Hemp Vs. Whey Protein

whey protein powder
Large scoop of whey protein. (Image: marekuliasz/iStock/Getty Images)

Essential for life, dietary protein can come from many different sources. Whey protein is an animal source derived from milk, and hemp protein is a vegetable source derived from the Cannabis sativa plant. Both provide all of the essential amino acids, but in varying amounts, and both can be consumed to meet your dietary protein needs. Powdered whey protein is available as a very concentrated form of protein, whereas hemp protein products contain protein plus heart-healthy fats and fiber.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is derived from the process of cheese production and commonly dried into a powered form for supplementation in the diet. Many whey protein products are concentrated by filtering out the lactose and ash, resulting in products that are often as high as 80 percent protein. Whey contains mostly alpha-lactalbumin and beta-albumin and is particularly high in branch-chain amino acids, The amino acid profiles of whey protein and hemp protein differ, but both contain all essential amino acids. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one scoop of whey protein powder contains 103 calories, 17 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of fat. Ounce for ounce, whey protein contains more protein than hemp.

Hemp Seed

Hemp protein is derived from the hemp seed. It contains 30 percent fat and 25 percent protein, with over 80 percent of the oil composed of polyunsaturated fatty acids. According to the Hemp Industries Association, hemp seeds are high in essential fatty acids, B vitamins and fiber. Hemp contains two essential fatty acids, omega-6 and omega-3.

Hemp Protein

The protein in hemp is mainly from edestin and albumin, two proteins that are easily digestible and rich in amino acids essential for growth. According to the journal “Euphytica,” Hemp contains 25 percent protein and includes all of the essential amino acids, with especially high levels of arginine. Hemp has a similar amino acid profile to soy protein and egg white protein and is therefore considered a high-quality protein. In one scoop of hemp protein there are 111 calories and 14 grams of protein. Hemp protein has a similar number of calories per scoop as whey, but it contains about 4 grams of fat and less protein.

Protein Recommendations

Both whey protein powder and hemp protein powder are effective in meeting your dietary protein needs. Whey protein contains more protein per scoop than hemp; however, hemp contains heart-healthy unsaturated fats and fiber, which are beneficial for disease prevention and bowel regulation. The American Heart Association notes that most adults consume more protein than they need, and the association discourages high-protein diets. Foods derived from hemp seed can contribute to a healthy diet, and the USDA encourages Americans to eat plant-based foods because they may reduce the risk of many diseases.

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