Hemp is something of a wonder plant. It has many uses that range from clothing textiles, building materials, paper and bioplastics. It is the high protein content of hemp seeds with which we are concerned here though. That said, their benefits are not confined to the protein punch they pack. As with most plant based protein powder options, there are several potential health benefits that you get as a bonus.
In this article, we’ll delve into what hemp protein powder is, how it’s made, why the protein content of hemp powder differs so much and whether you can make your own. First though, let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of hemp protein powder.
Benefits & Drawbacks of Hemp Protein Powder
Nutritionally speaking, hemp protein offers some real benefits that whey and other animal-derived powders cannot match. Namely, hemp powders tend to be a lot higher in dietary fibre and they are also a decent source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and vitamin E. Add to that the iron, magnesium and calcium and you have a real spectrum of nutritional benefits.
On the flip side, hemp protein powders (at least the non-isolate options) tend to be lower in protein content when compared to many other protein powder products. This is partly by design because upping the protein content inevitably means removing some of the other nutritional good stuff. There is also a higher fat content in many hemp powders compared to other products (though it should be noted that very little of this is made up of saturated fat).
When it comes to amino acid content, hemp protein is a little lower than some when it comes to lysine and leucine. But it has particularly high quantities of arginine, which research has suggested could have benefits in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Other constituents of hemp seeds could also help to reduce blood pressure and even decrease the risk of blood clots forming after a heart attack.
Hemp Protein Powder Nutritional Values
We’ve included an example of both a hemp protein isolate and a (more common) hemp protein powder that is in a more natural form (i.e. milled seeds without much in the way of additional processing). The key difference is that the isolate contains more protein per 100g, but that the other option is higher in fibre. This can be seen with other vegan protein powder options too so if you are purely concerned with protein and muscle mass, isolates are often the better option.
Hemp Protein Isolate Nutritional Data
|Typical Values||Good Hemp – Pure 85% Hemp Protein Powder (per 100g)||Good Hemp – Pure 85% Hemp Protein Powder (per 25g serving)|
|Energy||1614kJ / 381kcal||404kJ / 95kcal|
Hemp Protein Powder Nutritional Data
|Typical Values||Naturya Organic Hemp Protein Powder (per 100g)||Naturya Organic Hemp Protein Powder (per 20g serving)|
|Energy||1633kJ / 389kcal||327kJ / 78kcal|
Whey Protein Isolate Nutritional Data
|Typical Values||Impact Whey Protein Powder (per 100g)||Impact Protein Powder (per 25g serving)|
|Energy||1740kJ / 412kcal||435kJ / 103kcal|
As you can see, there is a significant difference between the hemp isolate (in this case, from Good Hemp Food) and the lower protein option from Naturya. As such, we’ll compare each in turn to the typical whey protein detailed above. Note that these are just examples but a similar picture would be revealed with different brands of the same type too.
Hemp Isolate Powder v Whey Protein Powder
The hemp protein isolate matches most whey protein powder options in terms of the actual protein content (in this case it beats it). Hemp protein is a little low on some of the amino acids, namely lysine and leucine (the latter of which is one of the much-desired BCAAs), but this can be boosted by adding some pea or rice protein or even just generally from a well balanced vegan eating regime. Hemp isolate has less fat than a typical whey protein and much less saturated fat. Hemp isolate has significantly more dietary fibre and less in the way of carbs (namely sugar).
Hemp Protein Powder v Whey Protein Powder
When it comes to the less concentrated hemp protein powder, the main drawback when compared to whey (and other protein products) is that it contains only 57g of protein per 100g of powder. The whopping 13g of fibre and large quantities of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids will make up for that in the minds of many, however. Though it will depend on whether your goal is primarily to put on muscle or boost overall health.
Picking the Best Hemp Protein Powder
When picking the best hemp protein powder for you, it is important to establish your requirements. That is to say, whether you are prioritising protein content or a more balanced, health-promoting option. If you are simply going for the highest protein content possible (whilst still retaining some of the benefits of hemp such as omega-3 fatty acids) then you should opt for a hemp protein isolate. In reality, that is probably most people who use protein powders.
If, on the other hand, you are fine with a protein content of around 45g to 55g per 100g of powder, but you would prefer to obtain more in the way of fibre and omega fatty acids then the hemp concentrate (often just called hemp protein powder) may be the better option.
Whichever version of hemp protein you choose, there are other things to consider. The quality of the product is important given that you are going to put it in your body. As such, we recommend purchasing hemp powder from well-established and highly professional companies that will have adhered to all safety standards.
This could mean purchasing your protein powder from well-known retailers, such as Holland and Barrett or TheVeganKind Supermarket. Or it could be that you prefer to shop directly with the producer of the powder, assuming you’ve done your research on them (or we have done that for you, as we do with all products we feature on this site).
When it comes to hemp powder, we’re happy to report that most products seem to be free of too many (or often any) additional ingredients. This means you tend to get a pure, natural product – especially in the case of hemp concentrates which are essentially milled and sieved hemp seeds (see below for more info on how hemp powder is made).
What Is Hemp Protein Powder?
Hemp protein powder is dried, milled and/or processed seeds from the hemp plant. Hemp – also known as industrial hemp – comes from the same plant species, Cannabis sativa, as the recreational and medicinal drug marijuana (aka cannabis, weed, ganja, hashish and so on). As with CBD oil and related products, the hemp used to make protein powder has hardly any of the psychoactive component, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and so it will not get you high (which could be a plus or minus, depending on your viewpoint!).
Roasted hemp seeds are available to buy and can be added to recipes or sprinkled on salads or other dishes. Raw hemp seeds contain a decent helping of protein: around 30g per 100g of seeds. But they also contain 45-50g of fat per 100g of seed. A lot of this is “good” fat, as only about a tenth is of the saturated kind. It also contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, one of the few excellent vegan sources of omega 3. But for those seeking a protein powder to gain muscle bulk and/or minimise body fat, having upwards of 40% fat is not going to appeal. So, what happens to all that fat in the sorts of protein powders favoured by vegan athletes?
How Is Hemp Protein Powder Made?
As with pea protein powder and most other protein powders, whether vegan or not, hemp protein powder uses various mechanisms and/or processes to maximise the protein content and reduce the number of other substances, such as fat, fibre, carbohydrates and water. As hemp oil is a valuable product in its own right (and an excellent vegan cooking oil with plenty of benefits), this is extracted before what is left of the seeds is reduced to powder.
Hemp Protein Concentrates
Hemp is a little different to most other protein powder products in that there are quite a few options that offer somewhere between 40g and 50g of protein per 100g of powder. These powders tend to be minimally processed and not much has been done other than the milling of the seeds and the removal of some of the larger particles by either sieving the mixture or using some other separation method.
This will leave more fibre, fat and carbs than some other processes, but it also leaves a lot of the nutritional goodness in the way of minerals and fatty acids. These are known as hemp protein concentrates, though they tend to be labelled as simply hemp protein powder.
Hemp Protein Isolates
Hemp protein isolates, meanwhile, have undergone a greater degree of processing which results in a high concentration of protein. This can produce a protein content in the region of 75g to 85g per 100g of powder. This puts it in the same bracket as non-vegan options such as whey protein, as well as pea (and other) protein isolate products.
To produce a protein isolate, various washing techniques (using water, acids and alkalis) are used to essentially flush away some of the unwanted substances while maintaining the maximum amount of protein. Some people are slightly put off by the use of such processes, but there is no evidence any chemical residue remains in the end product.
Can You Make Your Own Hemp Protein Powder?
Given that hemp protein powder is basically just crushed hemp seeds, you might be wondering whether you could save a bit of cash by buying the seeds and grinding them up in a coffee grinder or pestle and mortar.
If you are considering making your own help protein powder, you need to bear in mind that you will not know the exact protein content of the powder you produce (assuming, that is, you don’t have a chemistry lab in your garden office and the requisite experimentation skills and equipment).
The cost of hemp seeds varies, but you can certainly find some for between £6.00 and £10.00 per kilogram. This is less than half the price of a kilo of hemp protein powder, which is usually priced around the £20.00 per kilogram mark.
If making your own powder from hemp seeds, you could simply put them through a (clean, unless you want a coffee flavour!) coffee grinder. If you don’t have one, a pestle and mortar would do the trick, though clearly, that would take more effort. Mind you, you can work on those muscles whilst you pound the seeds!
The amount of protein in your finished product will depend on the amount of non-protein content you can remove from the ground seeds (which in turn will depend on how finely you have ground them). Given that the protein content of hemp seeds is in the region of 35g per 100g in the first place, it wouldn’t take much sieving to bump that up to 40g, 45g or, if you’re fastidious about it, even 50g per 100g of powder.
On the other hand, it is possible the time and effort spent and the potential wastage (of the parts of the seed you discard) will mean that any savings in terms of cost will be rendered somewhat redundant. It might well turn out that to get 500g of protein powder from your hemp seeds, you might have required at least 1kg of seeds. So overall, the convenience of the readymade protein powder products, coupled with the fact you will know the exact protein content, means that most people will forego the chance to make their own.
Hemp Protein Conclusions
Hemp protein powder is an excellent option for those seeking a good dose of protein but also several additional potential health benefits as well. The presence of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is a particular benefit to vegans who might struggle to get enough from their diet (as the primary source for none vegans is oily fish).
The higher fibre content of hemp protein in comparison to the likes of whey will also appeal to those who want to pay attention to their gut health, while the absence of any allergens is a big plus for anyone seeking dairy and gluten-free protein powder.