Hemp is Healthy!

October 15, 2010

Hemp foods are making an increasing presence on the shelves of grocery and natural food stores across North America.

Hemp foods are making an increasing presence on the shelves of grocery and natural food stores across North America. By definition, these are foods containing whole hemp seeds or the oil, nut -hulled seed- and/or flour derived from the seeds. Some examples of hemp food products include salad dressings, breads, cookies, granola, nut butter, chips, frozen deserts and cold-pressed oils.

Hemp has been grown for at least the last 12,000 years for fiber and food. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp and in fact Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper.

First thing to understand is that “hemp” is NOT “marijuana.”

Industrial hemp and marijuana are both classified as Cannabis sativa, a species with hundreds of different varieties, which is a member of the mulberry family. Industrial hemp is bred to maximize fiber, seed and/or oil, while marijuana varieties seek to maximize THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana).

In Canada and the European Union, only varieties containing less than 0.3 percent THC in their flower portions are permitted as commercial crops. Hemp growing has been illegal in the US since the early 1950s, but the importing of foods made from hemp seeds and oils is allowed. Before the seed is used as a food ingredient, the hull is usually removed, effectively removing all but the most microscopic amounts of THC. The shelled hempseeds used in food each typically contain less than 3 parts-per million (ppm) of THC… if 20 percent of a food's ingredients are shelled hempseeds, and assuming a 2 ppm THC level, one would have to eat 50 lbs of the food in question to become intoxicated.

Why foods from hemp?

Hempseeds are actually nuts (31 percent of the nut is fat) with a nutty flavor similar to pine nuts and while the nuts are very small, they are big on nutrition, with up to 35 percent of the hemp nut being protein. Most of this protein is edestin, a highly digestible storage protein. Unusual for plant protein, hempseed protein contains all of the essential amino acids in a favorable ratio- its amino acid profile is close to “complete” when compared to more common sources of proteins such as meat, milk, eggs and soy.

The hempseed is one of the richest, most balanced sources of the essential fatty acids (EFA), omega-3 and omega-6. Studies link many common ailments to an imbalance and deficiency of EFAs in the typical Western diet: too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3. To be most effective, these need to be consumed in a balanced ratio, The World Health Organization recommended ratio is 4:1.

The seeds also provide other phytonutrients, including phytosterols and carotenes, as well as vitamin E, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. Overall, hemp’s main nutritional advantage over other seeds lies in the composition of its oil, i.e. its fatty acid profile, and in its protein which contains all of the essential amino acids in nutritionally significant amounts and in a desirable ratio.

Sprinkle shelled hemp seeds on your salads, in your smoothies, or just about anywhere you want! Supermarket Guru encourages you to get out there and try some hemp!