You finally figured out how to find a healthy whey protein powder and have discovered all kinds of ways to use it beyond your usual smoothie. (Flapjacks! Breakfast cupcakes!) And now, there’s a whole new option to consider: hemp protein powder.
Chances are, you’ve seen it on your social media feed or the menu of your local smoothie bar. But what is it? Should you be using it? And, um, will it get you high?
Here’s the lowdown: Hemp protein is extracted from shelled hemp seeds, which are the seeds of the hemp plant. Hemp, yes, is a close cousin of marijuana. But unlike pot, it doesn’t contain psychoactive chemicals—so it won’t get you high.
People love hemp because, like whey and soy, it’s a complete protein—meaning that it contains all 9 essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own. (Some other plant-based protein powders are also complete proteins, but they’re usually made from a combination of more than one protein source, like brown rice and peas.) And while it contains slightly less protein than other protein powders (around 15 grams per scoop, compared to 20 to 25 grams per scoop for proteins like whey or soy), it has other benefits that make up for that.
For one, it’s plant-based. Plus just like whole hemp seeds, hemp protein powder is packed with fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. (You’ll get around 8 grams of fiber and 2 grams of omega-3s in one scoop.) So it’s a great option if you’re looking to get more of those power nutrients in your diet, or if you’re trying to cut back on dairy, explains Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, founder of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness.
Try hemp protein powder in this banana almond smoothie:
OK, but how does it taste? Most people describe it as pleasantly nutty, with a slightly coarser consistency than whey protein. If you like the flavor and texture of ground flaxseeds, you’ll probably be a fan of hemp protein too. And just like other proteins, it works well in smoothies, baked goods (especially whole grain ones, since hemp complements whole grain flours’ naturally nutty flavor) and oatmeal.
If you’re ready to give it a try, just keep the basics of smart protein powder shopping in mind: Pick one that’s free of added sugar or artificial sweeteners, and steer clear of long ingredient lists or ingredients that you can’t identify, Rumsey says. (Find out what happens when you quit using artificial sweeteners.) For extra insurance, check that your powder is certified organic—it’s the simplest way to guarantee that the product isn’t made with any sketchy additives.
Two options that fit all these criteria? Nutiva Organic Hemp Protein and Navitas Naturals Organic Raw Hemp Protein Powder. Better yet, they’re both less than $15 (relatively cheap for protein powder) and can be delivered right to your front door.