Recently, hemp protein has risen to popularity as one of the most potent plant-based protein sources for vegans – rivaling even that of quinoa and pea protein. Hemp originates from the cannabis plant but contains only trace amounts of THC.
There is a myriad of ways to consume hemp protein, such as putting it in your smoothies, consuming it raw in the form of hemp seeds or hemp hearts, and so on. However, what are the constituents of this recently popularized source of protein, and should you rely solely on it for your protein intake daily?
Here, you’ll find a thorough analysis of hemp protein and its constituents since it is important to know the composition of what you’re consuming and how it adds up to fulfill your nutritional needs. You will also find the answer to “is hemp a complete protein” by breaking down all the amino acids found in hemp protein.
Understanding Essential and Non-Essential Amino Acids
Now that we have talked about exploring the hemp protein amino acid profile in this article, there’s an important distinction that we must be aware of before we dive into further details. For a substance as rich in protein as hemp, it is important to demarcate the difference between essential and non-essential amino acids.
Essential amino acids are referred to as those components of protein that the body cannot synthesize or produce on its own. Hence they’re called essential – since it’s necessary to offer your body these amino acids from external sources.
Contrarily, non-essential amino acids do not need to be supplemented to your body externally since your body can produce an adequate amount of them required for sustenance. Out of the 20 total amino acids, eight are essential amino acids, while eleven are non-essential amino acids. When considering the protein content of a substance, it is important to make sure which of the eight essential amino acids it is offering to your body.
What is a ‘Complete Source of Protein’?
Now that you have a basic understanding of the difference between non-essential and essential amino acids, it is time to see what complete sources of proteins are. As you already know, your body needs to consume eight essential amino acids from external sources in order to maintain optimal physical health and fulfill various functions that each amino acid is responsible for.
Complete sources of protein, thus, contain all eight of these essential amino acids so that you’re not missing out on anyone. This is a special consideration for vegans since it is often difficult to find all eight essential amino acids in one substance – a great exception to this is quinoa. So in this context, is hemp protein a complete protein?
Hemp Protein Amino Acid Profile: Is Hemp a Complete Protein?
Do hemp seeds lack any amino acids? To see whether or not hemp is a complete source of protein, it is important to know whether it provides all the eight essential amino acids that we’ve talked about.
There are minimum required percentages of the presence of the eight essential amino acids that each substance should fulfill for it to be labeled as a complete protein, so it is necessary to see whether the hemp seed amino acid profile contains all the essential amino acids in the minimum required percentages.
No, Hemp is not a complete source of protein. While it is higher in some essential amino acids such as phenylalanine, tyrosine, cysteine and methionine – it falls short in other categories such as lysine.
|Essential Amino Acids||Minimum Percentage Required||Percentage Present in Hemp Protein|
|Phenylalanine and Tyrosine||3.0%||8.0%|
|Cysteine and Methionine||1.6%||4.6%|
What is Lysine, and Why is It Important?
Lysine is by far one of the most underused essential amino acids. It is difficult to find a complete protein with an abundance of lysine – however, it is extremely necessary for bodily growth and movement. Lysine helps the body out by converting your fat intake into energy, which is crucial for those who work out regularly.
It also helps strengthen your bones because of its ability to absorb calcium. It also reduces cholesterol by a lot, effectively putting you away from the risks of heart disease. While those who consume meat can get a ready supply of the essential amino acid lysine at their disposal, the same is often difficult for vegans – which is why it is necessary to supplement a vegan diet with food substances that are rich in lysine.
Doing so can help you avoid symptoms that are associated with the lack of lysine in the body – such as exhaustion, having bloodshot eyes, complications with reproduction – or more usual symptoms such as being nauseous or dizzy.
Hemp Protein Powder vs Hemp Seeds
As you might have guessed, hemp protein powder is made from powdering hemp seeds. The difference between the consumption of the two is that hemp seeds technically contain more fat than hemp protein powder.
Hemp seeds are made up of around 30% fat, which is greatly reduced when hemp seeds are processed to make hemp protein powder. This fat content affects the taste as hemp seeds can be far more enjoyable to consume than hemp protein powder since the latter is naturally tasteless and earthy.
Through the process of sifting, any extraneous fat is removed from the hemp seeds, and only the protein is extracted and concentrated in the hemp protein powder for consumption. The protein content of hemp seeds and protein powder is similar, and hemp seeds can be eaten raw while hemp protein powder can be added to smoothies and shakes.
What Foods to Pair with Hemp to Make It A Complete Protein
As you now know, hemp is a substance that is high in other essential amino acids but falls short as far as lysine is concerned. To counter the lack of lysine that you may have in your diet if you’re consuming hemp on a regular basis, it is important to consume substances rich in lysine – so you can rest assured that you’re getting all the eight essential amino acids that your body needs.
Legumes, for instance, are popular for their high quantities of lysine – so it follows that supplementing your diet with beans such as soybeans, kidney beans, black beans, adzuki beans, and mung beans is a great idea to get an adequate amount of lysine in your diet.
You can also consume chickpeas, oats, and lentils to get your fill of lysine. A great recipe combining legumes and hemp would be adding leafy greens, your beans of choice, and hemp seeds and cooking them together for a nutritious and delicious meal.
Relying on Hemp Seeds For Protein? | A Word of Caution
Since the answer to “are hemp seeds, a complete protein” is a decisive no, the final word of advice for you that we have is that it is best to not rely solely on hemp seeds for your entire protein intake of the day.
It is necessary to supplement hemp protein with other substances that are rich in lysine, for as we have seen, hemp protein is lacking in lysine, so that means you would not be able to ingest the daily RV of lysine if you’re consuming hemp protein only – whether as seeds or as hemp protein powder. You can avoid the symptoms of lacking lysine, such as dizziness and nausea, by making simple additions to your hemp diet, such as beans.