The healthy prop­er­ties of hemp seeds


Good Health (Australia) - - Contents -

Europe, Canada and the US have long recog­nised the nu­tri­tional value of hemp seeds. In su­per­mar­kets and health food stores across those con­ti­nents, the seeds have been used in ev­ery­thing from pro­tein pow­ders, home-baked muffins, break­fast ce­re­als to sal­ads, soups and breads.

In the US and Canada alone, the hemp food mar­ket is worth an eye­pop­ping $742 mil­lion.

Late last year Aus­tralia and New Zealand fell into step with the rest of the world when Food Stan­dards Aus­tralia New Zealand − the gov­ern­ment food reg­u­la­tory body − fi­nally ap­proved the sale of hemp seeds and foods con­tain­ing hemp. Un­til then, hemp prod­ucts sold in our health food stores had to be la­belled ‘not for hu­man con­sump­tion’ and were con­fined to prod­ucts like skin creams, toi­letries and cos­met­ics.

So, what is hemp ex­actly?

Hemp is a mem­ber of the cannabis plant species, Cannabis sa­tiva. But the kinds of hemp seeds used in foods aren’t to be con­fused with other forms of cannabis or mar­i­juana known for their medic­i­nal and hal­lu­cino­genic ef­fects.

The po­tency and psy­choac­tive ef­fects of the cannabis drug are due to an ac­tive com­po­nent called tetrahy­dro­cannabi­nol (THC), while hemp seeds con­tain none or ex­tremely min­i­mal lev­els of THC. So hemp seeds don’t have the same mind-al­ter­ing ef­fects and munch­ing on a hemp muf­fin won’t leave you feel­ing foggy!

And ini­tial gov­ern­ment con­cerns that peo­ple who gorge on hemp seed snacks or smooth­ies will pro­duce a pos­i­tive re­sult if they’re tested for drugs have also been al­layed. Re­searchers at Swin­burne Univer­sity in Mel­bourne found it highly un­likely driv­ers who’d eaten hemp foods would re­turn a pos­i­tive test if pulled over by po­lice.

For gen­er­a­tions, good old-fash­ioned hemp has been cul­ti­vated for its oil and strong fi­bres, with the fi­bres used in build­ing ma­te­ri­als and cloth­ing and the oil used in foods and cos­met­ics.

But now, with the sale of hemp seeds ap­proved in Aus­tralia and New Zealand, we can ex­pect to see a grow­ing num­ber of hemp foods on su­per­mar­ket shelves and café menus.

Healthy hemp

The ev­i­dence sup­port­ing the health ben­e­fits of hemp seeds has been build­ing and the Aus­tralian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion has given them a five star health rat­ing.

The tiny seeds have a crisp shell, a soft cen­tre and a mild nutty taste. With around 25 per cent pro­tein, they con­tain more pro­tein than chia seeds. Hemp seeds also con­tain gamma linolenic acid, or GLA, which helps our body fight in­flam­ma­tion. There are very few nat­u­ral food sources that give us GLA − oth­ers in­clude spir­ulina, evening prim­rose oil and bor­age oil.

The seeds also con­tain sev­eral min­er­als such as cal­cium, mag­ne­sium, iron and zinc, which are im­por­tant for gen­eral health and well­be­ing, as well as the an­tiox­i­dant vi­ta­min E. These tiny nu­tri­ent bombs also con­tain fi­bre, B vi­ta­mins and vi­ta­min D, which is needed for healthy bones. Hemp seeds also con­tain sig­nif­i­cant amounts of healthy omega 6 and omega 3 fats − good for heart and brain health and for low­er­ing bad choles­terol lev­els. Wal­nuts are re­garded as one of the rich­est sources of omega 6 and omega 3 fats and, gram for gram, hemp seeds match them.

Adding it in

Hemp oil pressed from the seeds is of­ten a vi­brant green colour. But it ox­i­dises or goes off quite quickly so needs to be stored away from direct sun­light and prefer­ably in a dark brown bot­tle to keep it fresh. You can driz­zle it on sal­ads in­stead of olive oil or use it for sauces or to dip bread in to. Be­cause it has a low smoke point, it’s not ideal for heat­ing and cook­ing with.

Hemp Foods Aus­tralia rec­om­mends using hemp seeds as an in­gre­di­ent in hum­mus and ice cream or sprin­kled on break­fast ce­re­als or sal­ads. You can also eat them as a snack on their own − a hand­ful for morn­ing or af­ter­noon tea is filling and good for you.

Hemp pro­tein pow­der can be used in smooth­ies or as an ex­tra in­gre­di­ent in breads and baked goods to in­crease nu­tri­tional value.

Some in­no­va­tive Aus­tralian food­ies are also turn­ing their mind to how to har­ness the health ben­e­fits of hemp. Hemp ale is al­ready be­ing brewed in some bou­tique beer com­pa­nies − East 9th Brew­ing in Mel­bourne were first off the mark, brew­ing up to 50,000 litres of Doss Blockos Hem­pire Hemp Ale early this year. There are al­ready a range of hemp beers in bars in the US, while hemp kom­bucha is on the menu at some of the coun­try’s most health­con­scious cafes. Hemp milk is also in the pipe­line.

Skinny hemp latte any­one?

use hemp seeds in hum­mus or sprin­kled on ce­re­als or sal­ads

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