What’s So Great About Hemp

What’s So Great About Hemp

This post originally ran on October 26, 2011 but we wanted to rotate it out of our archives for you since Kathy has the week off.

Start Besides talking about how much you love hemp and people give you that look.  You know the one: One eyebrow cocked, knowing smirk, maybe a well placed Cheech and Chong comment. Hemp has had a bit of an undeserved rap due to its association with its sweet-smelling, groovy cousin cannabis or marijuana. However, hemp seeds contain no THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. THC is the impetus behind many: “I’m not feeling it, are you feeling it, I don’t think I’m feeling it….should we order a pizza” type conversations. On the other hand, hemp is pure nutritional manna and is well worth adding to your diet.

 

Exhibit A: “Hemp nut is the most nutritious and easily digestible food on the planet, the only complete source of all the following: protein, essential amino acids and essential fatty acids. Hemp is the only food which supplies all man’s dietary needs in one source — the only food which can sustain human life without any other source of nutrition.” Wow, Can you believe that quote? Okay, so the quote does come from a website called “hemphasis” but start trolling some of the more “reputable” sources. Or ask any nutritionist in the know and you realize hemp is more than just the seed behind the fabric worn by hippies, hipsters and yes, most bong sales dudes.

It turns out that dramatic quote is in fact on the mark. Vegetarians know how difficult it can be to find suitable plant-based food sources of protein. It is because the protein in veggie sources is considered “incomplete.” missing one or more of the 8 essential amino acids. Even when a plant source does provide all of the amino acids, the protein is difficult for the body to actually absorb and use properly. This is the case with soy. But the complete protein provided by the hemp nut (in all its forms) is actually very bioavailable. Hemp “contains globular proteins which have structures very similar to proteins made by the blood, making them readily digestible. A handful of hemp seed provides the minimum daily requirement of protein for adults.”

Hemp also has the highest concentration of the various essential fatty acids of any plant food. So what’s the big deal about EFA’s? They are fats that the body cannot produce on its own and therefore must be obtained through food sources or supplements. These EFAs play a critical role in many of the body’s key processes such as growth, muscle contraction, regulating hormones and metabolism. EFA’s have also been shown to improve immune function. Interesting note for new moms: according to Natural News, breastfeeding depletes the body of 11 grams of EFA’s daily so making sure you’re eating quality sources is key for the health of both mom and baby. And in the “not as earth shattering but still kind of cool” category, studies have shown people who consume hemp tend to have shinier hair, stronger nails and ironically, a lowered craving for junk food. (Sorry pizza delivery guy.)

But the story doesn’t end there when it comes to EFA’s. As with most things, balance is key and, unfortunately, you can get too much of a good thing. In recent years, there has been growing concern in the nutrition and health circles about the imbalance in most people’s diets between Omega 6 fatty acids and Omega 3.  Omega 6, primarily obtained through vegetable oils like corn, soy and canola, is prevalent in our overly processed and highly packaged foods. Omega 3’s, found in hemp, flax, walnuts and cold water fish, tend to get overpowered and studies have shown that this chronic imbalance contributes to inflammation in the body and, as we know, inflammation is the precursor to (cue scary music) disease.

Yet, despite all that hemp has to offer, its guilt by association is a little slow to wear off. In Australia, hemp can be grown but hemp foods are illegal. In North America, the opposite is true. Hemp foods (like milk, seeds, meal, flour and oil) are perfectly legal, but it cannot be grown as a crop. One of the exceptions? Canada. You can wave your flag now.

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10 Comments

  1. Lindsay
    October 26, 18:10 Reply

    SO interesting! Thanks so much! I’m gonna go buy some right now!

  2. Amy
    October 28, 12:33 Reply

    My naturopath mentioned hemp seeds once as a source of protein for my son who is dairy-sensitive, but I didn’t realize they were so amazing. I’m going to pick some up today while I’m out. Thanks for the great post!

  3. Ellie Yamane
    October 28, 19:50 Reply

    Are you sure about Australia? Because we sell our hemp products to Australia.

  4. Kathy
    October 29, 00:30 Reply

    Hi Ellie,
    yes, fairly sure but I wonder if the difference is hemp food vs. other hemp based products. As far as I know, legislation might be in the works but hemp food is not allowed. Here’s a link:
    http://www.hempfoods.com.au/legislation/

  5. Jo
    March 13, 18:01 Reply

    I used to love hemp seeds on my yogurt, but once I moved abroad and discovered Chia, I’ve never looked back! I would be interested in their respective levels of Omega3 though….

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