I hate to admit it, but when I first started hearing about hemp seeds, I silently judged them. Or maybe I just ignored them. I assumed that they were only consumed by hippies and that they were a passing trend. Sort of like those hemp bracelets and necklaces that we used to make in high school. Well, I've now given them a chance and I'm glad that I did. They're tasty, healthy and easy. Oh, and they were also on sale at Costco and who can pass up a good Costco sale?
Even though I couldn't find any studies defending the long-term health benefits of hemp seeds, what's known is that they possess many healthy characteristics. I also discovered that these seeds have been consumed by many great civilizations, such as Egypt, Persia, China and India, since the beginning of recorded history!
Healthy fat: The oil from hemp seeds provides both essential fatty acids needed for health, Linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids (Omega 6 and Omega 3) and in a healthy ratio. The ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids is about 3:1 which is recognized as the ideal healthy ratio of these fats by the World Health Organization (WHO). In North America, we rely too much on processed oils and foods which render our average "healthy fat ratio" 10:1 or higher (not so good).
Complete source of protein: There are only a few select plant sources of protein that provide the full myriad of amino acids needed to render them a complete and high quality source of protein, and hemp is one of them. Hemp seeds contain about 3.5 grams of protein per tablespoon, which is comparable to that in soy beans. Protein is an essential part of a healthy meal or snack and helps to keep you fuller longer.
Possible substitute for more allergenic foods: For someone who is allergic or intolerant to foods like milk, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, gluten or wheat, hemp seeds and other hemp foods may serve as a healthy alternative. Hemp Hearts can replace peanuts or tree nuts, hemp milk can replace milk or soy milk (although not as high in protein), hemp seed butter can replace peanut butter or other tree nut butters, and hemp protein powder could replace dairy or soy protein powders. Also, because hemp seeds are gluten-free, hemp flour could be used as a substitute in baking!
Easy, tasty and versatile: I've been sprinkling hemp hearts on my yogurt and oatmeal which is a nice change from the ground flax that I usually use. They add a pleasant nutty, sunflower seed-like flavor. I find them super easy to use. They don't need any cooking or preparation- just simply add to cereals, smoothies, yogurt, soups, salads, casseroles or to baking! Store them in your fridge in a sealed bag or container to prevent rancidity. Hemp can also be found in different forms such as cold-pressed hemp seed oil, hemp flour, hemp seeds butter (like peanut butter) and hemp protein powder.
Fibre and other nutrients: Hemp seeds contain about 1 gram of fibre per tablespoon, which isn't extremely high, but better than nothing. If you're consuming 2 tablespoons of hemp hearts per day, this would contribute to about 5-8% of your daily fibre needs (based on Dietary Intake Recommendations of 25-38 grams of fibre per day for adults). Hemps seed hearts are also a source of phytonutrients (including phytosterols), Vitamin E, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.
Environmentally Friendly: The hemp crop requires few pesticides and no herbicides. This is good news for the environment and for us!
They do NOT make you high: Unfortunately or fortunately (depending on who you're talking to), hemp seeds don't possess any of the psychoactive compounds that are present in marijuana. You know, the ones that make you high. Sigh... (of relief or sadness, depending on who you're talking to).
What hemp products have you tried?