Hemp Protein Powder: The Best Plant-Based Protein?
Protein powders are popular nutritional supplements used by athletes, bodybuilders and those trying to gain weight or increase muscle mass.
Hemp protein powder is one of the more popular varieties, made by grinding pressed hemp seeds into a fine powder.
It has an earthy, nutty taste and is often added to shakes or smoothies to boost protein intake.
Hemp is a high-quality vegan protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, plus fiber, healthy fats and minerals.
This article reviews the pros and cons of hemp protein powder and determines whether it’s the best plant-based protein powder available.
Hemp is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids that humans must get from food.
However, research is mixed on the exact amounts of these amino acids it contains.
One study found that the amino acid profile of hemp protein is similar to egg whites and soy, which are both high-quality protein sources (1).
However, other studies have shown that hemp has relatively low levels of the essential amino acid lysine, making it a poorer quality option for that nutrient ( 2 , 3 ).
A 1/4-cup (30-gram) serving of hemp protein powder contains around 120 calories and 15 grams of protein, depending on the brand (4, 5).
That’s less protein per serving than soy or pea protein powders, which are more highly refined and contain up to 90% protein (6).
However, for those who prefer less processed protein sources, hemp is a good choice.
Hemp protein is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, but more research is needed on its quality. Each 1/4-cup (30-gram) serving contains 15 grams of protein.
In general, animal proteins are more easily digested than plant proteins, but research shows that 91–98% of the protein in ground hemp seed is digestible ( 2 , 7 ).
This means that your body can use almost all of the amino acids in hemp protein powder for important bodily functions, such as repair and maintenance.
Researchers believe that hemp is so easy to digest because it contains the proteins edestin and albumin, which your body can break down quickly ( 3 ).
However, other studies that judge proteins based on both digestibility and amino acid content consider hemp protein to be of moderate quality — roughly on par with lentils ( 2 ).
Research has found that heat processing can reduce the digestibility of hemp protein by about 10%, so look for hemp protein powders made from cold-pressed seeds ( 2 ).
Hemp protein is very easy to digest, but look for cold-pressed hemp protein for the highest quality.
High-fiber diets have been linked to many health benefits, including improved blood sugar, healthier gut bacteria and a reduced risk of bowel cancer ( 8 , 9 , 10 ).
Women and men should consume 25 grams and 38 grams of fiber per day respectively, but studies show that less than 5% of American adults meet these recommendations ( 11 , 12 ).
High-fiber foods, such as hemp protein, can help bridge this gap.
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 contain 7–8 grams of fiber per 1/4 cup (30 grams) and provide 18–28% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of fiber for men and women respectively (4, 5).
In comparison, other plant-based protein powders such as soy, pea and rice are highly refined and contain very little fiber (6, 13 ).
Hemp protein powder is a great way to add both protein and fiber to your diet, which may keep you feeling fuller, longer ( 14 ).
Hemp protein powder is a good source of fiber, containing 8 grams per serving — much more than most other plant-based protein powders.
Hemp protein powder is made from hemp seeds that have been pressed to remove their oils, but it still contains roughly 10% of the original fat content ( 15 ).
A 1/4-cup (30-gram) serving has around 3 grams of fat, most of which is unsaturated and excellent for heart health (4, 5, 16 , 17 ).
A typical Western diet provides an unbalanced 15:1 ratio of these fats, and has been linked to many chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer ( 20 ).
Consuming foods such as hemp seeds, which have lower omega-6 to omega-3 ratios, can help correct this imbalance and may improve heart health ( 21 ).
Since hemp protein powder is less refined than other protein isolates, it contains more fat than most protein powders.
This fat content can be good for people who want to add more heart-healthy unsaturated fats to their diet but may be undesirable for those seeking a lower-calorie protein powder.
Since hemp protein powder contains fat, it should be stored in the refrigerator after opening to prevent the fats from going rancid.
Hemp protein powder contains omega-6 and omega-3 fats in an ideal 3:1 ratio that promotes heart health, but it’s slightly higher in calories because of it.
Hemp protein powder is a popular plant-based supplement, especially among vegan athletes. This article checks the facts to determine whether hemp protein powder is the best plant-based protein powder available.
Manitoba Harvest Hemp Protein Powders are Now Known as Hemp Yeah!
Manitoba Harvest has been a pioneer in the world of hemp. They were the first to release a water soluble hemp protein concentrate that didn’t leave a gritty or sandy taste behind. And they’ve since added several more options, from higher fiber to gently sweetened flavors. In 2020, they also rebranded their entire hemp product line as Hemp Yeah!
Hemp Yeah! is still Manitoba Harvest Hemp Protein Powder
As a heads up, these hemp protein powders should be used raw. Heating them may destroy some of those wonderful Omega3 fatty acids. They should be fine when added to your morning hot cereal once cooked. However, avoid adding these hemp protein powders to anything before they head to the stove or oven.
I had the opportunity to taste-test a range of Manitoba Harvest hemp protein powders, and was quite surprised at the different tastes and virtues they each possessed. They are all pretty basic, made simply from hemp seeds, but as you can see by looking at the pictures, these are completely different products. (Please note that my pictures show their old packaging and branding, but the product inside is the same!)
Hemp Yeah Max Protein (formerly Hemp Pro 70 (70% protein))
This wonder hemp protein concentrate really does perform as advertised. To taste this is the naturally “sweetest” of the three flagship hemp protein powders. I put that in quotes, as this isn’t a sugary protein powder mix, it is just the hemp and natural plant extracts. But it wasn’t bitter, as I had expected. In fact, the flavor melded nicely in my smoothies rather than overwhelming in any way. Also, it was palatable on its own, just shaken with water.
As for the texture, there is no dominating grit, just a nice smooth powder that really does blend in! I have been taste-testing quite a few protein powders lately, and this is one of my favorites. It even has a better feel and taste than brown rice protein, which tends to be very thick and powdery.
Beyond smoothies, I thought the Max Protein worked wonderfully as a healthy thickener in salad dressings. It changes the taste slightly, but the consistency is virtually seamless.
Hemp Yeah Balanced Protein + Fiber (formerly Hemp Pro 50 (50% protein))
Though it’s the middle of the pack in terms of protein content, this version was the grittiest of the three primary hemp protein powders. I still didn’t find it off-putting, but it won’t be as soluble in water (or dressings). It was the second in line in sweetness, with the hemp seed flavor creeping in just a little more. Less protein, rougher texture, not as sweet … You might be wondering, why would anyone choose this over the Max Protein?
The lower protein in the Balanced Protein Powder is offset with some extra fiber. According to the company, it also has a higher ratio of Omega3 fatty acids, and is cold-milled – a process that some people may prefer.
Hemp Yeah! Max Fiber (formerly Organic Hemp Pro Fiber)
The name of this one pretty much gives away its core benefits. It’s certified organic and higher in fiber (13 grams per serving!). Surprisingly, this protein powder is in the middle ground in terms of texture. It’s finer than the Balanced, but just a bit coarser than the Max Protein. However, of the three base hemp protein powders, it tastes the most genuinely like hemp seeds.
Again, it is perfect for smoothies. But due to the seedier taste and lack of solubility, it won’t perform as well when simply mixed with water or milk beverage. Nonetheless, it will probably still work nicely as a thickener in things such as salad dressings.
Hemp Yeah! Organic Vanilla
Curious, I tasted just a bit of this protein powder straight. It was actually quite pleasant; lightly sweet, nutty, and gently vanilla in flavor.
I tested it first just mixed with milk beverage. Unfortunately, it failed to mix in well, quickly sinking to the bottom of my beverage after each stir. The flavor was good, but I really couldn’t taste the vanilla as much as I wanted.
On the second go, I went the smoothie route. Jackpot! I blended 1 frozen banana (broken into chunks) with ¾ cup unsweetened almond milk and ¼ cup of the vanilla protein powder. It was a delicious post-workout reward with a great recovery ration (4 carbs to 1 protein). The banana actually helped to enhance the vanilla flavor and assisted with distributing the hemp powder.
Hemp Yeah! Organic Chocolate
When tasted straight, the dark chocolate and hemp flavors in this protein powder didn’t quite meld, but in smoothie form, they were excellent. I followed my basic smoothie formula above, but used unsweetened coconut milk beverage instead of almond milk.
The beverage had a very nice, gentle chocolate flavor that was indeed on the dark chocolate side, but did not overwhelm. It was slightly sweet, but not too sweet, making it an excellent post workout drink. I don’t know about you, but my taste buds tend to be more sensitive after a good bout of exercise. If I were craving a sweeter shake, then I would blend in 1 softened date.
Like the vanilla, there was that slight granular consistency, but it was very mild in the smoothie, and to be expected with natural hemp protein powders. This variety was my husband’s top pick, but it may have helped that he cocoa masked the green color.
The Facts on Manitoba Harvest Hemp Yeah! Hemp Protein Powders
Price: $14.49 to $18.99 per 1-lb container (other sizes available)
Certifications: Manitoba Harvest Hemp Yeah! Hemp Protein Powders are Non-GMO Verified and Certified Kosher Parve. Select varieties are Certified Organic.
Dietary Notes: By ingredients, Manitoba Harvest Hemp Yeah! Hemp Protein Powders are dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, gluten-free, grain-free, nut-free, peanut-free, soy-free, vegan, and vegetarian. Select varieties are paleo.*
For More Product Information: Visit the Manitoba Harvest website at manitobaharvest.com.
*Always read the ingredient and nutrition statement prior to consumption. Ingredients, processes, and labeling are subject to change at any time for any company or product. Contact the company to discuss their manufacturing processes if potential allergen cross-contamination is an issue for you. No food product can be guaranteed “safe” for every individual’s needs. You should never rely on ingredient and allergen statements alone if dealing with a severe food allergy.
Manitoba Harvest Hemp Protein Powders contain 100% water soluble hemp protein concentrate, which is smooth, not gritty. Dairy-free, Vegan. Read for more …