A quick nutritional summary of hemp:
All essential amino acids
Easy to digest
Hemp seeds are nutritionally rich, one of the most nutritious foods in the world, consisting of over 40% fat, over 30% protein and more than 10% carbohydrates. They are high in dietary fibre and contain iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, calcium and phosphorous in appreciable quantities. Three tablespoons of hulled hemp seeds (hemp ‘hearts’) can provide nearly half the daily value of magnesium and phosphorous. They are rich in vitamin E and D, with vitamins A, B1, B2 and B6 represented as well. They are also an excellent source of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’s) and an exceptionally rich source of the two essential fatty acids (EFA’s), linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). Dietary PUFA have been gaining great interest in recent years as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agents.
An imbalance in the omega-3/6 ratio is a leading cause of disease today (as shown above). Most people don’t consume enough omega-3’s, but that’s not because naturally occurring omega-6’s are bad for you. The problem is relying too heavily on processed and fast foods made with commercial vegetable oils, high in omega-6’s. If everyone only ate fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds no one would ever have an omega-3/6 ratio out of whack and it wouldn’t be an issue! Boost natural omega-3 intake, limit vegetable oil consumption and enhance omega-6’s with GLA-rich foods like hemp seeds!
The hemp seed ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is around 3:1, deemed optimal for human health. PUFA’s naturally suppress appetite which can have weight loss benefits. Eating 3-4 tablespoons of hemp seeds with breakfast is known to curb hunger pangs throughout the day and help increase the metabolic rate too. The high nutrient content of hemp makes it a perfect ally in the fight against the craving for unhealthy sweets. Hemp seed food products offer a healthy dose of dietary fibre, which helps regulate blood glucose. When you keep your glucose levels steady, you’re much less likely to experience energy crashes and aren’t as likely to crave sugar to fill the void. The soluble and insoluble fibre accelerates the movement of food through the digestive tract and helps clean the colon of toxins. Fibre that passes into the large intestine undigested feeds the microbes there and healthy intestinal flora is associated with not only digestive health but also good immune function.
Of the 20 amino acids required to form the hundreds of thousands of different protein molecules synthesised in the human body, the essential amino acids must be obtained from food. Hemp seeds contain the essential amino acids; eight amino acids the human body cannot make and two more the body cannot make in sufficient quantity. Animal proteins are called complete because they contain all amino acids in the right proportions but plant proteins usually lack one or more. Hemp happens to be one of few plant sources of complete protein, i.e., containing all the essential amino acids.
Hemp seeds can be consumed raw, whole or decorticated (shelled). When decorticated, hemp seeds make a great substitute for pine nuts in pesto and other sauces, or lightly toasted instead of other nuts. By cold pressing you can extract an oil that is rich in PUFA’s. If taken regularly, 2 teaspoons to 3-4 tablespoons of oil a day helps in lowering excessive levels of Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, along with triglycerides (the major form of fat stored by the body). The majority of the body’s cholesterol is LDL, known as the ‘bad’ cholesterol because having high levels can result in heart disease and stroke. It is always good to use hemp oil raw, not to affect its natural properties.
Nutritionists recommend adding two teaspoons of hemp seed protein to a morning smoothie as a way to naturally encourage lower blood pressure, improve triglycerides, lower levels of LDL cholesterol and raise High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the ‘good’ cholesterol). Laboratory studies have shown hemp seed protein can decrease blood pressure, lower the possibility of blood clot formation and help heart health and recovery after a heart attack or cardiac episode. Hemp seed protein is an excellent source of arginine and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), both of which have been related to decreased risk of heart disease.
GLA is found in various plant seed oils alongside hemp, including borage and evening primrose oil and is used for conditions that affect the skin including systemic sclerosis, psoriasis and eczema. It is also used for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), high cholesterol and other blood fats, heart disease, metabolic syndrome (Syndrome-X), diabetic nerve pain, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, depression after childbirth, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and hay fever (allergic rhinitis). Some people use it to prevent cancer and to help breast cancer patients respond faster to treatment with the pharmaceutical tamoxifen.
Researchers are providing evidence that many people with cancer, diabetes and skin allergies do not make enough GLA and could benefit from supplementation. In addition to helping cancer pharmaceuticals work better, studies have shown that GLA can slow or stop cancer. A Google Scholar search, gamma linolenic acid prevents cancer, returns 11,200 results (2012-2016). GLA and GLA-rich foods like hemp seeds have also been observed to help people with:
- Breast pain
- Diabetes and diabetic neuropathy
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Multiple sclerosis
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Skin allergies
When comparing the amino acid profile with other protein sources, hemp protein is fairly high in tyrosine, arginine (greater than other plant sources), aspartic acid and alanine (higher than other sources). Complete protein sources are very difficult to find in the plant kingdom but hemp is not unique in having all the essential amino acids in its embryonic seed. Flax seed also contains all the essential amino acids as do many others in the plant kingdom. What is unique about hemp seed protein is that 65% of it is globulin edestin and 33% albumin; the highest in the plant kingdom.
Globulins are one of seven classes of simple proteins and edestins, found in seeds, are plant globulins. Globulins along with albumins are classified as globular proteins. All enzymes, antibodies, many hormones and haemoglobin (among others) are globular proteins which carry out the main work of living. Albumin and globulin are two of three major types of plasma proteins. Plasma is the fluid portion of blood that supplies nutrients to tissues. Plasma proteins serve as a reservoir of rapidly available amino acids should any body tissues be in need.
The best way to ensure the body has enough amino acid material to make the globulins is to eat foods high in globulin proteins. Since hemp seed protein is 65% globulin edestin, and 33% albumin, its protein is readily available in a form quite similar to that found in blood plasma. Eating hemp seed gives the body all the essential amino acids required to maintain health and provide the necessary kinds and amounts of amino acids the body needs to make human serum albumin and serum globulins like the immune enhancing gamma globulins.
The human diet should be a whole food one and hemp food derivatives can help prevent nutritional deficiencies. The addition of hemp flour (rich in protein and fibre) in dough helps lower the glycaemic index (GI) of food prepared. Vegans use hemp seeds and flour for their protein intake. Hemp flour is naturally gluten-free and highly digestible, so people with gluten intolerance and other food sensitivities can safely ingest hemp. Added to other flours for coeliacs, hemp flour enriches them with nutrients while improving the flavour.
Considered a ‘wholesome-food’ on account of containing all three macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and unsaturated fats) and several micro-nutrients (an element or substance required in trace amounts for normal growth and development of living organisms) in favourable proportions, hemp seeds have the potential to combat nutritional deficiencies in deprived communities. Unless there are special nutritional needs, however, the one precaution with hemp seeds being rich in calories should be to consume them sparingly, from 10-30 grams a day. Add 10-20% hemp seed flour to any other flour, to make bread, pizza or pasta, adding extra nutrients and enriching the fibre content of the food.
As a cosmetic product, hemp seed oil is an excellent moisturiser and is often included in lip balms, lotions and soaps. Hemp seed oil is known to penetrate the inner layers of the skin and promote healthy cell growth; the recipe for smooth, soft skin. A few drops rubbed into the skin helps combat ageing, giving skin elasticity and preventing stretch marks. Pregnant women should rub it on their abdomen one to two times a day in addition to ingesting 2-4 teaspoons per day, alone or as a condiment. Hemp seed benefits for skin and hair go a long way to improving dry, red, flaking skin.
Hemp seed oil is also good for your hair, just rub it on and leave for 15-20 minutes before you shampoo (once a week). Hemp seed flour can also be used as a facial scrub; it cleans the skin, nourishes it and has a soothing action. Just mix hemp seed flour with a little honey, some Aloe Vera gel and a few drops of lavender essential oil for normal skin, a few drops of lemon essential oil for oily skin and a few drops of hemp seed oil for dry skin. Since hemp seed oil is good for skin disorders such as psoriasis and eczema, it is a good idea to eat at least a couple of tablespoons of hemp seed every day to maximise these benefits.
In hemp foods there is negligible to no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), or about the same amount as opiates in poppy seeds! The neuro-active principle cannabinoid is present in significant quantities only in the female inflorescences (flowers) of certain strains of the Cannabis sativa L., plant, not in hemp cultivars, used for industrial and food purposes. However it is good to note that even cannabis with a very high THC content is non-toxic; water is more dangerous! Drinking seven to ten litres of water in a short time causes death. Cannabis has no official lethal dose (LD-50 is the rating which indicates dose necessary to kill 50% of test animals “as a result of drug-induced toxicity”) as it cannot kill, it is not physiologically possible (unless a very large bale of it falls on you)! Not convinced? According to the US National Cancer Institute in 2011,
“Because cannabinoid receptors, unlike opioid receptors, are not located in the brainstem areas controlling respiration, lethal overdoses from cannabis and cannabinoids do not occur”.
The hemp food sector is growing worldwide and the growth is evident, considering this kind of food, after having been used by man for thousands of years, had become almost unobtainable because of an unjustified prohibition that still terrorises people around the world. However, future prospects are excellent and not just for the food market growth. This plant provides ecological derivatives that can replace thousands of highly polluting products. Producing hemp also helps purify the soil and the air.
Phytoremediation or decontamination of soil using hemp in Chernobyl
There is still much work to do, to continue to break down prejudices. It is necessary to give greater visibility to this inhumanely demonised plant and its seemingly unlimited derivatives. The re-evaluation of hemp is leading to an increase in its use in food, bio-construction, bio-fuels, production of plastics, textiles, wood substitutes and medicines with considerable benefits to health, ecology and economy.
Adapted from Hemp Food Perfect For Our Metabolism Says Nutritionist, A Dietitians Perspective On Cannabis, 9 Surprising Reasons Why You Should Be Eating Hemp Seeds, Hemp Seed Nutrition, Hemp Seed – Most Nutritious Complete Food Source, Hemp Seed Benefits and Nutrition Profile, Hemp Protein Powder: The Perfect Plant-Based Protein, Granny Storm Crows List – 2016, Gamma Linolenic Acid