Hemp seeds and hemp protein powder are both nutritional powerhouses packed with protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
But while they come from the same plant, there are some key differences between these two popular health foods.
Before diving into the details, let's start with a quick rundown on hemp itself.
Hemp comes from the Cannabis sativa plant, the same species that produces marijuana. However, hemp contains very low levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the compound responsible for marijuana's psychoactive effects.
While marijuana is grown for its high THC content, hemp is bred specifically to have virtually no THC but high amounts of CBD (cannabidiol) and other beneficial compounds.
Hemp has been used for thousands of years to make textiles, rope, paper, clothing and food. Hemp seeds, in particular, have been prized as a nutritious food and medicinal remedy across many cultures.
Hemp Seeds 101
Hemp seeds come from the fruits ("hearts") produced by the hemp plant. They have a soft, creamy texture and a mild, nutty flavor.
Hemp seeds are rich in protein, healthy fats, fiber and various minerals:
- Protein: About 25% of the total calories in hemp seeds come from high-quality, digestible protein. They provide all nine essential amino acids, making them a complete protein source.
- Fats: Hemp seeds contain the perfect balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, in a healthy 3:1 ratio. This supports heart health and reduces inflammation.
- Fiber: Hemp seeds are a great source of insoluble and soluble fiber. This promotes digestive health and helps you feel full.
- Minerals: Hemp seeds contain high amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, sulfur, calcium and iron. Magnesium plays a role in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body.
Hemp seeds can be eaten raw or cooked. They have a creamy, nutty flavor that pairs well with both sweet and savory ingredients. Their small size and pleasant crunch make them a tasty topping for yogurts, oatmeal, salads and more.
Key Takeaway: Hemp seeds are incredibly nutritious, providing complete protein, healthy fats, fiber and essential minerals like magnesium. They make a great crunchy, flavorful addition to many recipes.
Hemp Protein Powder Basics
Hemp protein powder is made by removing the oil from hemp seeds, then grinding the remaining seed cake into a fine powder. Manufacturers may also sift the powder to remove fiber, resulting in a higher concentration of pure plant protein.
Here are some of the main nutritional highlights of hemp protein powder:
- Protein: Hemp protein typically contains 45–50% protein content. A 30-gram serving provides around 15 grams of easily digested, complete plant-based protein.
- Fiber: Contains a moderate amount of soluble and insoluble fiber, around 2–5 grams per serving. Supports digestion.
- Fats: Around 10% or less of the original fat content remains after oil extraction. Still provides some heart-healthy fats.
- Iron: One serving can provide over 90% of the RDI for iron, which transports oxygen and supports energy levels.
- Magnesium: An excellent source, with over 80% of the RDI per serving. Magnesium has widespread benefits.
Hemp protein has an earthy, plant-based flavor that works well in smoothies, shakes and baked goods. Its fine, powdery texture blends seamlessly into liquids.
Key Takeaway: Hemp protein powder concentrates the protein from hemp seeds into a plant-based powder form. It provides an easy way to add protein, fiber, iron, magnesium and healthy fats to recipes.
Comparing the Nutritional Profiles
Now let's take a direct look at the nutritional profiles of hemp seeds versus hemp protein powder.
This table compares the nutrients in a 100-gram serving of each:
|Hemp Protein Powder
As you can see, both are excellent sources of protein and healthy fats. However, hemp protein powder has had most of the fat removed, and is thus very concentrated in terms of protein content.
Hemp protein also contains much higher levels of iron and magnesium since it's a more refined product. The fiber content remains moderate in the powder.
So while both are nutritious, hemp protein powder is lower in calories and richer in certain minerals that are often lacking in the modern diet.
Due to their different textures and nutritional profiles, hemp seeds and hemp protein are used slightly differently in recipes:
- Add crunchy texture atop yogurt, oatmeal, salads
- Mix into granola, trail mixes, cereals and baked goods
- Blend into smoothies, sauces, dips and dressings
- Grind into hemp seed butter
- Press into hemp seed oil
Hemp Protein Powder
- Mix into yogurts, oatmeal, pancakes
- Add to protein bars, energy bites and baked goods
- Use in soups, sauces, dips and salad dressings
- Add to cereals, desserts and even coffee drinks
- Blend into smoothies, shakes, juices
Hemp seeds provide texture and crunch, acting more as a finishing ingredient or mix-in. The powder blends seamlessly into liquids or batters.
So your recipe goals and personal preferences will help determine whether whole hemp seeds or hemp protein powder is more suitable as an ingredient.
Due to their rich nutritional profiles, both hemp seeds and protein powder have been associated with a number of potential health benefits:
- May promote heart health: The balanced fatty acid profile and minerals like magnesium support healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Helps build muscle and recover from exercise: The easily digested protein provides amino acids to build and repair muscle tissue.
- Supports digestion: The fiber feeds beneficial gut bacteria and helps form stools.
- Boosts energy levels: Iron transports oxygen throughout the body which provides natural energy. Magnesium is involved in converting food to usable energy.
- Supports immune function: Protein provides amino acids to build antibodies. Vitamins and minerals also support immunity.
- May promote weight loss: Protein and fiber help control hunger and appetite.
While more research is still needed, adding hemp foods to your diet appears to have widespread benefits for both short-term health goals like recovery and long-term wellbeing.
Potential Side Effects and Risks
Both hemp seeds and protein powder are very safe for most people. However, there are a few potential side effects to be aware of:
- Digestive issues: Due to the fiber and protein content, some people experience gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation. Start with small amounts.
- Allergies: Those with tree nut allergies or hemp allergies should avoid hemp products.
- Drug testing: Hemp products will not cause positive drug tests for marijuana or THC. But avoid hemp before a test if concerned.
- Medication interactions: Hemp may interact with blood thinners, lithium, and other medications. Consult your doctor.
- Quality concerns: Check for third-party testing to ensure the product is free of contaminants. Purchase from reputable companies.
As with any supplement, consult with your healthcare provider before trying hemp foods, especially if pregnant, breastfeeding or taking medications. Overall though, hemp is widely considered to be very safe for consumption.
Can you eat raw hemp seeds?
Yes, hemp seeds can be eaten raw right out of the bag as a snack or topping. Their soft, creamy texture and mild flavor make them easy to enjoy on their own.
Are hemp seeds better than chia or flax seeds?
Hemp seeds are comparable to chia and flax in terms of fat and fiber content. However, hemp provides complete protein with all nine essential amino acids. Hemp also has high magnesium, whereas chia and flax are richer in calcium and ALA omega-3s.
Is hemp protein gluten-free?
Yes, since hemp comes from the cannabis plant, it is completely free of gluten. Both hemp seeds and hemp protein powder are naturally gluten-free.
Can you bake with hemp protein powder?
Absolutely! Hemp protein powder works great in baked goods like muffins, breads, cookies and more. You can swap it for about 1/4 of the regular flour. It adds nutrition without heavily impacting texture.
Is hemp protein better than whey protein?
Hemp and whey are simply different. Whey has more leucine, absorbs faster, and is superior for muscle protein synthesis. However, hemp is plant-based, nutritious, easily digested and suitable for anyone avoiding dairy.
Hemp seeds are whole seeds that provide texture and crunch. They contain balanced fats,fiber, complete protein, and various minerals.
Hemp protein powder is refined and concentrated in protein content. It's absorbed quickly, rich in iron and magnesium, and adds smoothness to recipes.
Choose hemp seeds to add flavor, texture, and fun finishing crunch. Choose hemp protein powder when you want an easy protein and nutrition boost from smoothies to baking.
Both are excellent options for anyone looking to add more plant-based nutrition into their diet. Hemp seeds and hemp protein powder are rich in compounds to support health and wellness goals.