Spotlight on Hemp Seed: A Complete Protein
Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) is one of the oldest and most versatile crops. Human uses of hemp go back at least 6,000 years during which time it has been used for food, fiber, paper, rope, and oil. Hemp has a long tradition even in US history, in fact: Presidents Washington and Jefferson both grew hemp in their own backyards.
First, to address any lingering confusion, it is 100% legal to buy hemp and hemp products in the US. The 2018 Farm Bill makes hemp (defined as contained less than 0.3% THC) legal on a federal level. And, in case you were wondering, the hemp seed used in Perfect Plant Protein powder does not contain the psychoactive ingredient THC. The seeds contain 0% of the psychoactive compound called δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and, therefore, are different from medicinal marijuana.
Currently, hemp seed is processed mainly by mechanical pressing to extract the nutritious oil, while the fibrous matter is ground into a fine powder used to produce various protein-rich food products. Considerably less processing is needed to refine hemp seeds into protein powder when compared to the highly processed soy or pea protein powders that have flooded onto the market.
This earthy, nutty tasting hemp protein powder is 1 component of 3 total, used in our own blend (Perfect Plant Protein - Hemp, Sacha Inchi, and Pumpkin Seed powder), which contains all essential and non essential amino acids. Because hemp is a complete protein, it is ideal for building and maintaining lean muscle while simultaneously increasing overall health.
Hemp's Health Benefits:
Hemp is loaded with nutrients — its hard to list them all in one place. Raw hemp is a terrific source of easily digestible vegetarian protein for starters. Hemp protein is a complete protein (meaning that it contains all essential and non-essential amino acids) containing over 10 amino acids, including all 9 essential amino acids. Research shows that 91–98% of the protein in ground hemp seed is digestible (1, 2).
Hemp is one of the best all-natural sources of fiber. Hemp protein powders can contain different amounts of fiber depending on whether they were made from hulled or unhulled hemp seeds and whether additional fiber was added. Most hemp protein powders provide 18–28% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of fiber for men and women respectively. In comparison, other plant-based protein powders such as soy, pea, and rice are highly refined and contain very little fiber (3, 4).
Omega 3 & 6:
It is rich in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Hemp contains the ideal 3:1 ratio of omega 3 to omega 6, helping to decrease inflammation. Hemp is one of the few vegan sources of the important omega 6 fatty acid GLA. This beneficial fatty acid is usually only found in mother’s milk. It has been shown to help people with skin disorders, PMS, menopause, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and has anti-inflammatory benefits.
Hemp is the only known source of “edestin” (also known as edistin), a plant protein nearly identical to proteins found in the human body. Hemp seed contains edestin (~75%) and the water-soluble albumin (~25%) as the main storage proteins. Researchers believe that hemp is so easy to digest because it contains these proteins (edestin and albumin), which your body can break down quickly (5). Edestin is used to manufacture antibodies known as immunoglobulins and aids in DNA repair at a cellular level.
Hemp seeds are high in the antioxidant vitamin E and also contain compounds called lignanamides which have strong antioxidant properties (6). One interesting consideration when thinking about antioxidants is that it appears that whole plant sources are superior to extracts.
In one study conducted by Lobo (et al.) for the Journal of Pharmacognosy Review, researchers discovered that synthetic antioxidants, as well as more specific extracts of plants like with CBD from Cannabis Sativa, are in fact less potent than whole plant sources. (7)
Raw hemp is rich in minerals such as iron, zinc, potassium, and magnesium and vitamins B, D, and E. Hemp seeds are an incredibly rich source of minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese, zinc, and copper (8).
All of these minerals synergistically work together to provide other benefits. Calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium work to keep your bones and teeth strong, while iron makes sure your red blood cells stay healthy. Zinc and magnesium make up the foundation of many enzymes, which are proteins that are vital to ensuring that necessary chemical reactions are carried out in your body.
(1) House, J. D., Neufeld, J., Leson, G.(2010). Evaluating the quality of protein from hemp seed(Cannabis sativa L.) products through the use of the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score method. J Agric Food Chem. 58(22):11801-7.
(2) Hoffman JR, Falvo MJ. Protein - Which is Best?. J Sports Sci Med. 2004;3(3):118–130. Published 2004 Sep 1.
(3) Morita, T., Kiriyama, S., Chalmers, Tekniska, Hoegskola.(1993).Mass production method for rice protein isolate and nutritional evaluation. Goeteborg, Sweden.
(4) Fredrikson, M., Biot, P., Alminger, M. L., Carlsson, N. G., Sandberg, A. S.(2001). Production process for high-quality pea-protein isolate with low content of oligosaccharides and phytate. J Agric Food Chem. 49(3):1208-12.
(5) Tang, C. H., Ten. Z., Wang, X. S., Yang, X. Q.(2006). Physicochemical and functional properties of hemp(Cannabis sativa L.) protein isolate. J Agric Food Chem. 54(23):8945-50.
(6) Yan, X. et al.(2015). Characterization of Lignanamides from Hemp(Cannabis sativa L.) Seed and Their Antioxidant and Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitory Activities. J Agric Food Chem. 63(49):10611-9.
(7) Lobo V, Patil A, Phatak A, Chandra N. Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health. Pharmacogn Rev. 2010;4(8):118–126.
(8) Pihlanto, A., Mattila, P, Makinen, S., Pajari, A. M.(2017). Bioactivities of alternative protein sources and their potential health benefits. Food Funct. 8(10):3443-3458.