Just a couple of years ago, not only did I not know that one can eat “hemp” – but I, like most others, associated anything “hemp”, with marijuana. I had no idea of the incredible uses or nutritional value of this powerful plant. And with only a little bit of research, I found out that hemp foods, clothing, rope, paper and other usable products, have nothing to do with the marijuana drug effects at all. It all depends on how the plant is grown, and commercial hemp farms ensure a hemp product that is literally free of any THC – the psychoactive compound of the marijuana drug.
Thanks to a friend, I was introduced to hemp seeds a couple of years ago, and have been enjoying their health benefits ever since. Today, I have the pleasure of passing along the benefits of this incredible superfood to you, and sharing a little more about this misunderstood plant’s amazing properties for us all.
Hemp is one of the most unique plants on this Earth, for it has been stated that we can build very sustainable communities, just from this plant alone. Hemp is a source of one of the most nutritious substances on this planet and can make various food products. Hemp can be used to make clothing and all sorts of fabric products. Hemp can be used to make sustainable paper, perhaps never needing to cut down another tree. Hemp can be used as a bio-fuel. Hemp makes incredible rope and numerous other products that can replace so much of the synthetic products we use in our lives daily.
Suppression of this plant’s powerful use, is nothing short of the typical politics associated with other industries who have a lot to lose if the power of hemp is fully recognized. Even though, as of 2004 the FDA has approved hemp for use in food, it is still illegal for the most part, to farm hemp in the US. This is the reason why most hemp products come from Canada, where it is legal to grow and many hemp farms are found in the prairies.
Where food is concerned, while today there are hemp powders, butters, milks, oils, flour and you name it, my favorite way to eat this superfood is by consuming the original, raw hemp seed (hulled). However, I look forward to using this superfood in some of its other forms as well.
The best part about hemp too, is that it is considered a very eco-friendly option to use. Hemp grows tall and fast without almost any need for chemical pesticides or fertilizers, and all parts of the plant can be used for something, making almost nothing go to waste. Hemp is also not genetically modified (at least for now).
Health Benefits of Hemp
The two most powerful benefits of hemp are its protein and essential fatty acid type and amounts.
When it comes to the protein, hemp not only offers a robust amount of protein per serving, but the protein from hemp is considered a complete protein – containing all of the necessary amino acids. One tablespoon of hemp seeds provides a whopping 4g of protein. A typical serving can be around 4-5 tablespoons. The protein is also highly digestible and not as hard on our system, as some forms of animal proteins.
As for the essential fatty acids, hemp is an omega 3 powerhouse. Hemp is one of the few foods (other than chia) that has a near perfect ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids, 3:1. Our diets today get too much omega 6 and not enough omega 3, so this is an important source to keep in mind.
Omega 3 is a family of fats from the polyunsaturated group of fats. Within this family is the essential fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). There are also two other very important fatty acids within this family, known as EPA and DHA. While no plant food, (algae excluded) contains all the necessary omega 3 fatty acids, a healthy body is able to convert the ALA to EPA to DHA.
Hemp also contains an advantage in the whole conversion process, as it contains stearidonic acid, which makes DHA directly (the crucial fatty acid found in fish).
A diet rich in omega 3 is today hailed for many health benefits including reduction of heart disease risk and enhancement of a healthy cardiovascular system, including healthy blood pressure, heart rhythm, proper blood clotting, etc., as well as optimal brain function and many other crucial reactions in our bodies, which we are still learning about.
Aside from the above benefits, hemp also offers the following health properties:
* High nutrient density
* High in fiber
* High in vitamins, particularly vitamin E
* High in minerals, particularly iron, magnesium and phosphorus
* Includes beneficial plant sterols
* Is easily digestible
* Gluten free
* Enhances regular bowel movements
* Enhances healthy weight management
* Is an excellent source of food energy
* Is not prone to inducing allergies or food sensitivities
Hemp foods offer an incredibly healthy addition to any diet, but especially raw, vegan or vegetarian diets.
Uses of Hemp Foods
To take in the amazing nutritional benefits of hemp, it is wonderful to know that there is a wide assortment of hemp products to suit any meal!
The taste of hemp is normally masked in foods, depending on the amount of hemp used. Hemp seeds do have a flavor that is described as “nutty and buttery”. I would not say the taste is delicious, but rather acquired as one gets used to it. Some people however love the taste of all hemp products, so in the end it really depends on one’s preference in how they will eat this food, whether alone or with other food.
Shelled hemp seeds are ready to eat right out of the bag. They can be sprinkled on salads, blended in smoothies or shakes, sprinkled on really any meal from pasta or rice dishes to casseroles. The choice is really up to you and how creative you get.
Although more rare, hemp seeds can be found with the shells, which can make a crunchy snack. They also come ground, which can serve as the basis for sauces or be put into smoothies, shakes or other drinks. While it is possible to bake with hemp, for maximum health benefits, it is best to enjoy this food raw.