It seems the world is obsessed with protein. People drink protein shakes before their workout. Bodybuilders chow down on chicken, tuna, and eggs in order to get desired results. Plant-based eaters are constantly asked where they get their protein, and nearly every processed health snack references protein value as a reason to buy.
It’s no wonder, then, that when one chooses the plant-based lifestyle, protein intake often comes to mind.
You don’t have to look far to see what can sometimes border on something of a protein obsession. From protein shakes, bars, and powders to cereals, cookies, and protein-focused diets and meal-delivery services, attention to protein seems to be just about everywhere.
What is protein and how much protein do our bodies really need?
Protein is an essential nutrient for building, maintenance, and repair of almost all the tissues in your body, including your bones, muscles, blood, hair, nails, and organs.
Protein also gives your body energy, although that’s not its main role. In addition, protein helps keep your immune system strong. Now you may be thinking, what about those who do not eat animal products?
Concerns about the rising cost of healthcare are being voiced nationwide, even as unhealthy lifestyles are contributing to the spread of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. For these reasons, health practitioners and health gurus seeking cost-effective interventions to improve health outcomes are becoming more involved in helping their patients adopt healthier lifestyles. As research develops, the conclusion about healthy eating has been best concluded with a plant-based diet, which we define as a regimen that encourages whole, plant-based foods.
With the rise of plant-based nutrition and individuals becoming more conscious of their meat consumption, many may wonder where does their protein intake come from?
A plant-based diet is nutrient rich packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, healthy fats, energizing carbohydrates and even a substantial amount of protein! If you eat a plant-based diet, a vegan diet or vegetarian you likely have been asked: “how do you get enough protein?” The truth is, many plant-based foods contain protein! For example, did you know that 1 cup of cooked lentils has approximately 18 grams of protein, 1 cup of raw kale has 6 grams of protein, and 3 tablespoons of Hemp Hearts has 10 grams of protein!
Despite what the bodybuilders might tell you…you can eat too much protein. This might seem a crazy concept in a world that’s always telling us how important it is, but more recent studies are now highlighting the negative effects of eating too much protein from animal sources.
In a New York Times Op-Ed, Dr. Dean Ornish talks about the myth of high protein diets. He references a study which found a 75 percent increase in deaths from cancer and Type 2 diabetes, among ‘heavy consumers’ of animal protein under the ages of 65.
In other words, those who got 20% of their calories from animal protein were more likely to die from a chronic disease.
According to the most recent U.S Dietary Guidelines, the average sedentary female needs 46 grams of protein per day and the average sedentary male needs 56 grams of protein. If you’re eating a varied, balanced diet of real, plant-based whole foods it is possible to easily meet and exceed your protein needs! To note, individuals who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or extremely active, will need more protein per day.
Before you line your bathroom cabinet with unnecessary supplements to fill the gaps, there’s a simpler and healthier way that involves adding one powerful superfood to a few of your meals!
What Is Hemp?
Hemp used for food comes from the Cannabis sativa plant. This is the same plant family as marijuana but the tiny seeds the plant produces are what you eat. They don’t contain the potent dose of THC found in the leaves.
Whole and unshelled hemp seeds look similar to large brown peppercorns. Inside the tough outer layer, you will find a softer, pleasantly chewy inner section. The tender little pieces inside are referred to as hemp seeds or hemp hearts.
Once these seeds are extracted from the hull, hemp can be morphed into various forms.
Nutritional Benefits of Hemp
Hemp seeds don’t slack in the nutrient department, offering an ample amount of macronutrients and several minerals.
The major nutritional benefit of hemp seeds is that they are a ‘complete protein’, meaning that they contain all nine of your essential amino acids (like meat). Therefore, this is the perfect vegetarian, vegan or raw-food protein alternative! Hemp also contains polyunsaturated (cholesterol lowering) fatty acids. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) claims that an ideal omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 4:1; hemp has a ratio of 3.75:1. This balance provides the body with what it needs for optimal skin health, energy production, nervous system function, brain development, heart health, and immune system support.
What else comes with a heaping serving of these powerful, nutty-flavored hearts:
- Contains all 9 essential amino acids (known as a complete protein)
- Omega 3 + Omega 6 fatty acids (heart health, immunity and anti-inflammatory)
- Magnesium (70% of daily requirement)
- Iron (30% of daily requirement)
- Source of fiber (3g per 3Tbsp severing)
- Good source of phosphorous (vital for metabolism, our nervous system, hormone balance, energy)
- Good source of folate (important for women of childbearing age, body cell functioning)
- Vitamin E (antioxidant containing)
- Good source of potassium (heart health, builds muscle, electrolyte)
- Phytosterols (cholesterol lowering)
Though hemp seeds have only recently become popular within the wellness industry, they’re a staple food in many eastern societies and provide excellent nutritional value.
10 Ways to Eat Hemp
There are numerous opportunities to get more hemp into your diet. Here are 10 simple ways to incorporate seeds, milk, and oil into your daily recipes.
- Blend seeds into a smoothie with berries, milk of choice and a splash of maple syrup. Save a few seeds to sprinkle over the top.
- Keep that blender out! Creamy and mild hemp milk is also a wonderful addition to smoothies.
- Lightly toasted hemp seeds make a crunchy, gluten-free coating for fish or chicken.
- Toss a layer of hemp seeds atop slices of avocado toast.
- Pulse hemp seeds and nuts in a food processor and press into a pie pan for a vegan and gluten-free tart crust.
- Add hemp seeds to pesto for a nut-free take on a classic pasta sauce.
- Cozy up with a hemp milk latte. Whisk espresso or strongly brewed coffee with steamed hemp milk, sweetener of choice and a dash of ground cinnamon.
- Whisk hemp oil with fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, pepper and a touch of minced garlic for a light and fresh salad dressing.
- Add 1/4 cup of hemp protein powder to your favorite snack bar or energy balls, it will add 14 grams of protein to the mix.
- Add a few handfuls of hemp seeds to any recipe for granola.