03 October 2012

All about hemp seeds

Hemp is used for more than marijuana products, sustainable clothing and thick ropes.

It has been used as food in China for 6,000 years when the Chinese began cultivating the wild Cannabis sativa plant in central Asia. Hemp was popular for its nutritional value even before soy foods, and the nutty-flavored seed can be used in the forms of oil and butter as well.

What makes the hemp seed a powerhouse?

A standard serving size of three tablespoons provides 11 grams of protein, approximately 25 percent of the daily value, for only 170 calories. The protein is highly digestible, so it should cause less bloating than other protein supplements, and it contains all the essential amino acids that must be consumed through food.

One serving also supplies 50 percent of the daily value for phosphorus and magnesium, 25 percent of the daily value for zinc and 15 percent of the daily value for iron.

The seeds contain a nearly perfect 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which are the “good fats” beneficial for heart and brain health. The phytonutrients may enhance immunity, skin quality, connective tissue strength, and inflammation, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Lastly, they are not genetically modified and do not contain the phytic acid, an “anti-nutrient” that prevents our bodies from absorbing nutrients, that soy does.

Some of the most popular hemp food product brands are Nutiva, Bob’s Red Mill and Manitoba Harvest. Nutiva, in particular, cold-processes their live, raw hemp seeds and puts them through a mechanical process to remove the shells. Package sizes range from one ounce pouches to five pound bags, so consider how often you will use the seeds before purchasing.

Packages should be refrigerated and kept airtight after opening, and the seeds should retain freshness for 8-12 weeks after opening. When purchasing in bulk, you can preserve freshness by removing a small amount from the package for refrigeration and freezing the rest.

If you enjoy the flavor of hemp seeds and would like to try them in other forms, you can experiment with seeds ground into hemp butter, pressed into light green hemp oil, pressed into hemp milk, added into hemp seed bars or ground into hemp protein powder. The butter, oil and milk should remain refrigerated also. Federal laws prevent hemp from being grown in the U.S., so much of the crop sold here is imported from Canada.

Now your last question: does eating hemp create positive drug test results? The microscopic amount of THC in the hemp seed is not enough to produce a positive drug test unless you are consuming massive amounts. Nutiva joined the TestPledge program in 2001, which ensures that the THC levels remain far below what would create positive drug test results. So continue (or begin) consuming your highly digestible, essential amino and fatty acid-packed, nutty powerhouse without fear!

Erin Fergus | Facebook
Pensacola, FL Erin works as an adjunct instructor in Human Performance at Pensacola State College and group fitness instructor and personal trainer at the YMCA. She holds a master’s in exercise science and is entering her final year of a master’s in journalism. She became a vegetarian in 2001 after viewing PETA demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and she has transitioned closer to veganism since 2008. Some of her previous work has been featured on livestrong.com. Her favorite activities include vegan cooking, going to the beach, playing piano and spending time with her Cocker Spaniel.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons -- ElinorD