My friends often ask me why Im high on hemp. I respond by explaining the many nutritional merits of hemp foods. After suffering through their witty jokes about its distant cousin, marijuana, I pour emerald green hemp seed oil on their salad. One taste and theyre hooked.
My friends often ask me why I’m high on hemp. I respond by explaining the many nutritional merits of hemp foods. After suffering through their witty jokes about its distant cousin, marijuana, I pour emerald green hemp seed oil on their salad. One taste and they’re hooked.
Because hemp oil contains no measurable tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical in pot, I can assure my worried friends they could consume a barrel of hemp oil and not get stoned.
Hemp food isn’t a weird new culinary concept. It has been a traditional food in China for more than 3,000 years. Most hemp foods consumed in North America are grown in Canada, where hemp agriculture became legal again in 1998.
A Balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6
Hemp seed oil is one of nature’s best sources of polyunsaturated fats (80 percent) known as linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). It’s also free of unhealthy hydrogenated fats (trans fats), is very low in cholesterol, and contains only 9 percent saturated fat.
Eating hemp seed oil is an easy and delicious way to gain the proper balance of essential fatty acids (EFAs). North Americans typically consume excess omega-6 and inadequate omega-3 in a ratio of between 10 to 1 and 30 to 1. While the average ratio recommended by international experts is 4 to 1, hemp oil offers a 3.75-to-1 ratio, the closest ratio of any natural source.
Hemp seed oil is also one of the few vegetable oils that contain significant quantities of alpha-linolenic acid (20 percent). This omega-3 EFA has consistently been associated with heart health. It is also thought to lower risk of cancers, reduce inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, help prevent diabetes, and prevent or relieve symptoms of depression and hypertension.
Nutritionists generally recommend daily intake of alpha-linolenic acid in the range of 2 to 3.5 g. This can be obtained from 2 Tbsp (30 mL) hemp seed oil used as a salad dressing or added to a smoothie, sauce, or soup. Hemp oil has a low flash point so it should be used only at low cooking temperatures.
A Source of Gamma-Linolenic Acid
Hemp seed oil is a rare plant source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)–a super omega-6 that some studies have shown may help reduce heart disease; enhance effectiveness of cancer treatments; treat problem skin conditions; prevent inflammation-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and asthma; and modify lipids to reduce triglycerides.
GLA is also believed to help bypass enzymatic blocks in sluggish bodies that have metabolisms compromised by stress, environmental toxicity, or aging to allow proper utilization of omega-6 EFAs.
So Many Sources
Many people are unaware that different kinds of hemp foods have different dietary benefits and culinary uses. Hemp seed nuts offer incredible levels of protein, fibre, and antioxidants. Creamy hemp seed nut butter is made from 100 percent hemp seed and offers the same nutritional benefits. Hemp seed oil is produced by cold-pressing the oil from seeds. Hemp seed powder is cold-milled from the seed cake that results from pressing hemp seed oil. Hemp protein powder contains all the essential amino acids, but in more nutritionally significant amounts and at a ratio closer to “complete” sources of protein (like meat, milk, and eggs) than all other sources except soy.
It’s satisfying to know that I’m part of a growing legion of hemp food junkies. Sales of hemp foods grew 66 percent in 2004. Now that the knowledge of hemp’s powerful nutrition and great flavour is spreading like seeds flung into a strong wind, more “hempies” are sure to join the healthy green revolution.
Green Earth Smoothie
2 cups (500 mL) freshly squeezed orange juice
1 Tbsp (15 mL) spirulina or green food powder
2 scoops hemp protein powder
1 Tbsp (15 mL) hemp seed oil
1 cup (250 mL) ice cubes
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend on high until creamy and smooth. Serves 4. Enjoy!
Hemp Seed Oil Vinaigrette
Makes enough for 1 salad
1/4 cup (60 mL) hemp seed oil
2 Tbsp (30 mL) balsamic vinegar
1 tsp (5 mL) fresh oregano
1 tsp (5 mL) crushed garlic
Combine all ingredients and stir until blended. Keeps in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days.