Protein Supplements: Hemp
This week wraps up our look at protein supplements. As we’ve seen, whey and casein supplements are the top contenders out there. Soy protein supplements are another option, especially for those who prefer something that’s plant-based. There’s one other plant-based protein supplement that isn’t as widely known as the others, and that’s hemp.
What Is Hemp?
Hemp is a crop that is thousands of years old. The stalk of the plant is extremely strong, making it suitable for use in rope, fabric, and paper. Hemp oil has been used for food, for lamp oil, and to make soap and paint.
Hemp is part of the cannabis species but does not contain psychoactive compounds (as are found in marijuana); this species is grown specifically for food, personal care products, textiles, and building materials.
Hemp seeds and hemp oil are obviously plant products, making them suitable for vegetarians. Hemp is also gluten-free, and allergies to hemp are not common. Hemp oil contains a fatty acid called gamma linoleic acid, an essential omega-6 fatty acid that may help ease the pain of diabetic neuropathy, improve blood glucose control, and possibly help ease the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Hemp seeds are low in carbohydrate and rich in protein and fat. Like flax seeds, they can be added to just about anything, such as salads, cereal, soup, or yogurt. One tablespoon of hemp seeds contains 80 calories, 5 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of carbohydrate, and 5.5 grams of protein.
Hemp oil is a polyunsaturated fat that, like flaxseed oil, has a nutty taste and can be used in and on foods. It’s not meant to be used as a cooking oil, however. One tablespoon of hemp oil has 126 calories, 14 grams of fat, and only 1.5 grams of saturated fat.
Like soybeans, hemp protein is considered to be a plant source of high-quality (or complete) protein, containing 10 essential amino acids. Some people may find hemp protein to be more easily digested than soy, thanks to a type of protein called edestin. People who are vegetarians or who may be allergic or intolerant to soy, tree nuts, or dairy might decide to use hemp protein. A 30-gram serving of hemp protein powder (which is about 4 tablespoons) provides 11 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber. Hemp protein powder also contains vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, and iron.
A drawback to hemp protein is that it contains less protein than other protein supplements, such as whey. Bodybuilders may find that hemp protein powder doesn’t contain enough protein to actually build muscle. However, as a general protein supplement, hemp protein is certainly an option.
Side Effects of Hemp Protein
Hemp protein is highly nutritious and has relatively few side effects. However, it may initially cause gastrointestinal distress, such as cramping, bloating, or diarrhea, in some people. This is generally temporary. People taking blood-thinning medicines should be careful about hemp protein, as it may increase the risk of bleeding.
Summing It Up
The decision to use a protein supplement is (ideally) one to make with your health-care provider or dietitian. People who are in relatively good health don’t need to take in additional protein. But in the event that you or your provider believes that your diet isn’t giving you the amount of protein that you need, consider taking a protein supplement.
Protein powders, in general, provide at least 20 grams of protein per 3 tablespoon serving (usually a standard serving size), as well as 100 to 130 calories. You likely don’t need more than one serving of the protein supplement during the day as long as you are eating other sources of protein in your diet. The carbohydrate content of protein powders can vary, so check the label and don’t forget to count it if it’s more than 5 grams per serving. Also, consider what you’re mixing your protein powder with. If you mix your powder with skim milk or juice, don’t forget to figure in the carbohydrate and calories, as well.
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This week wraps up our look at protein supplements. As we've seen, whey and casein supplements are the top contenders out there. Soy protein supplements are another option, especially for those who prefer something that's plant-based. There's one other plant-based protein supplement that isn't as widely known as the others…
Flax, Chia and Hemp Seeds
They may be small, but all types of seeds are gaining huge popularity in the food marketplace. Relative to their size, they contain a high proportion of nutrients. That’s no doubt why they are attracting so much interest!
Five good reasons to add them to your menu
There is no such thing as a miracle food! But seeds can round out, or boost, a balanced diet.
Flax, chia and hemp seeds are:
- A source of protein. They belong to the “meat and alternatives” food group;
- A source of Omega-3 fatty acids and other fats that are beneficial for your health and heart;
- High in fibre, which helps control blood glucose (sugar) and blood cholesterol, and promotes weight management through the satiety (fullness) effect, which reduces the feeling of hunger. Fibre also contributes to proper digestive health;
- Low in carbohydrates, which affect blood glucose (sugar);
- Versatile! Seeds can add crunch to a wide assortment of dishes and drinks!
Flax seeds are oval and flat, and usually dark brown. There is also a yellow variety, called golden flax. You can buy flax seeds whole or ground. In addition to the nutritional benefits mentioned above, flax seeds contain lignans, nutrients with the potential to prevent certain cancers. Whole flax seeds provide 3 g of fibre per tablespoon (15 ml), more than a regular slice of whole-wheat bread.
The tough shell of flax seeds make them difficult to digest. When whole, they pass intact through the digestive tract and their valuable nutrients do not get absorbed. Consequently, it is best to grind flax seeds before consuming them.
If you want to keep flax seeds for an extended period, grind the whole seeds only when you need them. Use a coffee grinder, food processor, or mortar and pestle. Ground flax seeds keep for about a month when refrigerated in a tightly sealed container. Whole flax seeds keep for up to a year at room temperature.
How to incorporate flax seeds into your diet?
You can sprinkle ground flax seeds on yoghurt, fruit compote, oatmeal or cold breakfast cereal. You can also add it to recipes for muffins, soft energy bars, breads and dessert loaves (e.g., banana bread) by replacing 1/4 cup (60 ml) of flour with the same amount of ground flax seed.
These tiny seeds are white or black, depending on their provenance. Chia is sold ground or whole. Unlike flax seeds, the absorption of nutrients is not hampered in its whole form. Therefore, the choice is yours!
Its nutritional profile resembles that of flax seeds. Chia is slightly higher in fibre, with 4 g of fibre per tablespoon (15 ml). It is also high in antioxidants. It is also marketed as Salba™ Chia, the tradename for a variety of chia seed.
Chia is unlikely to go rancid. When stored in a cool, dark place, at room temperature, it will keep for two years, whether ground or whole.
How to incorporate chia into your diet?
You can use chia as you would flax seeds. Chia also has an impressive ability to absorb liquid and rapidly turn into a gel—perfect for cooking a quick pudding!
These nutty tasting seeds have a texture similar to sunflower seeds. Bought hulled or peeled, hemp seeds are less granular than flax or chia. If you are concerned about eating hemp, you should know that hemp seeds come from a different variety of plant than marijuana. Don’t worry: hemp seeds contains no THC (the active ingredient in marijuana)!
Hemp seeds are higher in protein, but lower in dietary fibre than flax or chia, with 3.5 g of protein and 1 g of fibre per tablespoon (15 ml).
Hemp seeds will keep for about a year in a cool, dark place. Keeping them refrigerated will prolong their shelf life, and prevent them from going rancid.
How to incorporate hemp into your diet?
Like flax and chia, you can add hemp seeds to virtually everything. They are especially tasty sprinkled on a salad or soup, or sprinkled on a stir-fry just before serving.
The price varies by type of seed
For your information, here are some typical prices for each type of seed. The price may vary by brand, size and store.
Price and nutrient value per 15 ml of flax, chia and hemp seeds*
Information available in French only.