If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you might struggle to get enough daily protein in your diet, especially if you’re physically active and need more protein. One way to boost the protein content of your diet is to enjoy hemp protein like hemp seeds, hemp hearts, or hemp protein powder.
When you add hemp seeds to salads, shakes, and baked goods, hemp protein can help make up for a protein shortfall in a form that’s healthy. You can also find a variety of recipes that use hemp seeds and hemp protein online.
What Is Hemp Protein?
Hemp seeds are a substantial source of protein, containing almost 10 grams in only 3 tablespoons. For protein, hemp protein outshines all other plant-based sources–nearly four times higher than other legumes.
When you compare hemp with grain-based sources like oats and barley, hemp is a complete protein since it contains all nine essential amino acids (the “building blocks” of our bodies). However, hemp is low in two essential amino acids, lysine and tryptophan.
Hemp protein even has more protein than eggs and milk, but without cholesterol or saturated fat. You aren’t likely to get these in a plant-based protein source.
Where Do Hemp Seeds Come From?
Hemp seeds come from the “Cannabis Sativa” plant, which is a member of the same family as marijuana. This is one of the few cannabis crops that can be legally grown in the United States. They’re grown naturally without pesticides and herbicides, so hemp seeds are a no-hassle food source that’s rich in protein and nutrients.
There are two main types of hemp: industrial hemp and non-industrial hemp.
Industrial hemp comes from female cannabis plants grown in the U.S. This type of hemp is used in making things like rope and textiles, and it’s typically higher in protein than other strains. Some countries have approved industrial hemp as a legal crop for use as a food source or medicine.
Why Do People Eat Hemp Seeds?
Vegetarians and vegans are a strong market for hemp since it’s loaded with plant-based protein, high in fiber (2g per ounce), and rich in essential fatty acids like omega-3s, B vitamins, and calcium. Plus, hemp has a nutty flavor that can pair well with salads or even soups.
Some people are allergic to the hulls of hemp seeds, so make sure you’re not one of them before chowing down. Extracts are sometimes available if you’re looking to use the nutritional benefits of hemp seeds without eating the shells.
Hemp Protein for Athletes
If you’re trying to gain muscle mass and bulk up, hemp seeds are a great way to do so. You can incorporate them into your diet in things like protein shakes. Just be sure to watch your portion sizes – just one ounce of hemp seeds contains about 150 calories.
Some health-oriented restaurants even serve hemp seeds as a garnish on top of salads or as part of their nut mix platter, so check out local health food restaurant menus near you and see if they have anything healthy and tasty.
Where Can I Find Hemp Protein?
You can find hemp protein from a variety of manufacturers. Try to look for a source that is organic and non-GMO since hemp is a member of the cannabis family. You’ll also want to make sure that you check the ingredients closely to make sure there are no allergens included in the protein.
Hemp and Omega-3s
Hemp seeds are a great source of omega-3s, which your body can’t produce, so they must be obtained through food sources. The “good” omega-3s (EPA and DHA) come from the foods you eat but can also be found in supplements made from algae (a type of seaweed). It’s best for your body to obtain omega-3s from food, though.
Hemp seeds contain an abundance of ALA – a type of omega-3 that your body converts to EPA and DHA in your body. However, this conversion isn’t efficient. Not all the ALA you take in ends up as EPA or DHA. Therefore, ALA, found in the chloroplasts of plant cells, may not have the same health benefits as animal-based omega-3s. But some research suggests ALA has health benefits independent of its conversation with EPA or DHA.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 Balance
Hemp seeds are one of the best sources of healthy fats around and help you stay balanced by providing you with omega 3s and 6s in a 1:4 ratio. This helps you get the beneficial fats needed for cell growth and repair while avoiding the unhealthy omega-6s that are on the rise in our diets.
The DHA in hemp seeds is one of its best attributes, and you’ll find it in almost all hemp products. This DHA is high-quality, unlike most of the fish oil supplements you may have been taking (because of their lower purity levels).
Hemp’s high fiber content keeps you satiated and full for hours, which is helpful when you’re trying to lose weight. Hemp seeds also contain lignans that help to slow down the aging process and control cholesterol levels.
Hemp Protein Benefits for the Brain and Nervous System
Hemp seeds are also rich in gamma-linolenic acid, an omega-6 fat that is good for your nervous system and brain. This fatty acid can even help improve your memory and reduce the risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s as you age by maintaining healthy neurons.
The Bottom Line
Now you know some of the benefits of hemp seeds and why you might want to add them to your diet. If you can’t find them at your local supermarket, a health food store or natural food market should have them.
- “6 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Hemp Seeds.” 11 Sept. 2018, healthline.com/nutrition/6-health-benefits-of-hemp-seeds.
- “Hemp: Health Benefits, Uses, Dosage, Safety Information ….” webmd.com/diet/hemp-health-benefits-nutrition-uses.
- “Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Health Professional Fact Sheet.” ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/.
- “Understanding Omega-3: Why EPA & DHA are superior to ALA.” 02 Apr. 2020, vegetology.com/blog/article/understanding-omega-3-why-epa-dha-are-superior-to-ala.
- Ghahremanitamadon F, Shahidi S, Zargooshnia S, Nikkhah A, Ranjbar A, Soleimani Asl S. Protective effects of Borago officinalis extract on amyloid β-peptide(25-35)-induced memory impairment in male rats: a behavioral study. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:798535. doi:10.1155/2014/798535.