The edible parts of the hemp plant contain trace amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive chemical in marijuana . Canada legalized industrial hemp farming in 1998 and the law ensures that no more than 0.3 % THC is present in the harvested product. This low level of THC makes it impossible to "get high" off hemp.
So saying, hemp is a highly nutritious plant that contains healthful omega-3 fats, protein, carbohydrates and fiber. In terms of protein quality, it is second only to soy in the plant kingdom. Two tablespoons (30 ml) of hemp seed contains 11 grams of well-balanced, easy-to-digest protein. Hemp protein provides ten essential amino acids that are necessary for human growth, including arginine, histidine, methionine and cysteine.
Hemp is an excellent source of omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, including the omega-6 fat gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Gamma-linolenic acid is transformed into compounds that regulate our immune system and hormones.
Omega- 3 polyunsaturated fats have proven cardiovascular benefits that include lower blood cholesterol and blood pressure, reduced risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and reduced risk of sudden cardiac death. As important components of cell membranes, polyunsaturated fats may also delay or reduce the effects of neurological diseases such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease. Approximately four teaspoons (20 ml) of hemp seed will provide the recommended daily intake of 1.1 grams of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
In addition to being an excellent source of essential fatty acids and protein, hemp also provides carbohydrates and fiber. Here is the nutrient analysis for a two tablespoon (30 ml) serving of shelled hemp seeds:
|Omega-3 fat||2 g|
|Omega-6 fat||6.2 g|
|Omega-9 fat||0.8 g|
Source: Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods & Oils
Hemp and marijuana come from the same species of plant known as Cannabis sativa. Cannabis varieties that are used for food have been naturally selected to be low in THC. The nutritional hemp varieties look very similar to the drug varieties, but are grown very differently.
Marijuana plants are encouraged to grow tall and leafy, sprouting to heights of 14 feet or more in their three to four month growing season. In contrast, hemp plants are manipulated to grow low and bushy to maximize the production of seeds that will be processed into hemp seed oil or shelled hemp seeds. A third variety of cannabis sativa is cultivated for industrial use (i.e. textiles).
Hemp can be bought in many different forms ranging from the raw, unprocessed seeds to cold-pressed hemp seed oil. Hemp can also be processed into whole grain flour, hemp protein powder or hemp milk (similar to soy milk).
Products that used hemp flour include cereals, frozen waffles, chips, and breads. Hemp protein powder can be bought on its own or used in energy bars. Shelled hemp seeds can be incorporated into burgers, hot dogs and meatballs.
These products are available in health food stores across Canada and can be purchased in bulk or single serving portions.
Hemp seed oil and shelled hemp seeds have different storage requirements. Hemp seed oil must be stored in dark-colored, refrigerated containers because oxygen, heat and light can damage its essential fatty acids. Shelled hemp seeds are less sensitive but are typically stored in sealed, opaque bags. Once the seal is broken, hemp foods should be refrigerated.
Hemp seed oil and shelled hemp seeds have a shelf life of 12 months. Freezing hemp food products extends their shelf life. Once opened, the product should be eaten within eight weeks or before the "best before date".
Hemp is natural, raw food that requires very preparation. Shelled hemp seeds can be eaten straight out of the package or added to a variety of dishes. Many people say that hemp seeds taste like pine nuts.
When using hemp oil, keep in mind that heat can damage its valuable essential fatty acids.
Sprinkle shelled hemp seeds on your cereal for added protein and a nutty flavor.
Make a smoothie with a banana, strawberries, yogurt and two heaping tablespoons of hemp protein powder.
Try hemp granola from your local health food store.
Spread hemp seed butter on or toast instead of peanut butter.
Make a delicious dressing with hemp seed oil, mustard and honey. Toss onto your favorite green salad.
Have a sandwich made with hemp flour bread.
Enjoy crusty French bread dipped in nutty hemp seed oil and balsamic vinegar.
Throw a vegetarian hemp burger on the barbeque.
Use hemp seeds instead of breadcrumbs to coat breaded fish fillets or chicken tenders.
Sprinkle hemp seeds on an Asian stir-fry instead of sesame seeds.
Add two tablespoons of shelled hemp seeds to your favourite meatball or meat loaf recipe.
Snacks and Dessert
Add a quarter cup (50 ml) of shelled hemp seeds to your favourite oatmeal cookie recipe and enjoy.
Make a hemp milkshake with equal parts hemp milk and your favourite frozen yogurt.
Enjoy a piece of fresh fruit and a handful of hemp seeds straight out of the bag.
Did you know?
The deep green color of hemp seeds and oil comes from their high chlorophyll content.
Hemp has a natural ability to repel weeds, making it the perfect eco-friendly, pesticide-free crop.