If you follow health food bloggers on Instagram, you may have noticed uptick in hemp milk hashtags and photos recently. People have been posting photos of everything from hemp milk lattes to actual bottles of the stuff.
Healthy living fan Hilaria Baldwin even said in a recent interview that she gives her family hemp milk, which she calls the "richest" kind of milk that "doesn't have a lot of junk in it."
But why are so many people into hemp milk? And is it really better than cow's milk and the other milk alternatives out there?
First, the basics: Hemp milk is made from hulled hemp seeds, water, and (usually) a sweetener. "Its claim to fame is the high amount of omega-3 fatty acids—one cup can provide close to an entire day's recommend intake," says registered dietitian Alissa Rumsey, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to decrease bodily inflammation and protect against heart disease and certain cancers, so that's a big plus for hemp milk.
"Hemp is also one of the few vegetable foods that supplies complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids that our bodies require but can't make on their own," says registered dietitian-nutritionist Karen Ansel, co-author of The Calendar Diet: A Month by Month Guide to Losing Weight While Living Your Life. Our bodies use these essential amino acids to synthesize proteins, which we use to build muscle, cells, and antibodies, she explains.
Hemp milk can also be a good calcium source if you choose one that's calcium-fortified, Ansel adds. (It should say on the label).
But Ansel points out that hemp milk isn't a huge protein source overall since it only gives you about three grams per cup vs. eight grams for a cup of dairy milk. It can also be high in sugar. "Hemp milk contains more sugar than milk, so if you're trying to cut down sugar it might not be the best choice," says Ansel.
However, certified dietitian-nutritionist Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., CEO of NY Nutrition Group, says hemp may be one of the best non-dairy milk options out there. "Soy can still cause potential digestion issues and allergic reactions, and most brands of rice milk do not contain nearly the same amount of protein, fiber, or other nutrients as hemp milk," she says. But, she adds, almond, coconut, and cashew milk are also good alternatives.
Experts agree that there's nothing wrong with cow's milk for people who don't have a dairy intolerance. But, if you're looking for a nondairy alternative and could use a boost in your omega-3 intake, it's probably worth giving hemp milk a try.