If you really try to get into any kind of new-to-you vegan protein, I highly recommend that it be hemp. It’s incredibly versatile and the flavor is mild so it can pair well with just about anything (ideas for how to eat below).
Hemp seeds are a small seed about the size of one of the beads on a raspberry. They come from the cannabis family of plants, though are in the variety that cannot produce a psychoactive effect because they do not contain enough THC (the chemical responsible for the ‘high’ of marijuana usage). Hemp plants are also the source of CBD, the oil that has become commonly used for healing a variety of ailments, however most CBD actually comes from the actual plant matter (leaves and stalks) rather than from the seeds.
One of the most amazing benefits of eating hemp seeds is that they are a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids.. In fact, hemp seeds even have an Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio of 3:1, which according to the World Health Organization may be the ideal ratio.
Another great aspect about hemp seeds is that they travel well. Keeping a small bag in a purse or pocket allows you to eat out at any restaurant without worry about getting a substantial vegan meal: simply sprinkle the seeds over a salad and voila — a much more tasty salad that contains 7-12 grams of protein (depending on how much you add). However, it is best not to travel with them out of your country as other countries may not yet recognize the difference between hemp and illegal varieties of cannabis plants.
Hemp Seeds Nutrition
The complete nutrition information for hemp seeds can be seen in the USDA Nutrient Database here.
Buying Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds naturally have a crunchy (delicious) shell on them, and I recommend buying whole (unshelled) hemp seeds for baking in cookies. Shelled hemp seeds, also known as hulled hemp seeds, have had the shell removed and are the type I eat more often as my general hemp seed product: they are soft and therefore are extremely easy to chew. However, I would recommend reading the label of the various products available at your local supermarket as I did one day because I was surprised to find that two of what appears to be the same thing (shelled/hulled hemp seeds) had significantly different levels of protein! I have not yet been able to figure out why and may need to write to one or both of the companies to ask. The product that I buy (which has the higher level of protein) costs several dollars more.
How to Eat
- Sprinkle over a variety of foods such as yogurt or salads
- Mix into to stir fry as it cooks
- Mix into a cheesy (or not cheesy) pasta dish
- Blend into a smoothie
- Add to a protein bar or homemade plant burger recipe
- Sprinkled onto cake frosting as a decoration (similarly shredded coconut or almond crumbles)
- Add to a cookie recipe
- Blend alone in a blender or food processor to make a buttery spread that can be spread over toast, drizzled over potatoes, used as a dunking sauce for fruit or veggies, or any other way you can think of using it
- Get or make hemp milk to drink by itself, added to coffee, or keep it on hand for recipes