Hemp Protein Powder Benefits and Risks: Everything You Need to Know

Last Updated 23rd August 2019
hemp protein

The word ‘hemp’ can conjure up mental images of naughty cigarettes and hippy fashions, but there’s no need to panic – that’s not what hemp protein powder is all about! 

Hemp is a strain of the cannabis Sativa plant which is grown specifically for industrial use, but it’s nothing to do with marijuana or any highs you may expect from cannabis. Hemp is produced for agricultural purposes, whereas cannabis is produced for pharmaceutical and sometimes for illegal, recreational purposes. 

Hemp does contain the two main components of cannabis: cannabidiol, the part that relaxes you and acts as an anti-inflammatory, and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the part that gives you a high. However, the distinct plant strain used to cultivate hemp for industrial purposes has so little THC, that it’s impossible to experience any delirium or psychoactive effects as a result of consuming it. It is specifically bred to contain as low a level of THC as possible and can only legally be grown to contain naturally occurring trace amounts.

Don’t write off hemp because of the popular misconceptions around the cannabis plant as a whole – there’s a lot to this plant and it can do a whole heap of good! With that said, let’s take a closer look at the benefits and risks of hemp protein powder.

hemp plant

What is Hemp Protein Powder?

There are a variety of protein powders available, but hemp protein powder is a plant-based, entirely vegan option. It’s made by grinding pressed hemp seeds into a fine powder and can be added to shakes, smoothies or foods to boost their protein content – and quite considerably, too!

As more people choose to follow a plant-based diet and more is understood about hemp protein’s health benefits, it comes as no surprise that this protein-packed natural powder is rapidly increasing in popularity. It has an earthy and nutty taste but isn’t overpowering, so can be added to other flavours without outshining them.

5 Amazing Hemp Protein Powder Benefits

Hemp Protein is a Complete Protein – Move Over, Whey!

Hemp protein is known as a complete protein; meaning that it contains all nine essential amino acids that the body must consume through food and is unable to create for itself. Some other vegan proteins, namely nuts, seeds, beans and grains, are incomplete proteins, making hemp, along with pea and soy, the reigning champions for vegan protein-seekers.

Essential amino acids are organic compounds made up of nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen and carbon, with a variable chain group. Non-essential amino acids can be made by the body itself, but the essential ones have to be specifically consumed. The nine essential amino acids found in hemp protein powder are:

  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine.

Studies have found that the profile of essential amino acids within hemp is similar to the profiles of soy and egg whites; both of which are often touted as great sources of protein.

hemp protein plants

It’s Far Easier to Digest than Animal Proteins

Unless you’re well versed in consuming high amounts of protein and already have a robust protein intake as a result of protein powder, your body may not be used to digesting it. That’s not to say that this will cause problems, but it can, in some cases, have minor side effects.

When embarking on a new healthy eating and fitness regime, it’s important to be kind to yourself as well as to be strict. Your gut health, in particular, is paramount. There is a misconception that plants are easier to digest than animal products and by-products, but this isn’t always the case. However, clinical studies into the digestible content of hemp protein (and therefore, hemp protein powder) show that up to 98% is completely digestible, making it incredibly easy for the body to process. This may make hemp protein a good choice for those with sensitive stomachs or IBS.

Hemp contains the protein strains of edestin and albumin, both of which are very swiftly broken down by the body, which is believed to contribute to its easy digestion. However, it is thought that the digestibility of hemp protein can vary depending on its processing – so be sure to choose one of high quality, preferably derived from cold-pressed seeds.

If you’re following a vegan diet, hemp protein powder is an easy-on-the-gut plant-based option with superior protein content and fantastic health benefits.

Balanced Healthy Diet is Best for Weight Loss

It’s Nutrient-Dense and Provides More Than Just Protein

Some protein powders, particularly those created specifically for the health and fitness market, contain only protein and little else. This is not the case for hemp protein powder however: there’s a lot more to this plant than just the big ‘p’!

Hemp protein powder is packed with vitamins and minerals alongside its high protein content. It’s a great source of fibre and unsaturated Omega-3 fats. However, the real nutritional value lies within its minerals. You’ll find phosphorous, magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese, zinc and copper within; in fantastically large proportions for such a finely ground powder!

Another mineral found in hemp protein powder is lignin amides, which have impressively strong antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are hugely beneficial for the body, as they protect it from oxidative damage. This, in turn, leads to a greatly reduced risk of chronic illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease. 

Not bad for a plant often painted as just a recreational high, eh?

hemp leaf

See Ya, Cravings! Hemp Protein Powder is Fibre-Packed

Hemp protein powder’s combination of both protein and dietary fibre makes it the ideal dietary supplement to aid weight loss and to maintain a healthy weight moving forward.

As a whole, plant-based protein powders contain little fibre; so a real benefit of hemp protein powder is that it packs a serious punch fibre-wise! The type of hemp seeds used within the powder, and the way in which it’s been processed, can affect the fibre content within. But, on average, you can expect to consume between 20-30% of the adult Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of fibre per serving.

Fibre promotes satiety and gives you the ‘full’ feeling faster. This doesn’t just stop you eating or drinking less at the time, but also maintains that feeling for longer than usual; so there’s no need to revert to snacking later on. This helps you lose weight initially as you begin to incorporate increased fibre consumption within your diet, but also to keep the extra pounds off as you continue not to overeat and instead consume the right kind of foods in appropriate portion sizes.

Low Calorie Meal Replacement Shakes

Hemp Protein Powder Fats Will Keep Your Heart Healthy

Hemp seeds contain a lot of fat, but fear not: it’s the good kind! When pressed into a powder (be that to make hemp protein powder or any other hemp product), hemp loses a lot of its naturally occurring fats, but over 10% of these still appear, so they’re not all gone. The unsaturated fats found in hemp are the same as you’ll find in avocados, oily fish and nuts, which are well known for their numerous health benefits.

The most important of these benefits is increased heart health. The debate rages on as to whether excess consumption of saturated fats can actually contribute to the risk of heart disease, but it’s been proven that unsaturated fats do the opposite. Unsaturated fat reduces blood cholesterol, to mediate the levels to a state which reduces the risk of fatty build-up in the heart vessels and therefore lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and malfunction.

What’s more, the Omega-3 fatty acids within hemp protein powder are perfectly balanced with Omega-6. The typical Western diet has an imbalance between these fats and these levels are often linked to the development of not just heart disease, but also cancer.

Low-Calorie Diets need to be Balanced

Hemp Protein Powder Risks: Should You Worry?

There’s no doubt that the negative connotations around marijuana are rife and such misconceptions will take a long time to die down. We’re still a long way off full legal medical use of cannabis, so it’s no surprise that the plant is misunderstood and that so many people hold incorrect information on it.

Cannabis, as a drug, is made up of two parts: CBD, the relaxant, and THC, the psychotic. The latter is what gets you high. Whilst there is a trace amount of THC in hemp, it’s completely naturally occurring and is never enough to induce any kind of psychoactive effects or any negative side effects. The amount of THC found within hemp protein powder is not enough to affect the result of any common drug testing. 

Hemp is completely legal and is grown and curated to a nutritional standard which is stringent and vigorously and regularly tested by the relevant authorities. Unless you have a specific allergy to hemp, there is absolutely no reason to avoid consuming hemp protein powder. 

However, the impressive nutritional profile of hemp protein powder can cause minor side effects if you’re not used to such a healthy dose of goodness all in one go. The high fibre content may cause diarrhoea or stomach ache if eaten too quickly, so take it slow and ease in gently if you know you don’t already get enough fibre in your diet. 

Hemp protein’s health benefits far outweigh any potential risks or side effects, and if you’d consume any other protein powder without second-guessing it, you need to ask yourself: why is this different? We all do it, and it is incredibly smart to educate yourself on exactly what you’re choosing to consume as part of a healthy diet. But we’re pretty confident that once you know and understand hemp protein powder’s benefits, you’ll be sold!

hemp plants

The Bottom Line

As with any foodstuff, hemp protein powder risks are present; but they’re minor. And often, it seems that they’re only really discussed and debated so frequently because of the plant from which hemp is derived.

Ultimately, there’s no doubt about it: hemp protein powder and other vegan protein powders are here to stay, and rightfully so. They’re not just cruelty-free, but sustainable too, and have less of an impact on the environment than anything involving animal by-products. The longstanding misconception that protein comes only from meat will soon be swiftly swept aside as consumers are able to gain a better understanding of their own nutrition and dietary needs and make educated purchasing decisions for the good of their own health.

Hemp protein powder boasts a complete protein profile and a whole host of health benefits to boot, so even if you’re not following a vegan diet, don’t discount it just yet – there’s more than meets the eye to this little green plant and its offspring!

At Nutribuddy, we’re firm believers in proper protein intake from plant-based powders – so all of our product range is 100% vegan, containing no animal products, no animal by-products and no dairy. This means that we choose not to incorporate proteins such as whey protein or casein protein within our products because they’re derived from milk. Our in-house dieticians and nutritionists know how to perfectly balance a meal with everything the body needs… and they don’t need anything but plants to do it with! 

If you’re looking to give your protein intake a real hike without resorting to anything animal products, the Nutribuddy High-Protein Sculpting Shake makes for a fantastic addition to your diet and exercise regime. Completely cruelty-free and only utilising the naturally occurring protein from plants, almost a whopping 60% of a serving of this is pure protein, including hemp. There’s no need to cut meals out and replace them with this shake, but instead, use it as a snack or dietary addition on top of your usual food and drink consumption (providing that’s healthy, of course!) to give a real protein and mineral boost to your nutritional profile.

High Protein Sculpting Shake

Stock image credit: UnsplashPexels & Pixabay

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Nutribuddy Ltd.

Author Bio!

Post by Lex

I’m a full-time Marketing Manager and Copywriter but also a qualified yoga teacher and keen runner; so I know a thing or two about maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a good dose of fitness! My previous roles include marketing and social media for the likes of the household names including the Cabinet Office and Aviva. Outside of work, I’m a Mum, passionate social rights campaigner and bookworm.