Saturday, August 11, 2012

Food Facts Friday: Is Hemp the New Chia?

Did you know that there are about 2000 cannabis plant varieties?
Most of these are used for fiber, seeds, and oil, even though when people hear the word "Hemp", they immediately think of one thing: the mind-altering drug, marijuana. 
The many sides of Hemp!
Lately, all I hear about is: Hemp, the Super Food. It's everywhere I go, I see Hemp promoted as ingredients in bread, cereals, energy bars, and even protein powders. I am constantly seeing Hemp oil, nuts, seeds and powders in recipes for salads, shakes and juices.
One thing I do know is: 
Hemp certainly has staying power. Heck it's been around since 8000BC. 
But a Super Food?
When I hear Superfood, all I think is: Can it help me run faster? Longer? Can it fight inflammation, heal all my aches and pains and help me run without pain? Ech, can it help fight this whole getting old thing?
Desperate to solve the last statement, of course I did some research ...
The edible portion of Hemp, the shelled seed, is an excellent source of protein (6 grams per Tablespoon). In terms of protein, it is comparable to soy and better than some other nuts, seeds and dairy. This is a great to know for vegans, people who are lactose intolerant or can't digest milk fat (like me).
Chocolate milk always looks so yummy. Wish my tummy could tolerate it, :(
The cool part about Hemp protein is that it contains 9 essential amino acids (Essential = body can't make, we must eat them) in sufficient quantity and ratio to meet the body's needs. This is quite unusual for a plant protein. One not so great thing about plant proteins, aside from the fact that they are always incomplete and never deemed "sufficient", is that they are not as bioavailable - our bodies can't absorb plant protein as efficiently as it can animal proteins. Here, Hemp strikes a pose because Hemp protein has been shown to be very absorbable - even be more absorbable than soy protein and doesn't promote gas or bloating like soy can.
A Hemp Plus!
Hemp is also rich in chlorophyll. Since chlorophyll has an alkalizing effect on the body it builds a strong immune system. The benefits to maintaining a balanced pH include the fact that muscle tissue is easily gained and fat is easily shed. This is perfect for endurance athletes, who need to maintain muscle mass and a low BMI to be competitive. I've noticed a lot of people drink Hemp milk for this very reason.
Here are two lean, tough muscle endurance machines!
We are proud of you, Kara and Shalane!
Hemp seeds are also full of the essential Omega fatty acids (re: essential = body cannot make on own). Hemp contains  56% Omega-6, 19% Omega-3 and 7% Omega-9. This is the only food (known to date) that has this optimum ratio of omega oils matching, in the exact ratio, what the human body needs. Omega-3 fatty acids have long been praised for their help in reducing risks of heart attacks, stroke and for fighting inflammation. That, of course, is music to my ears!

Another plus is that Hemp seeds are also rich in GLA (Gamma Linoleic Acid), another essential fatty acid which is derived from Omega-6. GLA has been shown to be advantageous for rheumatoid arthritis, allergies and even ADHD!
I'm thinking Suuperfood Category, for sure!
Go Hemp, Go Hemp, Go Hemp!
Other nutritional benefits of Hemp include it's high dietary fiber content (35%) and it's nutrient richness of the B, D and E vitamins, as well as calcium, magnesium and potassium carotene.
Did I get your interest? 
Maybe you want to plant some in your garden? 
It's (so I've been told) a fast growing plant, which requires little to no pesticides or fungicides and because it naturally repels pests, it can be a great companion plant next to your rhubarb, tomatoes and cucumbers! Just don't get caught - 'cause it's still illegal to grow in the US. Yeah, the US has had a history of being very uptight when it comes to Hemp, except of  course when it was the norm to grow it back in the days of President Washington and Jefferson. Even now, the seeds you buy, by law, must contain 0.3% or less of THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marajuana).

It's funny how over the last few years, I've heard of so many Super Foods: Acai berries, Goji Berries, Flax seeds, Chia seeds and now Hemp. Like all foods, moderation and variety are key. It looks as if Hemp is a great source of digestible protein, fiber, fatty acids and vitamins, and it looks as if it has a rightful place among the other Super Foods in your cabinet or frig. So go ahead, make a salad dressing with some Hemp oil or toss some Hemp seeds into your salad, oatmeal, yogurt or some Hemp powder in your post workout drink and
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