In 2016, the global protein supplement market was a $12.6 billion industry. Everyone, it seems, is hopping on the protein powder train. With the skyrocketing demand for proteins, there are more and more types of proteins on the market, from whey to soy to hemp protein. It was never as easy as it is today to get the protein you need.
Protein powders and especially vegan protein powders are a great way to support total health and wellness. They are also a great way to get ripped, as one piece in a holistic workout routine. But with so many vegan protein powders on the market, what type is best? In more ways than one hemp protein powder stands above the rest
What are Plant-Based Protein Powders?
Traditionally, most protein powders were packed full of proteins sourced from dairy and eggs. After all, these are perfectly healthy sources of protein when eaten outside of a powdered form. But today, sports nutrition has started moving away from animal-derived proteins for three key reasons:
- Many people have dairy and egg allergies
- A lot of people are vegetarian or vegan, and cannot consume animal products
- Many people want sustainable and environmentally friendly food products.
Enter plant-based protein powders. The most common types of plant protein sports supplements are from peas, soy, brown rice and of course the best, which is hemp protein. Each kind of plant-based protein has a few pros and cons, but in a side by side comparison, hemp comes out on top.
Unfortunately, most plant-based products, if used by themselves, do not contain the full spectrum of amino acids you need. Generally speaking, animal proteins contain the complete spectrum, but veggies alternatives do not. Health food companies have long ago solved this issue by combining different plant sources into one protein powder. Combining more than one plant source means you get everything you need without doing the complicated dietary calculations yourself.
Most plant-based proteins will contain a majority of one type and include a balanced combination from a handful of others. Hemp protein is different though; it’s a complete protein containing measurable levels of the nine essential amino acids:
- Methionine and Cystine
- Phenylalanine and Tyrosine
Beyond its status as a complete plant-based source of protein, hemp protein powders have many other characteristics which make it the best of the best. Here are a few of them
1. Vegetarian and Vegan-Friendly
As mentioned, plant-based protein powders when adequately designed, contain all the amino acids you need. Considering many vegans and vegetarians do not get enough (complete) protein in their life, well-balanced protein powder can be helpful. This is still true even if you don’t work out.
For folks on a non-animal diet, who know how to incorporate enough protein into it, hemp protein still makes a good addition. Why? It’s much more convenient than figuring out your daily intake of amino acids yourself. Especially if you lead a busy lifestyle, with little time to cook proper protein-packed meals, it helps to get a little morning boost from a hemp protein powder.
2. It Tastes Great
Let’s face it, not all protein powders taste good. Whey protein, while complete, isn’t the most delicious product on the market. Soy and pea proteins also have a lot to be desired. But hemp protein powder actually tastes pretty darn good. With an earthy, nutty flavor, it mixes well into many savory and sweet dishes. Add it into a chocolate, banana smoothie, or beat into a batch of protein packed pancakes, it’s a secret weapon in the kitchen.
3. Complete Protein Content
To thrive, adults need to consume the nine essential amino acids on a daily basis. We don’t need equal parts of each type though. Some amino acids, like Histidine, we only need a little. Others, like Leucine, we need comparatively higher levels. Hemp contains all nine types of essential amino acids, but researchers are still debating whether or not it has enough of the lesser amino acids. Hemp protein powders typically have a few other plant-based additives to boost these lesser amino acids. That said, Hemp contains high levels of the acids we need the most of, including leucine, valine, and isoleucine
4. Easy to Digest
Proteins are notoriously hard on your digestive tract. If you don’t have a healthy digestive system, proteins can be hard to handle. It’s why some people have such difficulty eating meat, or rather difficulty processing it. Hemp seeds, which is where hemp protein comes from, are easy to digest.
In a laboratory exploring the “protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score” of various types of hemp products, the researchers found hemp seed came up on top. The hemp protein score was better than many other sources of plant-based protein including grains, nuts, and other pulses (peas, soy, etc). This may be because the top two types of amino acids present in hemp seed are edestin and albumin, which unlike some others are highly digestible.
5. Less Refined Than Other Proteins
Soy, whey and pea protein powders are all highly refined. Generally speaking, the less refined a foodstuff, the better it is for your body. It’s typically also better for the environment. The manufacturing process produces less waste because it’s much shorter.
The primary difference between hemp seeds (the source material for hemp powder) and the hemp protein powder is fat content. Hemp seeds are super high in healthy fats, with optimal levels of both Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s. Naturally, hemp seeds are around 25 percent protein, but to get that number higher they need to go through a refining process. This process ends up with lower fats, but higher proteins.
6. A High-Fiber Food
Fiber greases the wheels of our digestive tract. It helps out stomach and intestines function normally and regularly. The most immediate effect of a low-fiber diet is an uncomfortable and irregular trip to the bathroom. If you don’t get enough fiber in your daily diet, you’ll find yourself bloated, cramping, and possibly with a case of the runs.
Are you one of the 95 percent of Americans who don’t get enough fiber in their diet? Hemp protein contains significant levels of dietary fiber, usually about seven or eight grams per ¼ cup (depending on brand). That’s about a quarter of what you need per day.
7. May Reduce Blood Pressure and Hypertension
Recently, in an animal-based study, researchers found evidence that a diet of hemp seed protein could reduce blood pressure and hypertension. If this study is built on and sent to clinical trials, hemp could become a beneficial part of a healthy diet targeting hypertension. In functional medicine circles, it is already used to help reduce blood pressure as a part of a larger dietary plant. In the study, the control group of lab rats was fed a diet with similar non-hemp protein levels, but the casein protein did not produce the same results. This suggests that hemp is special in its ability to reduce hypertension.
8. Packed Full of Minerals
Hemp is a superfood, and not just because of its fiber and protein contents. Hemp is a valuable source of many hard to find vitamins and minerals. It’s not every day that a protein powder contains more value than just straight protein. Depending on the brand, you’ll find valuable levels of magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, iron, and riboflavin. That’s all packed into a 30-gram serving, which is approximately four tablespoons. No wonder why hemp seeds, and by default, hemp-based protein powders, are on the list of go-to superfoods. Hemp protein powder is about more than just protein.
9. Powerful Antioxidant Properties
Everyone can use a good dose of antioxidants in their life. Antioxidants help protect the body from disease, and the natural degradation process. While hemp seeds and hemp protein powder aren’t going to cure you of illness or aging, they could very well add a helpful layer of dietary protection. With the benefits in mind, why not get a helpful boost from hemp protein powder?
Hemp may be a useful source of antioxidants because it contains a little-known compound called lignanamide. This derived hemp compound has demonstrated in laboratory studies to be a novel new type of antioxidant. Another study on plant-based protein bars concluded that adding higher levels of hemp protein to a rice protein bar, increased antioxidant levels significantly. It may be because of the lignanamides content.
Hemp protein powders are about more than just protein. Although, as a complete protein they are pretty great. But they have many other characteristics which set them apart from the other plant-based protein options. Hemp protein is a valuable source of hard to find, yet essential, dietary minerals. They are high in fibers, antioxidants, and may help control blood pressure levels. It also tastes good, to boot.