The Hemp Seed

Abundant Source of Plant-based Protein, Fat, & Fiber

The increasing demand for plant-derived sources of protein coupled with increased awareness of the role dietary proteins play in nutrition and optimal health has prompted the agri-food industry to explore non-traditional sources of protein.  Boasting excellent all-around nutritional value and superior digestibility, hemp seed protein has drawn considerable interest from both the scientific and industrial sectors. In this article, the nutritional composition and health benefits of hemp protein are reviewed.

A complete protein and more

Protein-rich hemp seed has been an important source of nutrition for many cultures for thousands of years.  Technically a nut, the seed typically contains about 25% protein, with considerable amounts of dietary fiber, high levels of iron, manganese, zinc, and magnesium.  The two chief proteins in hemp seed are albumin and Edestin.  Both proteins are readily digestible and contain significant amounts of all 9 essential amino acids. Additionally, hemp seed has very high amounts of the amino acid arginine. (1)

Hemp seed & protein efficacy

The safety and efficacy of hemp seed protein has been evaluated and is recognized by Health Canada’s Non-Prescription and Natural Health Products Directorate (NNHPD) which has assessed the evidence and has determined that hemp protein concentrate and hemp protein isolate are safe and efficacious sources of protein for use in natural health products, as per the NNHPD Workout Supplements Monograph 2016. The Monograph enables licensed natural health products to claim their hemp seed protein is a nutrition source in the maintenance of good health, helps repair and build body tissue, is a protein source for muscle protein synthesis, and assists in the building of lean muscle when combined with weight resistance training and good diet(2).

Hemp protein powder as food ingredient

Hemp-derived protein powder can also be used as an ingredient in conventional foods, baked goods, beverages, cereals, dairy products, pastas, and grain products, etc. Hemp protein powders can be used in a similar manner as flour from grains (e.g., wheat, barley, rice, corn, rye, oat) as well as dairy and soy-based protein powders.  Also, a non-dairy milk and non-dairy spreads can be produced using hemp protein powder.

Hemp seeds & essential fatty acids

Oil from the hemp seed exceeds 80% in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and is a rich source of the essential fatty acids (EFAs) linoleic acid (18:2 omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (18:3 omega-3). The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 (n6/n3) in hemp seed oil is typically between 2:1 and 3:1, the appropriate level for optimal human health.

Hemp seeds & fiber

Most of the fiber in a hemp seed lies in its outer hull or shell. However, even without the shells, hemp seeds are a good source of fiber, with three tablespoons containing approximately 1.2 g of fiber.

Looking ahead

With its complement of 9 plant-based essential proteins, heart-healthy oils, and gut-friendly dietary fiber, the tiny hemp seed is poised and ready to take its place on the front line of the plant-based food revolution.

References

  1. 1. “Hempseed as a nutritional resource: An overview”, Callaway, J.C.

Euphytica, January 2004, Volume 140, Issue 1–2, pp 65–72

2. Agency Response Letter GRAS Notice – https://www.fda.gov/media/118583/download

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