Hemp Protein vs Pea Protein – What is the Best Vegan Protein?
In the great protein debate, whey protein dominates the market, with casein coming in at a close second. For good reason – they’re both great anabolic post-workout treats that can keep you full throughout the day. But what about those of us who don’t do animal products? Or others whose stomachs aren’t happy with those options (as they’re notoriously harder to digest)?
Fortunately, dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options exist. Two of the top choices come as pea and hemp protein. Outside of which plant they come from, is there much of a difference between these protein powders? Well, we’re here to find out. In this article, we’ll go over the basics of each protein, answer your questions about nutritional variations, and recommend our choices for top pea and hemp protein.
Benefits Of Hemp Protein
As an all-natural, plant-based protein source, hemp seeds offer a wealth of nutritional benefits. Yes, they come from the Cannabis sativa plant, but they’re not the same thing as marijuana. Hemp protein won’t get you high any more than pea protein will. Now that we got that out of the way…
Not only are these seeds packed with protein, but they can counteract inflammation, help weight loss, and defend your nervous system from breakdown. 30 grams of hemp protein powder, or about one serving, tends to feature around 15 grams of protein. That’s slightly less than your casein or whey varieties, but it’s still a good amount for a meal.
Furthermore, hemp seeds contain all nine essential amino acids. That’s almost the same bang for your buck as animal-based sources, but without the downsides. However, consuming hemp protein alone at the recommended dietary intake wouldn’t meet your essential amino acid requirement. So it’s important to get your protein from a variety of sources.
Other benefits of hemp protein, besides the amino acids, include:
- Brain health
- Reduced inflammation
- Appetite control
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely heard about this compound called CBD. Cannabidiol is known for its wealth of benefits, including improved brain health. Research shows that CBD protects against damage from oxidative stress. These effects limit the breakdown and eventual death of brain cells, which you need to think.
Hemp seeds in particular bring CBD alongside healthy fats. The plant’s omega-3 fatty acids stabilize moods, aid trauma recovery, and also counteract inflammation.
Hemp can lower inflammation
In addition to CBD’s effects, the flavonoids, terpenes, and other antioxidants in hemp seeds decrease oxidative stress. Metabolic reactions, AKA energy production, often yield byproducts called free radicals. With nothing to attach to, these molecules roam your body causing microtraumas. Antioxidants attach to the free radicals, safely removing them and protecting you from harm. Moreover, the high GLA content in hemp seeds can lower the natural inflammatory response, subduing chronic pain.
Finally, CBD and protein can both calm appetite. Add in the strong fibrous element of hemp protein powders, and you’re sure to feel full for a while. That’s great for weight loss, as keeping caloric intake down helps drop the pounds. All three elements – protein, fiber, and CBD – plus good fats can improve insulin sensitivity. Combine hemp protein with a healthy lifestyle to accelerate your weight loss journey.
Benefits Of Pea Protein
It’s commonly understood that most individual vegetables are incomplete protein sources on their own. Peas are an exception. While many plant-based dieters concern themselves with combining multiple protein sources in one meal, a well-balanced diet covers your protein needs throughout the day. However, if you need extra protein for any reason (athletes, anyone?), or just want assurance you’re getting a complete protein, aim for the peas.
What’s most exciting about pea protein is its Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score, or PDCAAS. While a long, scientific-sounding acronym might not seem thrilling, it’s the gold-standard for rating the absorption of proteins. All proteins – from tuna to milk and soy – get rated along this scale from 1-100. Pea protein scored a 95, which is more than beef, and just a few points behind whey.
Other benefits of pea protein
Pea protein powders offer a few other benefits outside of their impressive protein profiles. Those include:
- Vitamins and minerals – peas are great sources of folate, potassium, vitamins B2, B3, and B6, iron, choline, zinc and so much more.
- Phytonutrients – antioxidants such as catechin and epicatechin exist within peas. Those and other flavonoids help counteract inflammation, brain damage, and certain cancer risk
Which one is more effective?
Pea protein would be a more effective post-workout, due to an overall higher amino acid content. Hemp, on the other hand, offers more well-rounded benefits as a food. Pea protein tends to be short on fiber, while hemp is known for it. Both are packed with phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Therefore, both provide a solution to nourish overall health and wellness.
How does hemp protein taste compared to pea protein?
If flavor is your primary concern, pay attention. Hemp protein carries a more earthy undertone, and even flavored varieties such as chocolate still feature those notes. Pea protein, on the other hand, is relatively flavorless. As such, it tastes like whatever the manufacturer adds to it (vanilla, chocolate, etc.)
So which is the healthiest protein powder?
It depends on your definition of health, honestly. If you’re asking which contains more protein per gram, it’s definitely pea protein. If you’re looking for a solid protein source with other nutritional benefits, choose hemp. Moreover, unlike concerns with soy protein, neither relate to issues surrounding estrogen.
Hemp protein powder, as ground up hemp hearts, features a good source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. If made from unhulled hemp seeds, it packs a serious fibrous punch. Especially if you’re on the Keto diet, whole hemp protein can replace some of the fiber you’re losing by cutting out carbs. And no, it won’t ruin your diet.
Even if you’re not Keto (or Paleo, or on any other low-carb diet) dietary fiber helps your gut run smoothly. Therefore, digesting whole hemp protein could work in your favor.
Pea protein, on the other hand, loses the battle on fiber. The protein is actually made by removing the outer shell of the pea, which contains insoluble fibers. While some soluble fiber still remains, it’s a fraction of that found in whole hemp varieties. That makes it another good choice for Keto – and everyone, really – thanks to its high protein, low-carb nature.
While pea protein lacks omega-3 fats, that doesn’t mean it can’t be anti-inflammatory. The micronutrients in peas help control inflammation by acting as antioxidants to defend against stress.
Best Hemp Proteins
If you’ve decided hemp protein is your go-to, it’s time to choose your brand. Of course, there are tons of options out there, so we’ve put together a small list of hemp proteins for you.
Onnit graces the market with a variety of hemp protein powders. Through combining hemp with with acai, chia, or flax, their products up the ante. They even sell a cocoa and maca version if that’s your style, but know the protein content drops to 5g per serving. Onnit focuses on the whole-food benefits of their hemp powders. Drop over to their website to enrich your total nutrition with all-natural hemp.
Nutiva Hemp Protein
Nutiva makes both hulled and unhulled hemp proteins, depending on your fancy. Their hemp-heart protein features 15g of protein and 8g of fiber, while the hi-fiber version flips this to 11g of protein, 12g fiber. Their highly digestible protein is so natural, it needs to be stored in the refrigerator. With both vanilla and chocolate flavors, mix Nutiva in to your smoothies, yogurt, or desserts for an added nutritional kick.
Best Pea Protein
If, instead, you’re looking to go the pea protein route, we’ve got a suggestion. In our expert opinion, there’s one pea protein that stands out above the rest – Norcal Organic Pea Protein.
About Norcal Organic Pea Protein
With its sole ingredient as yellow pea protein isolate, one serving of Norcal Organic boasts 22g of protein. Remember – that’s protein with an incredibly high digestibility as well. With 4.8g of BCAAs and 2g of arginine, it theoretically works just as well as whey after a workout. Unfortunately, not a ton of research has compared the efficacy of pea and whey proteins post-workout. Regardless, this Canadian farm ensures organic processes, so you can take home the top quality in pea proteins.
After all of this vegetarian protein talk, I’m starting to get hungry. So which one to reach for – pea or hemp protein?
If overall amino acid content and muscle protein synthesis are your primary concerns, choose pea protein. It’s a tiny plant that packs a mighty punch, and it offers almost identical benefits to whey protein.
If you’re looking for a more holistic approach, try hemp protein powders. As the production of hemp expands while regulations die down, new hemp products continue hitting the market. Therefore, hemp’s role as a nutritional superfood is finally getting the credit it deserves.
Whatever your choice, rest assured that you’re taking home a product that’ll do your body good. And that’s all you can ask for. Head over to one of the product’s websites to get started.
Aidan Lehane is an entrepreneur who has a lifelong passion for CBD, Hemp and allowing people to find an effective natural remedy to many of their pains and illnesses.
Aidan has been a constant advocate for cbd and hemp legalization for over 2 decades and is often found researching & creating blogs and videos about CBD, on the Great Hemp Youtube channel while testing and reviewing countless products for quality and effectiveness.