What is hemp protein?
Hemp protein is a protein found in the seed of the cannabis sativa plant. Despite its origin, hempseed does not contain psychoactive compounds and is an excellent source of protein, essential fatty acids and various nutrients. Hemp has many benefits over other protein sources, such as a broader range of amino acids, easier digestibility, and a more balanced ratio of essential fatty acids.
Benefits of hemp protein
Hemp Protein is a Complete Protein
Foods can be classified as complete, partial, or incomplete sources of proteins. In order for a food to be classified as complete, it must contain all eight essential amino acids. Hemp is considered a complete protein because it contains all eight essential amino acids in sufficient quantities to meet the body’s needs. This also makes hemp a good alternative source of protein for vegetarians and vegans.
Easy to Digest
Hemp protein is easy to digest. It contains two types of proteins, edestin and albumin, which are known as globular proteins. Globular proteins dissolve easily so they are readily accessible for the body to use. This is in contrast to soy protein, for example, which can be more difficult for the body to digest. Soy contains inhibitors that block the action of trypsin and other enzymes that are needed to break down protein. This can often result in unwanted bloating and gas.
The essential amino acids found in hemp protein cannot be produced by the body and are vital to survival. According to the Hemphasis website, hempseed is a complete protein source and the only food capable of sustaining life in the absence of other foods.
Protein from hempseed contains all eight essential amino acids. While soy has a higher overall protein content, hemp protein is easier to digest due to its lack of oligosaccharides and trypsin inhibitors, which contribute to gas formation and prevent protein absorption. In addition, hemp is less likely than soy to cause allergic reactions, making it an excellent option for those with soy allergies.
Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids, or EFAs, are needed for many of the body's functions. They serve as vital components of cell membranes, provide the building blocks of hormones and help prevent inflammation. Deficiency of EFAs can lead to impaired brain function and an increase in inflammation-related conditions like arthritis and menstrual cramps.
Hemp protein is high in essential fatty acids, with around 80 percent of its total oil volume being made up of healthy Omega-3, -6 and -9 fats. The fatty acids in hempseed are present in the ideal ratio, with Omega-6 making up roughly 60 percent and Omega-3 accounting for 20 percent of hemp's total oil composition.
A study by Dr. J.C. Callaway and colleagues featured in Volume 16 of the "Journal of Dermatological Treatment" states that consumption of hempseed oil by patients with atopic dermatitis---a debilitating skin condition---leads to a rise in plasma fatty acid concentrations and significant improvement in clinical symptoms. Also present in hempseed are the rare stearidonic and gamma-linoleic acids (GLA), the latter of which is not present in flax and other oils.
Vitamins and Minerals
Hemp protein is an adequate source of iron and calcium. It also contains a variety of other nutrients, some of which include B vitamins, magnesium and vitamin E. Toasted hempseeds are especially high in magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese and copper. In addition, hemp protein is an excellent source of dietary fiber, which is important for bowel health and is lacking in the typical American diet.
Versatility of Use
Hemp protein has a rich, nutty flavor and can be added to a number of dishes for its health-promoting properties. Protein powders made from hempseed make an excellent addition to smoothies and other beverages and can be added to yogurt or even eaten plain. Hempseed oil---also a good source of protein---can be used for cooking or added to salads. Other foods containing whole and shelled hempseed include granola, cereal, trail mix and muffins.