Hemp-based protein is a great “superfood” to incorporate into your daily meal plan. It supports numerous facets of human health, from weight management to energy production.
Because of widespread bias and federal constraints on the growth and distribution of the hemp plant, few people have a thorough appreciation for the nutritional benefits the herb offers. Despite this, supplements like hemp powder have gained popularity in the public eye.
Here’s what you need to know about these products and how they might improve your health.
What is it?
Hemp is a highly efficient source of plant protein, offering significant nutritional value that’s easily digestible. Numerous types of hemp-based protein are available in today’s market, including:
- Hempseed meal or hemp protein meal (HPM): This is made when hempseeds are crushed to extract the oil. HPM has a high protein content, usually ranging from 30-50% dry, depending on the specific hemp variety.
- Hemp protein concentrates (HPC): Created when hempseeds are dehulled and defatted, this supplement has even higher protein levels than HPM, typically a minimum of 65% dry. Some scientists have even produced HPCs with protein contents up to 70%. In any case, these have the edge over HPMs, as they’re easier to digest.
- Hemp protein isolates (HPI): This is the most purified, enriched variation. Containing a whopping 90-94% of protein, depending on how it’s made. It’s normally used with foods that have little to no protein content.
As you can see, the part of the cannabis plant that’s responsible for its exceptional nutritional value is the seed. In some senses, scientists consider these hemp’s “fruit.” They’re round and dark red-brown, with two layers of a spongy membrane surrounding the core.
This characteristic is mainly what separates hemp protein from cannabidiol (CBD) protein, which contains this cannabinoid in some concentrated form.
CBD protein powder vs. hemp protein powder
Many people tend to use the terms “hemp protein powder” and “CBD protein powder” interchangeably. Yet, they aren’t quite the same thing.
As you’ve learned, it is made from the compressed seeds. This process removes the oil from the seeds entirely, meaning it also removes the CBD (of which there is barely any to begin with). For a protein powder supplement to be a CBD product, it must have the cannabinoid present in the formulation in some capacity, and it will have been added separately from the protein. For example, through an isolate, water-soluble powder, or other means.
The key thing to remember is that what separates hemp from CBD, is that the latter is a chemical component of the former. CBD is one of more than one hundred chemical compounds found in hemp. Hemp is the plant itself, the type of cannabis with 0.3% or less THC. Hemp is now being cultivated to have high amounts of CBD.
The CBD in protein supplements is extracted from the hemp’s leaves, stalks, and flowers, not the seeds. Be careful not to confuse any products containing hempseed oil for a CBD supplement. Unlike CBD oil, hempseed oil is made from the plant’s seeds and doesn’t contain any CBD.
Whether or not your chosen protein powder has hemp or CBD depends on how it was made. Be careful to read the ingredients to ensure you get the precise benefits you’re looking for.
Hempseeds’ nutritional profile breaks down like this:
- 25-30% oil
- 25-30% protein
- 30-40% fiber
- 6-7% moisture
However, there are more than 40 distinct cultivars, each differing in their exact nutrient proportions.
Another thing that hempseed protein is known for is its high concentrations of unsaturated fatty acids, along with its balanced helping of omegas 3 and 6.
These are critical nutrients known for supporting heart and mental health, optimal weight management, brain development, anti-inflammatory properties, and much more.
In total, there are approximately 181 proteins available in hempseed. The two primary kinds are called legumin-type globulin edestin, which normally has about 67-75% protein, and globular-type albumin, having 25-37% protein.
Interestingly, edestin is unique to hemp protein, so if you’re looking for a supplement that’s easy to digest, products containing edestin should be your go-to.
These and other proteins found in hemp provide all nine essential amino acids that humans need. In fact, its full composition of amino acids makes hemp protein quite similar to egg whites and soybean.
What are the Benefits?
Depending on which type of hemp-based supplement you use, hempseed protein or protein powders, you might get slightly different health and fitness benefits. In general, both hemp and CBD help:
- Fight inflammation
- Support healthy skin
- Improve heart health
- Brain health
However, if you’re looking for fiber, antioxidants, omega fatty acids, and antibacterial properties, all with high digestibility, hemp is the better option for you. On the other hand, pain relief, balanced serotonin levels, and other neurological benefits come with CBD protein supplements. This might be a good idea for athletes struggling with muscle soreness or joint pain.
One of the main reasons hemp-based protein has been able to boom in popularity the way it has is its versatility. Whether you’re on a paleo diet, have gluten sensitivity, or live by other dietary standards, you can find a hemp-based protein supplement that works perfectly for you.
Hemp powder isn’t all perfect, though. There are some drawbacks you need to know about. The side effects of hemp protein powder include:
- Diarrhea and other digestive issues
Because of the potential health effects, it may be best to avoid trying out a new hemp-based protein if you’re currently pregnant. Immunocompromised people shouldn’t consume hemp-based protein supplements (specifically powders), neither should those with hemp allergies.
What does it taste like?
The words that are most often used to describe the flavor are “nutty” and “grassy.” These tastes make it tricky for most people to find a hemp protein powder that works well for their diet and lifestyle, as they’re expecting it to taste similar to why, soy, or flax powder supplements.
Another common descriptor used for hemp is “gritty” or “grainy.” It doesn’t always dissolve in protein mixes to make a creamy smoothie or juice mix, and many people find this unappealing.
Almost humorously, people also often complain about the color of their healthy beverages after adding hemp to the mixture. When you add spinach or kale to a smoothie, you would expect it to be green, just like adding strawberries will turn the blend pink or red.
Hemp protein will almost always turn your beverage green. If you do not find this color particularly appetizing, it might be good to try small servings of hemp-based protein powders or go with CBD-infused protein supplements instead.
People also describe this supplement as having an “earthy” flavor, something that may be yummy in many juice blends and smoothies with greens. A CBD protein powder will not get you high, as it doesn’t contain THC.
Where do we land on it?
Hemp-based protein supplements are rich sources of protein, omega fatty acids, and a ton of vitamins and minerals for various dietary requirements.
Keep in mind that hemp and CBD protein powders aren’t the same things, though. For example, if you’re looking for pain relief, CBD protein products are better than hemp alternatives, unless you also want fiber and a generous serving of antibiotics.
In any case, if you’re looking to get in shape this summer with natural superfoods or just planning to eat more healthily, add hemp protein to your list of staple meal prep ingredients.