Superfood: Hemp

Hemp seeds may come from the same source as cannabis, but these super seeds are magical in a different way — their extreme nutrition.
Superfood: Hemp

These super seeds supersede in terms of nutrition: They’re filled with essential fatty acids and protein. And don’t forget about the vitamins and minerals, too — hemp seed is a great source of magnesium, zinc, and iron, and also offers some potassium phosphorus, and calcium, which are all necessary for normal body function and development

The Essential Seed — Why They’re Super

Photo by Caitlin Covington

 

The saying “big things come in small packages” couldn’t be any truer in regards to hemp seed. These small seeds are rich in essential fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids, including omega-3s, which can help fight coronary heart disease, cancer, and even symptoms of depression Omega-3 fatty acids for the treatment of depression: systematic review and meta-analysis. Bloch, M.H., Hannestad, J. Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT; Yale Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. Molecular Psychiatry, 2011 Sep 20.. Hemp seeds are also a rich and unusual source of the polyunsaturated fatty acid gamma linolenic acid, or GLA The cardiac and haemostatic effects of dietary hempseed. Rodriguez-Leyva, D., Pierce, G.N. Department of Physiology, University of Manitoba and Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Nutrition and Metabolism, 2010 Apr 21;7:32. GLA, found in plant seed oils (and also in breast milk), has been known to help with a number of maladies, ranging from allergies to attention deficit disorder, and may even help lower cholesterol levels: Studies have shown that when hemp seed is added to a diet, it can also help control cholesterol levels Cholesterol-induced stimulation of platelet aggregation is prevented by a hempseed-enriched diet. Prociuk, M.A., Edel, A.L, Richard, M.N., et al. Canadian Centre for Agri-food Research in Health and Medicine, St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre, and Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba, Canada. Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 2008 Apr;86(4):153-9..

These seeds also make a perfect post-exercise snack since they’re a fantastic protein source — in fact, they’re one of the highest sources of complete protein in all plant-based food. Complete proteins provide all nine of the essential amino acids, which the body uses to build cells, repair tissues, and form antibodies. One ounce (about two tablespoons) of hemp seeds contains 10 grams of protein, perfect for rebuilding muscle after a sweaty gym sesh. (But that doesn't mean it's the best source post-workout, so be sure to choose the right protein source for you.) The same amount also provides 77 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin E, which is essential for a healthy immune system and protects body tissues from damaging free radicals Scavenger effect of vitamin E and derivatives on free radicals generated by photoirradiated pheomelanin. Duval, C., Poelman, M.C. Departement Dermopharmacie et Biophysique Cutanee, Faculte des Sciences Pharmaceutiques et Biologiques, Paris, France. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 1995 Jan;84(1):107-10..

And there’s one final, burning question that needs to be answered: Can a person get high from eating hemp seed? Although it’s a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant and contains low levels of THC (the active ingredient that induces a high), ingesting hemp seed won’t induce visions of butterflies and rainbows (and is not the same variety of Cannabis sativa as our friend Mary Jane). The amount of THC in normal foods isn’t even enough to arouse any suspicion on a drug test Evaluating the impact of hemp food consumption on workplace drug tests. Leson, G., Pless, P., Grotenhermen, F. Leson Environmental Consulting, Berkeley, California 94709, U.S.A. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, 2001 Nov-Dec;25(8):691-8..

Hooked on Hemp — Your Action Plan

The hemp plant, native to Asia, may be ancient (records mentioning the plant go back more than 10,000 years), but our ancestors had the right idea. With 160 calories in two tablespoons, the taste of hemp seeds is reminiscent of sunflower seeds, with a rich, nutty flavor. Nosh on a handful after a workout, or sprinkle them on pretty much anything including yogurt, salads, and soups. They pair perfectly when mixed with granola, and can also be baked into any recipe. For a boost of protein, try blending hemp seeds into a fruit smoothie.

There are also some non-traditional ways to fill up on hemp besides the seeds — look for hemp milk, which tastes great over cereal and can be stirred into hot cocoa or pancake batter. Hemp protein powder is also a great alternative to whey protein powder: It’s vegan, lactose-free, and contains all the essential amino acids (one tablespoon packs more than three and a half grams of protein — although that’s less than whey powder’s six grams per tablespoon). Or try hemp seed oil, which can be used in baked goods and salad dressings.

Our Favorite Hemp Recipes from Around the Web

Breakfast: Hemp Protein Granola Bars via My New Roots
Post-Workout Snack: Peach Hemp Protein Smoothie via Healthy Happy Life
Lunch: Roasted Vegetable Salad with Hemp Seeds via Clean Cuisine
Dinner: Hemp Crusted Salmon via Epicurious
Dessert: Hemp Oatmeal Raisin Cookies via SparkRecipes

Have a favorite use for hemp? Share with us in the comments below! 

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