Hemp protein powder: the best protein of plant origin?

Protein powders are popular nutritional supplements used by athletes, bodybuilders and those who try to gain weight or increase muscle mass.

Hemp protein powder is one of the most popular varieties, obtained by grinding pressed hemp seeds into a fine powder.

It has an earthy nutty flavor and is often added to shakes or smoothies to increase protein intake.

Hemp is a high quality vegan protein that contains the nine essential amino acids, as well as fiber, healthy fats and minerals.

This article reviews the pros and cons of hemp protein powder and determines if it is the best protein powder of vegetable origin available.

A complete protein

Hemp protein powder

Hemp is a complete protein, which contains the nine essential amino acids that humans must obtain from food.

However, the research is mixed in the exact amounts of these amino acids it contains.

One study found that the amino acid profile of hemp protein is similar to egg white and soy, which are sources of high quality protein (1).

However, other studies have shown that hemp has relatively low levels of the essential amino acid lysine, which makes it a lower quality option for that nutrient (2, 3).

A 1/4-cup serving (30 grams) of hemp protein powder contains about 120 calories and 15 grams of protein, depending on the brand (4, 5).

That's less protein per serving than soybean or pea protein powders, which are more highly refined and contain up to 90% protein (6).

However, for those who prefer less processed protein sources, hemp is a good option.

Summary Hemp protein is a complete protein, which contains the nine essential amino acids, but more research is needed on its quality. Each 1/4-cup serving (30 grams) contains 15 grams of protein.

Easy to digest

In general, animal proteins are easier to digest than plant proteins, but research shows that 91-98% of the protein in ground hemp seed is digestible (2, 7).

This means that your body can use almost all of the amino acids in the hemp protein powder for important bodily functions, such as repair and maintenance.

Researchers believe that hemp is so easy to digest because it contains the proteins edestine and albumin, which the body can break down quickly (3).

However, other studies that judge proteins according to digestibility and amino acid content consider that hemp protein is of moderate quality, approximately on par with lentils (2).

Research has found that thermal processing can reduce the digestibility of hemp protein by approximately 10%, so look for hemp protein powders made from cold-pressed seeds (2).

Summary Hemp protein is very easy to digest, but look for cold-pressed hemp protein for the highest quality.

A good source of fiber

Diets rich in fiber have been linked to many health benefits, including improved blood sugar, healthier intestinal bacteria and a lower risk of bowel cancer (8, 9, 10).

Women and men should consume 25 grams and 38 grams of fiber per day respectively, but studies show that less than 5% of American adults comply with these recommendations (11, 12).

Foods rich in fiber, such as hemp protein, can help close this gap.

Hemp protein powders may contain different amounts of fiber depending on whether they were made with peeled or unshelled hemp seeds and if additional fiber was added.

Most hemp protein powders contain 7-8 grams of fiber per 1/4 cup (30 grams) and provide 18-28% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of fiber for men and women respectively (4, 5 ).

In comparison, other protein powders of plant origin, such as soy, pea and rice, are highly refined and contain very little fiber (6, 13).

Hemp protein powder is an excellent way to add protein and fiber to your diet, which can make you feel fuller for longer (14).

Summary Hemp protein powder is a good source of fiber, which contains 8 grams per serving, much more than most other protein powders of plant origin.

Contains unsaturated fats

The hemp protein powder is made from hemp seeds that were pressed to remove their oils, but still contains approximately 10% of the original fat content (15).

A 1/4-cup serving (30 grams) has about 3 grams of fat, most of which is not saturated and is excellent for heart health (4, 5, 16, 17).

In addition, hemp seeds contain an ideal 3: 1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (18, 19).

A typical western diet provides an unbalanced 15: 1 ratio of these fats, and has been linked to many chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer (20).

The consumption of foods such as hemp seeds, which have a lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, can help correct this imbalance and improve heart health (21).

Since hemp protein powder is less refined than other isolated proteins, it contains more fat than most protein powders.

This fat content may be good for people who want to add more heart-healthy unsaturated fats to their diet, but they may be undesirable for those looking for a protein powder with fewer calories.

Since hemp protein powder contains fat, it should be stored in the refrigerator after opening to prevent fats from becoming rancid.

Summary The hemp protein powder contains omega-6 and omega-3 fats in an ideal ratio of 3: 1 that promotes heart health, but is a little higher in calories because of this.

Rich in minerals and antioxidants

Hemp seeds are an incredibly rich source of minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese, zinc and copper (15).

To date, no research has investigated how the processing of seeds into protein powder affects the levels of these nutrients.

However, the nutrition information labels on many hemp protein products indicate that they contain up to 80% of the RDI for magnesium and 52% for iron per serving (22).

In addition, hemp seeds contain compounds called lignanamides that have strong antioxidant properties (23).

Antioxidants protect your body from oxidative damage, which has been linked to chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, so eating foods that contain antioxidants is good for your health (24, 25).

Summary Hemp protein powder is a good source of antioxidants and minerals, especially magnesium and iron, that benefit your health.

Earthy taste

The hemp protein powder is greenish brown in color and has a taste that can be described as earthy, nutty or grassy.

While many people enjoy the taste of hemp protein powder, others find it too strong.

It is worth trying a small amount of hemp protein to see if you enjoy it before buying it in large quantities.

Since hemp protein is less refined than other types of protein powder, it has a somewhat rougher texture.

It combines well with shakes and smoothies, but can be gritty when shaken with water.

Summary Hemp protein powder has an earthy flavor that many people enjoy. It is better to consume it mixed with other ingredients, since it can have a thicker texture than other protein powders of vegetable origin.

Recommended doses

Adults need at least 0.36 grams of protein per pound (0.8 grams per kg) of body weight, every day (26).

For a 150-pound adult (68.2 kg), this equals 55 grams of protein per day.

However, people who exercise need more protein to maintain their muscle mass.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends that regular athletes eat 0.64 to 0.9 grams per pound (1.4 to 2.0 grams per kg) of body weight per day (27).

People who perform resistance training while reducing calories, such as bodybuilders and fitness competitors, may need up to 1.4 grams per pound (3.1 grams per kg) of body weight (27, 28).

Athletes should consume protein within two hours after exercise to obtain maximum recovery benefits. Doses of 5-7 tablespoons of hemp protein powder are most effective for building muscles (26).

While whole foods should make up the majority of the protein in your diet, supplementation with protein powder can be a good source of additional protein.

Summary Hemp protein powder can be a useful additional protein source, especially for athletes. 5-7 tablespoons provides the ideal amount of protein for exercise recovery.

Side effects and precautions

While hemp protein powder is safe for most people, there may be potential side effects.

Since hemp protein contains relatively high amounts of fiber, some people may experience gas, bloating or diarrhea if they consume too quickly.

In addition, people who are allergic to hemp should avoid hemp protein powder (29).

Some animal studies suggest that hemp can be dangerous for pregnant or lactating women, people with anemia and people with poor immunity, but human studies are needed (30, 31).

Although hemp belongs to the same family of plants as marijuana, hemp seeds contain very little of the psychoactive compound THC. Research shows that eating up to 0.67 pounds or 300 grams of peeled hemp seed per day does not interfere with urine drug tests (32).

Summary Hemp is safe for most people, although it can cause digestive problems. It should be avoided by anyone with allergies to hemp and certain medical conditions. This protein powder does not contain enough THC to affect the results of pharmacological tests.

The bottom line

Hemp protein powder is a complete protein that contains heart-healthy antioxidants, minerals, fiber and unsaturated fats.

It is a good choice, especially for vegans, but it may be less nutritious than other proteins of vegetable origin, such as soy.

While it is generally safe, it can cause side effects or adverse reactions in some people.

More research is needed to determine the quality of the hemp protein powder, but it is a good choice for those looking for a nutritious protein powder with fiber and healthy fats.

Reference: https: //www.healthline.com/nutrition/hemp-protein-powder


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