Hemp Seed Protein

Hemp seeds have the most complete edible and usable protein in the vegetable kingdom. Although soybeans are said to contain more, much of it is unusable by the human body. Proteins serve such functions as acting as enzymes, antibodies, and the structural components of tissues, hormones, and blood protein. The main function of dietary protein is to supply the building blocks called amino acids so that they can be used to reconstruct other proteins needed for the growth and maintenance of body tissue.

Proteins are often classified as structural (fibrous) or biologically active (globular). Structural proteins include collagen, keratin, and fibrinogen, which are the main constitutents of bones, skin, hair, ligaments, feathers, and hooves! Biologically active proteins are mainly globulins and include such things as hormones, hemoglobin, antibodies (immunoglobulins), and enzymes. Although the body can make globular proteins out of any protein that enters the body, it is much more efficient for the body to make globulins out of globular starting material.

What makes globular proteins so special is that they are precursors to some of the most vital chemicals in the body:

  • hormones (which regulate all the body processes);
  • haemoglobin (which transports oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitric oxide);
  • enzymes (which catalyze and control biochemical reactions);
  • antibodies (immuno-globulins which fend off invading bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens, as well as toxins or antigens as they enter the body).

The total protein content of hemp seed is about 65% of the globular protein edestin, which closely resembles the globulin found in human blood plasma. It is easily digested, absorbed, and utilized by humans and vital to maintaining a healthy immune system. Edestin has the unique ability to stimulate the manufacture of antibodies against invasive agents and is nearly phosphorus-free, which is important for kidney ailments. The other important protein in hemp seed is albumin, which is also a highly digestible protein because of its globular shape. Albumin is a major free radical scavenger and is the industry standard for protein quality evaluation.

Hemp protein contains all 21 known amino acids, including the 8 essential ones adult bodies cannot produce. Proteins are considered complete when they contain all the essential amino acids in sufficient quantities and ratios to meet the body’s needs. The following are the 21 most common amino acids, with the 8 essential ones in bold:

  • alanine
  • arginine
  • aspargine
  • aspartic acid
  • cysteine
  • glutamic acid
  • glutamine
  • glycine
  • histidine
  • isoleucine
  • leucine
  • lysine
  • methionine
  • phenylalanine
  • proline
  • serine
  • taurine
  • threonine
  • tryptophan
  • tyrosine
  • valine
  • taurine (considered essential for premature babies)
  • histidine (considered essential for children, but not for adults)

Proteins are potential allergens, which also include soy, dairy or peanut proteins. However, no hemp seed allergies have ever been reported. Several oilseeds also contain anti-nutritional factors; for example, the trypsin inhibitors in soybeans; but none of these factors are known to occur in hemp seeds. Hemp seeds also contain fewer oligosaccharides, present in peas and beans and which cause intestinal gas. A significant number of people are becoming allergic to soy products, possibly because most are from genetically engineered crops or grown with the use of chemicals. On the other hand, because hemp seed does not require chemicals or genetic alteration, it rarely, if ever, causes sensitivity.

Hemp seed protein can supply any diet with a vegetarian source of essential fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fibre, chlorophyll, and a complete, balanced gluten-free source of the essential amino acids.

Edestin

History reveals the importance of hemp seed protein.

  • In 1881, a German scientist discovered that hemp seed contained edestin, its main protein.
  • In the early 20th century, edestin was one of the most studied proteins in both science and industry.
  • In 1909, the nature of enzymes became known when a British scientist discovered the protein enzyme, protease in hemp seed. He called it vegetable trypsin. Today, enzymes are indispensible to the food ingredient industry and are used to make many foods.
  • In 1915, the Journal of Biological Chemistry discussed edestin at length, presenting ideas that would later form the basis for protein complementarily and combining, a popular concept among vegetarians. A later issue published a vegetable protein study. In it, edestin was considered suitable as a sole protein source for animals: “Protein feeding in the future will be based rather on the amino acid makeup than on the results of past feeding experiments.” The study also stated that “the relatively large amounts of lysine present in the…hempseed…is especially noteworthy.”
  • In 1932, a patent was issued for a gluing process using hemp seed protein. Today, milk protein is used in adhesives.
  • In 1937, the same scientists who first spun vegetable protein for food issued a patent using hemp seed protein to make spun filaments, films, and threads that are similar to silk and wool.


Protein Content Compared

Soybeans 35.0%
Hemp Protein 34.0%
Hemp seed shelled 31.0%
Hamburger beef 27.1%
Blue fish 26.0%
Cheddar cheese 23.5%
Chicken 23.5%
Hempseed — whole 23.0%
Almonds 18.3%
Wheat flour 13.3%
Egg 12.0%
Tofu 08.0%
Rice 07.5%
Skimmed milk 03.7%

Essential Amino Acids Compared

Essential
Amino Acid
Hemp
Seed
Egg
Whites
Tofu Human
Milk
Cow’s
Milk
Leucine

18.80

9.50

5.9

2.78

3.44

Lysine

9.10

6.48

5.7

3.12

2.72

Threonine

10.30

4.77

3.7

0.62

1.61

Phen + Tyro

21.90

6.89

4.8

1.21

1.70

Valine

14.20

8.42

4.3

1.39

2.40

Meth + Cyst

9.60

4.20

1.0

0.65

0.86

Isoleucine

11.40

6.98

4.1

0.75

2.23

Tryptophan

3.90

1.64

1.2

0.23

0.49

 

Alanine – a non-essential amino acid whose main function is the metabolism of tryptophan and pyridoxine

Arginine – an essential amino acid for children and possibly for adults

Asparagine – a non-essential amino acid

Aspartic Acid – a non-essential amino acid which aids in the formation of RNA and DNA

Carnitine – not a true amino acid but sometimes referred to as Vitamin BT

Citrulline – a non-essential amino acid involved in the urea cycle

Cysteine – a non-essential, sulphur-containing amino acid

Cystine – a non-essential amino acid created when two cysteine molecules bond together

Gaba – a non-essential amino acid formed from glutamic acid with the help of Vitamin B6

Glutamic Acid – a non-essential amino acid that can be synthesized from a number of amino acids

Glutamine – a semi-essential amino acid

Glutathione – not considered a true amino acid but a tripeptide of glutamic acid, cysteine, and glycine

Glycine – a non-essential glucogenic amino acid that readily converts to serine

Histidine – considered an essential amino acid for children, but usually not for adults

Isoleucine – an essential or semi-essential amino acid because it sometimes cannot be made in the body

Leucine – an essential branched chain amino acid classified as semi-essential by some

Lysine – an essential amino acid because it cannot be synthesized in the body and its breakdown is irreversible

Methionine – an essential amino acid that cannot be synthesized in the body

Ornithine – a non-essential amino acid found free in the body tissues, but not used as a protein building block

Phenylalanine – an essential amino acid that is converted to tyrosine in the body

Proline – an aromatic non-essential amino acid that requires Vitamin C for its synthesis

Serine – a non-essential amino acid derived from glycine, contributing to the formation of cystine from homocysteine

Taurine – a “conditionally essential” amino acid for adults and essential for normal infant development

Threonine – an essential amino acid, serving as a carrier for phosphate in phosphoproteins

Tryptophan – an essential amino acid, the only one with an indole nucleus responsible for the peculiar odor of feces

Tyrosine – an aromatic non-essential amino acid produced from phenylalanine

Valine – a branched chain essential or semi-essential amino acid

Hemp Protein Powders

When purchasing a hemp protein powder, look for a brand that supplies at least 50 to 60% protein by weight and supplying at least 15 grams of protein per 30 gram serving. While hemp protein may contain more total fat than many other protein powders, it should be stressed that almost all of this fat comes from the essential polyunsaturated fatty acids Omega-6 and Omega-3. Hemp is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as having what is considered to be an optimal 3:1 balance of Omega 6 to Omega 3 =essential fatty acids.

Unlike hemp protein powder, many soy isolate powders that are not labeled organic are often processed with hexane, a petroleum solvent that has adverse impacts on the environment as well as on human health. The resulting hexane-processed soy is utilized in many soy protein powders, cereals, and bars. Hemp protein powder is produced using only cold-pressed techniques and does not involve the use of hexane in the production process. It is the same technique that ensures valuable vitamins and minerals are not destroyed during processing.

Perhaps the most important difference between soy and hemp seed protein powders is that the non-organic soybeans used in many soy products are often derived from genetically modified soybeans. Hemp is never genetically modified. Hemp foods also have low environmental impacts because growing hemp seeds does not require the addition of herbicides or pesticides.

A pound of hemp seed would provide all the protein, essential fatty acids, and dietary fiber necessary for human survival for two weeks. For this reason it is used in many parts of the world for treating malnourishment.

How far does a pound of meat go?

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