Here's What You Need to Know About Hemp Protein

EVERY TIME YOU round the supplement aisle, it seems like 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 a great option for vegetarians, vegans, and those just looking to consume less meat and dairy.

"I like hemp protein powder is 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.

high angle view of hemp seeds
Heinz Tschanz-Hofmann / EyeEm - Getty Images

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 in hemp protein powder to your smoothies, 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, it can also bump up your fiber intake. Meat and dairy forms of protein, like whey and casein, can't do that.

“Hemp seeds are a great source of fiber because they contain both insoluble and soluble fiber,” says Rouse. “The combination of both fibers helps you feel full longer, it makes you less likely to eat more and helps manage your energy intake.”

There's also several other health benefits of hemp. They are loaded with minerals like potassium and magnesium, as well as 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-fiber diet for medical reasons, such as diarrhea 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, colors, flavors, or other dietary supplements. There's no need for all those.

shake bottle in the room concept of supplement and dietary
Rachata Teyparsit / EyeEm - Getty Images

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."

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