Sowing Seeds of Good Health: Hemp
Last week we opened our series on the importance of seeds with chia. Today I wanted to introduce you to my runner-up in the favorites department, hemp seed!
Hemp is an amazing plant, good for making rope, jewelry and even diapers. However, this wonder plant isn’t used only for its fibers and mind-altering effects. The seeds, or hearts, are fantastic! Let’s look at the benefits of adding hemp to your diet.
The 411 on THC
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the compound responsible for the state of altered perception most people have when they ingest marijuana. You’ll be glad to know that THC comprises less than 0.3% of the hemp seed, and is indeed harvested from an entirely different species within the genus Cannabis.
What does that mean? Well, there is some THC in the seed itself, but you’re no more likely to get high from eating the seeds than you are to become an opium addict from that poppyseed muffin you had for breakfast.
Hemp has been used for at least 6,000 years. It was first cultivated from a wild plant in Asia. In fact, Asians used hemp before they used soy! Eventually its use migrated to India and on toward Europe, and today we have plenty of hemp the world around.
I personally buy the 5-lb pail from Manitoba Harvest. They’re popular and are out of stock relatively often, so be sure to check back when you’re running low. You don’t want to run out of these amazing seeds!
Health Benefits of Hemp Products
Hemp seeds are a complete vegetarian source of amino acids, meaning you don’t have to analog them with rice, beans or anything else to get a complete protein. They’re also rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs), with a ratio of 3:1 omega 3s to omega 6s. This is important, since the ideal ratio is 4:1 or less.
When the body lacks omega 3s, we see physical weakness, poor concentration and memory loss, visual impairments, and mood swings. A lack of omega 3s is also linked to high triglycerides and high blood pressure, inflammation of tissues and depressed metabolism.
A lack of omega 6s is often the culprit of liver and kidney problems, hair loss, heart and circulatory problems, infertility in both males and females, and a general weakness of the immune system. Suffice it to say, these are two important fats to have in your diet!
There are three main hemp products available. Hemp seeds, which we’re discussing in depth today; hemp oil; and hemp protein powder. Hemp oil is just the oil pressed from the seeds of the plant, and is fantastic in recipes, on salads and in smoothies.
The only difference between most hemp seeds and unflavored hemp protein powder, besides being ground, is the fat content. If you’re cutting, you’ll want to buy a hemp protein powder that’s got a higher protein concentration, like the 70% powder available from Manitoba Harvest.
Hemp’s Best Uses
One of the easiest and sweetest ways to get hemp into your diet is to add hemp milk. This is a seed milk meant to replace dairy milk in some or all of your consumption. I wrote about the best dairy-free milks a few months ago, and hemp definitely rates as a nutritious, accessible choice!
Protein powder is essential for bodybuilders, and hemp is a great addition to your usual poison. Whether you use whey, egg, or vegan powders, consider adding hemp to the mix. You’ll get great nutty taste, good fats, and moderate amounts of protein to help you reach your goals.
Hemp oil is best used for salad dressing, a drizzle on breads, homemade mayonnaise, and plain on a spoon as a dietary supplement. I can’t hack it alone, but then I can’t even eat coconut oil off of a spoon, delicious as it is. You may also add it to soups once in their serving bowls.
The oil is also fantastic for moisturizing the skin (much like coconut oil). It’s easily absorbed and non-greasy, and you’re getting the benefits of the omega 3s and 6s through the skin.
A fantastic way to use the seeds is to mix them into yogurt or oatmeal with your morning breakfast. One of my favorite things is 1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt, a sprinkle of homemade granola, half a banana, a handful of fresh berries, and 1 tbsp. hemp seeds. You may also add maple syrup if you need it sweeter.
Hemp Seed Recipes
- 1 cup Shelled Hemp Seed
- 5-6 cups Water
Combine the water and the Shelled Hemp Seed in a blender. You can create the desired thickness by using more or less water(from coffee creamer consistency to skim). Blend on high for 2 -3 minutes, or until creamy and smooth.
To sweeten add: banana, dates, figs, raisins, maple syrup, honey or your favorite fruit. Blend again until smooth. You can enjoy it thick or strain it through cheese cloth.
Cheezy Hemp Nacho Sauce
From Kristen’s Raw
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded, roughly chopped (approximately 1 cup)
- 1 cup hemp seeds
- 2 1/2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons tamari, wheat-free
- 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan crystal salt (I use Real Salt instead)
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
Blend all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth and creamy. This can be stored in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
Banana Nut Bread
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup applesauce
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup Hemp Seed Flour
- 2 3/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
- 1/4 cup Shelled Hemp Seeds
- 1/4 cup chocolate or carob chips (optional)
- 1 cup of shelled hemp seeds (hemp hearts)
- 3 Tbsp Hemp Seed Oil
- 1 cup organic whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
- 4 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 cup plain organic yogurt
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons vanilla
- Berries (optional)
Combine flour, shelled hemp seed, baking powder & soda, and salt in bowl. Combine eggs, yogurt, and water. Whisk in butter. Pour into dry ingredients. Use blender to mix to smooth consistency.
Cook on (buttered) pan / griddle (medium heat). Cook until tops are bubbly – turn and cook until browned. Makes about 16 pancakes – can be frozen and heated up in toaster. Optional: add berries while cooking (yes, yes, yes)!