder is the protein from hemp seeds, which are ground into a fine powder and used as a nutritional supplement to help build and repair muscle.
Hemp is a separate variety of plant to its big brother, marijuana and therefore has no measurable levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), meaning you won’t get high from ingesting it, or arrested anywhere!
Essentially, it is the same cannabis plant practically without THC, but with a lot of cannabidiol (CBD) which neutralizes the THC.
Why we should all be considering hemp as part of your supplement regime?
While there are seemingly endless choices when it comes to protein supplements, we think that hemp protein should be top of your list of priorities, for a number of reasons.
- Hemp’s fantastic amino acid profile
Not only does hemp contain around 25% protein, but it is also complete. This means that is contains all nine of the essential amino acids (the one that the body must get from food).
And while some studies have shown that the levels of Lysine are lower than pea or soy protein, hemp more than makes up for this with the multitude of other health benefits that we’ll now go into.
- Easy to digest
It’s great to have all the essential amino acids in your post-workout shake, but if the body is unable to digest them properly, it’s also a little pointless.
One of the main health claims for hemp protein is that it’s up to 98% digestible.
This is mainly because it contains two plant proteins edestin and albumin. Edestin in particular is easy to digest by the human body because its structure is very similar to human protein. Hemp is also free from antinutrients such as oligosaccharides. This means that you can count on the bio-availability of every gram of protein that you ingest, which is a great bang-for-buck reason if ever we heard one.
Look out for the least, processed and cold-pressed versions to ensure that you maximise this factor.
- Hemp contains unsaturated fats
Hemp is full of the unsaturated fats DHA & EPA, which have been shown to be excellent for heart health. These fats have been shown to lower the levels of triglycerides in the blood, which therefore reduces our chances of raised cholesterol, atherosclerosis and heart disease.
- Hemp protein is a great source of fibre
A diet in high-fibre has been shown to be helpful in the reduction of blood sugar, as well as improving gut health and digestion – and keeping you full for longer. This is one of the key benefits, especially for those on a standard western diet which is typically low in fibre.
A cup of hemp protein can give you as much as 32 grams of fibre, which is more than your daily recommended allowance!
- Hemp is full of healthy, vital minerals
Hemp contains a range of minerals, including Magnesium, iron, potassium and calcium. The levels of magnesium and iron, in particular, are extraordinarily high, with as much as 65% and 35% of your daily allowance per 30 grams.
These minerals play a vital role in the human body with functions such as metabolism, synthesis of fatty acids and proteins and neuromuscular activity. This means it is great as an aid to growth and recovery after a workout.
Let’s face it, if you’re serious about exercise and want to maximise your performance, you need to ensure that you’re getting enough of the good stuff. There’s little point talking about the benefits of hemp protein if it’s unaffordable.
Happily, hemp protein is one the most cost effective out there. Buy in bulk and you can see the cost reduction to around $65 per 5 lb pack.
So, why aren’t we talking about hemp protein more?
If Hemp has so many benefits, why aren’t more people talking about it? Well, for all of the good stuff that we’ve covered, there are still some areas where hemp protein falls short.
- Lower biological value
The low levels of lysine in hemp protein means that on paper at least, hemp is a little behind the soya and whey competitors.
However, an easy fix for this is to either up the amount you ingest per day or mix with another plant-based protein such as rice protein, which is rich in this amino acid. The result? A superfood, protein powerhouse!
- Higher carbohydrate levels
Hemp has around four times the amount of protein per 100 grams than the equivalent amount of rice or soy protein. This makes it a poor choice for those on a ketogenic (low carb) diet, or for those who have a higher than normal risk of developing insulin resistance.
However, with its high fibre content and other health benefits, we think it’s worth overlooking this factor and focussing instead on reducing your levels of dietary carbohydrates such as bread, pasta and more refined, sugary foods.
- Taste and texture
Maybe the most important factor to many people is the taste and texture of the product. And while it’s true that pure, unprocessed hemp protein can take a little getting used to (some people simply hate the earthy texture too), we think it’s worth sticking it out.
When I began to use hemp protein powder I used to add agave syrup or a small spoon of molasses to help with the taste. Since then I have become accustomed to the product and actually enjoy the purity of the taste.
There are also many sweetened hemp protein products on the market. Just make sure that you opt for the highest quality that you can afford.
We think that hemp is a great, low cost, super-healthy protein supplement that you can drink all day long (figuratively speaking) without the potential for health consequences that you might find in other proteins such as soy or whey.
And while the lysine content might be a little lower than other proteins, the additional digestive, nutritional and cost benefits make this option one not to miss.
As with all your dietary choices, our best advice is to try for a month or two and see how your body responds. That should be enough time for your body to get used to effects of the additional fibre and minerals that you’re ingesting.
Let us know what you think, or how you found switching to hemp impacted your diet and lifestyle.