To those who are not familiar with hemp, you have come to the right place, as we present to you this plant that is an excellent source of protein. This is good for any lifestyle, whether you are a vegan, vegetarian, an athlete, or just a healthy-living individual.
Hemp has been planted in Canada for the past 400 years. It has been shrouded with controversy because of its association with its more infamous cousin. But not anymore. Recently, it has been discovered that this tiny seed has a lot of benefits that are good for the body.
Hemp’s humble beginnings
Hemp was introduced in North America in the 1600s, being first planted in Nova Scotia. Several centuries later, a former governor of Upper Canada (what is now known as southern Ontario) encouraged everyone to cultivate this plant, giving away hempseeds to farmers who are interested in growing it.
However, the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act of 1938 put a damper on things. Hemp production was banned because of its resemblance to marijuana since the both are varieties of the genus Cannabis plant. Ignorance on the difference of the two led to further bans across the continent, even though hemp does not have the same amount of the psychoactive compounds found in marijuana to make one high. Nevertheless in 1998, the ban was reversed as the Canadian government allowed licensed farmers to begin growing hemp once more.
Presently, hemp crops, most of which are organic and GMO-free, are now a multimillion dollar industry in the country, with Manitoba becoming the leading producer. Because of this, more people are starting to realize the nutritional benefits of hemp products as farmers continue to plant and produce hemp-based goods.
People are more familiar with the hemp plant as an industrial product utilized in the making of rope, clothing, and textiles. Until recently, its seeds have been overlooked, despite it carrying nutrients. Much like the coconut, which has many uses from the fruit to the tree, it is hard to keep track of all the finished products made off of hemp as there are many ways that it can be processed.
The (hemp) heart of the matter
Aside from the seed, the hemp heart is also packed with vitamins and minerals, as both contain iron and vitamin E. Hempseeds, which is the whole grain, have more fiber because of their crunchy shells, while hemp hearts, which is the shelled seed, are much easier to chew.
There are many ways to integrate hemp hearts to everyday meals. One can add them to salad as a topping to be paired with fresh greens, or they can be sprinkled onto yogurt, puddings, and other creamy desserts. They can also be mixed into cookies, dense breads, as well as other pastries, and they can be blended into mayonnaise, cream sauces, salad dressings, and other toppings and spreads.
Hemp and protein
As with most crop-based food products, hempseeds and hemp hearts are rich in protein. As a matter of fact, it contains all 20 essential and nonessential amino acids needed by the body, making hemp a complete protein. Furthermore, a study done in 2010 found that its protein digestibility score is equal to or better than most plant-based sources of protein, such as grains and nuts.
Researchers have already linked adequate protein intake to enhanced cardiovascular health, improved strength, increased lean body mass, better joint health, and other benefits. Aside from those, studies have also shown that hemp protein might have antifatigue benefits and could possibly boost immune strength.
Hemp hearts have more protein than hempseeds, and removing the shell makes the former easier to digest. A 100 g serving of whole hempseeds nets 33 g of protein, while for the same serving size, shelled hempseeds yield 37 g of protein.
“Hemp, whether seed or heart, is an excellent addition to anyone’s diet and should be utilized much more than it currently is,” naturopathic doctor Matthew Brennecke mentions.
But wait, there is more
Another hemp byproduct that is nutritious is hempseed oil, which comes from crushing and pressing hempseeds. It is a good source of vitamin E, according to registered dietitian May Tom.
“One of my favorite forms of hempseed is the oil,” Tom shares. “(Vitamin E) is an important antioxidant that helps in keeping the immune system healthy.”
Additionally, 30 percent of hempseed oil is essential fatty acids (EFAs), making hemp one of only two plants that has both EFAs and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a fatty acid that may help with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, depression, and other illnesses. According to the government of Canada, hempseed oil’s EFAs may help in alleviating arthritis, cancer, diabetes, lupus, and hypertension, while a portion of the country’s population does not have an enzyme that helps the body metabolize its own GLA. This makes hempseed oil a helpful dietary supplement.
Hempseed oil can be used in salad dressings, and can be added to steamed vegetables, rice, and other side dishes. It can also be utilized for low-heat cooking as well an add-on to smoothies and shakes.
Hemp, a gift that keeps on giving
We now have discussed three components of hemp that are good for the body. It does not end there though, as people have found other ways to create food products with this plant. Hempseed butter, which is made by grinding the seeds into a thick paste, is much like any nut butter that people have grown accustomed to enjoy through the years.
Although it does not rise and is usually too dense to be used on its own, hemp flour can be mixed with other flours to make a wide variety of baked goods. Additionally, there is nondairy hemp cheese and milk, as well as coffee made from toasted hemp. Aside from those, there are other consumable packaged goods that include this Canadian-grown grain.
“Adding hemp to the diet is easy,” says Tom. “I recommend trying all three forms (hearts, seeds, oil) and see which one is easiest to incorporate in [your] everyday life.”
Similar to its mind-altering cousin and unlike other nuts, grains, and seeds, hemp has special storage requirements since its high oil content makes it more likely to go bad due to oxidation. One way to prevent it from spoiling is to place it at the back of the refrigerator to keep it away from air, heat, and light. Meanwhile, keep hempseeds and hemp hearts in a sealed container and store them in the freezer to extend their freshness. With proper storage, hemp can be enjoyed in its many forms.