Every time you round the supplement aisle, there’s a new kind of protein powder.
But somehow, plant-based options are still limited. And when you’re sticking to a mostly plant-based diet, some protein supplementation may be necessary. Luckily, a new option is hitting the shelves: hemp protein. Yes, that hemp.
Shockingly, this derivative of the cannabis family is high in protein, with none of the psychedelic effects. This low-stakes protein source makes an excellent option for vegetarians, vegans, and those looking to consume less meat and dairy.
“I like hemp protein powder because in terms of protein powder, first of all, it’s plant-based and vegan,” says Perri Halperin, M.S., R.D., clinical nutrition coordinator at Mount Sinai Health System. “And then also as compared to the animal-based protein powder, it’s less processed, because it doesn’t need to be isolated or extracted from the whole food.”
We asked experts all about the ins and outs of hemp protein.
What is Hemp?
Hemp protein is derived from hemp seeds.
Hemp is a type of cannabis plant that contains 0.3 percent THC or less—much lower than the infamous marijuana plant. While its close relatives are known for their
psychedelic effects, the hemp plant doesn’t contain enough THC to produce the ‘high’ feeling typically associated with consuming cannabis.
It packs protein, though—around 25 to 30 percent of the seed, Veronica Rouse, R.D., The Heart Dietitian, told Men’s Health.
“It also has all nine essential amino acids. And when it comes to vegetarian sources, that can be hard to find,” Halperin says. “Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.”
Add hemp protein powder to your smoothies, and baked goods. Or just drink it straight to improve your protein intake, especially if you have a mostly plant-based diet.
What Are Some Other Benefits of Hemp Protein?
Not only can hemp protein powder add some much-needed protein to your diet, but it can also bump up your fibre intake. Meat and dairy forms of protein, like whey and casein, can’t do that.
“Hemp seeds are a great source of fibre because they contain both insoluble and soluble fibre,” says Rouse. “The combination of both fibres helps you feel full longer, it makes you less likely to eat more and helps manage your energy intake.”
There are also several other health benefits of hemp. They are loaded with minerals like potassium and magnesium and fatty acids like “omega-3 fatty acids. There are only a few sources of this healthy fat and hemp is one of them,” says Ginger Hultin, M.S., R.D.N., author of Anti-Inflammatory Diet Meal Prep.
What Are Some Disadvantages?
One of the best advantages of hemp protein is how few disadvantages it has.
Hemp protein powder is “generally well-tolerated and easily digested,” says Hultin. Unless someone needs to be on a low-fibre diet for medical reasons, such as diarrhoea issues or post-gastrointestinal surgery, there’s little reason to not try out this product. If you’re allergic to hemp, it’s best to steer clear of hemp protein powder, too.
But, for most people, it’s generally safe.
What Should You Look for When Buying a Hemp Protein Powder?
Watch out for added ingredients, Hultin says. Many protein powder companies may add in sugars and artificial sweeteners, colours, flavours, or other dietary supplements. There’s no need for all of those.
The FDA does not regulate supplements, but companies can get their products tested by a third party. Your best bet when buying a hemp protein is to make sure it’s backed by a third-party certification label, like Informed Choice, National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), and United States Pharmacopeia (USP). You can find their seals of certification on the containers.
“In terms of frequency, ideally I want most of your protein coming from whole foods, but hemp protein powder is very minimally processed,” Halperin says. “So, it’s close to a whole food source and so can be good to supplement for those who are needing a little extra protein.”
*Words: Cori Ritchey
*This article was originally published by Men’s Health US