What’s the deal with hemp seed protein and why is it good for you?
As veganism continues to grow in popularity so does the availability of foods that help vegans to achieve a nutritious balanced diet. One area of the diet particularly important for vegans to consider is protein which is required for growth and repair within the body. Protein can be found in many plant foods, but seeds are a particularly good source and this incudes hemp.
Hemp seed protein contains all of the essential amino acids
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and nine of these must be obtained from the diet as they cannot be synthesised in the body. Hemp seeds contain a full spectrum of amino acids making them a great option to include in the vegan diet. It has been shown that the amino acid profile of hemp seeds is on a par with egg whites (1).
Hemp powders are lower in protein that others such as soy but are also less processed and refined making them a good choice for people who prefer a more natural option.
Generally speaking, animal proteins are more easily digested that those found in plants. However, almost all of the protein found in ground hemp seeds (powder) has been shown to be digestible making it a valuable option for vegans who require additional protein in their diet.
It has been suggested that the reason why hemp is more easily digested is because it contains proteins including edestin and albumin which are broke down quickly within the body (2). It also seems that heating can make hemp protein less digestible so seeking out cold pressed is a better option.
Hemp protein is a good source of fibre
Fibre intake in the UK is low with only 4% of women and 11% of men achieving the 30g per day intake guidance according to findings from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (3). Because hemp protein is the result of powdered seeds it also contains the fibre of the whole food which is very different to animal proteins which do not contain any fibre. Hemp also differs greatly to other more refined plant proteins such as soy which is much lower in fibre. On average most hemp protein powders contain around 7g of fibre per 30g serving which equates to a quarter of your recommended daily intake.
Getting enough fibre in the diet helps to aid digestion, maintain a healthy microbiota and can reduce the risk of health conditions including heart disease and colorectal cancer.
Hemp protein is a source of omega 3 fatty acids
In the absence of oily fish, vegans need to source their omega 3 fatty acids from elsewhere in the diet. Seeds are one of the richest plant sources of omega 3 which is called alpha linoleic acid (ALA). This omega 3 fatty acid is then converted in the body to the more usable EPA and DHA. This conversion isn’t great so seeds alone cannot be relied upon, but they do provide a useful source to help keep levels topped up.
Omega 3 in the diet has been associated with reducing the risk of heart disease so for people who are looking to eat more heart-healthily, hemp is a good option.
Hemp protein is rich in minerals
One of the biggest differences between animal and plant proteins is that they contain a wider array of minerals including zinc, potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and copper. Hemp protein is particularly rich in magnesium and a good source of iron. In the UK it has been shown that many women lack enough iron in their diet and this mineral can be particularly tricky for female vegans.
Plant sources of iron are as easily absorbed as those from animal foods, but you can increase your intake by combining with vitamin C. This is really easy to do when making protein shakes as you simply need to chuck in a handful of berries to boost the vitamin C content.
Hemp protein is a good source of antioxidants
The body uses antioxidants to combat the damage caused by free radicals. This oxidative damage becomes more of an issue when free radicals in the body are high and antioxidants levels are low. Oxidative damage is linked to inflammation which is now considered to be at the root of many serious health conditions making it even more important to maintain a healthy diet rich in antioxidant compounds. Those found in hemp are called lignanamides which have been shown to have strong antioxidant properties.
Rob is a registered nutritionist with over 14 years of experience working in both public health (NHS and charities) and alongside many of the UK’s leading health and wellness brands. Rob is the author of two best-selling books, ‘The Detox Kitchen Bible’ and ‘The Art of Sleeping’, and has written hundreds of articles featured in publications including the Daily Mail and Women’s Health as well as being a trusted voice on both radio and TV. Rob’s infectious, no-nonsense approach to health and passion for food has led him around the globe educating people on how to eat well and sleep better.
Hemp such as that found in Happy Happy Hemp and Baobab Super Protein is not only a good source of protein but a great natural option which is also rich in many other key nutrients to help support a healthy vegan lifestyle.