Hemp seed can be consumed whole, or made into a multitude of derivatives. Food applications include shelled seed (“hemp hearts”), oil, protein, and milk. Industrial applications include biodiesel, wood stain, lubricant, paint, and plastic.
Hemp Foods Are a Nutritional Powerhouse
Hempseed is considered by leading researchers to be one of the most nutritious superfoods known to man. This is because hempseed is made up of the ultimate balance of all eight essential fatty acids (EFAs), including a near perfect balance of omega-3 to omega-6. In addition, hempseed is packed with protein and is wheat, soy and gluten free. Add to that the fact that hempseed contains 66 percent of the bioactive protein edestin — a protein used to manufacture antibodies. That’s more than any other plant on earth!
It can be overwhelming to read about any product with which you are unfamiliar. So here’s what you need to know about the types of hempseed available. In short, hempseed comes in four forms: Whole Hempseed, Shelled Hempseed, Hemp Seed Oil, and Hemp Protein. Each of these forms are used for different purposes and contains different health benefits.
Whole Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals. They are also an excellent source of fiber. Hempseeds are the only edible seeds with gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Whole hempseeds are cold-pressed for oil or hulled to expose the seed meat (think of it like taking the shell off of a peanut). That said, whole hempseed is probably not a good first choice for adding hempseed to your diet because of its high fiber content. However, if you’re on a fiber kick, whole hempseed is for you!
Shelled Hemp Seed
Shelled hemp seed (also known as “Hemp Hearts”) are a highly nutritious source of protein. They are better tasting and more digestible than soy protein. If you’re only going to try one hemp food, try shelled hempseed. They are by far the most popular and well liked hemp food. Shelled hempseeds are found in several finished foods including baked goods (bread, pretzels), granola bars, and cereals.
Nutty in taste, you can sprinkle shelled hempseeds on nearly anything. For example, you can add them to oatmeal for breakfast, salad for lunch, and pasta for dinner. With a taste similar to pine nuts and a texture and size similar to sesame seed, they are an easy addition to almost any meal. They are used to make hemp milk and ice cream.
Hemp Seed Oil
Hemp seed oil is known for its Omega-3 benefits in that it contains a perfect balance of Omega-3 to Omega-6. Hemp oil is a very popular product. It can be used to make salad dressings, dips, and as a topping for vegetables, rice, and potatoes. It is also a great substitute for margarine, butter, or any other oil. It can be used in cooking, although it is advised to cook at lower temperatures in order to maintain its structural integrity. Please note that it is not advised to sauté or fry with hemp oil because it has a low flash (smoke) point.
Hemp seed contains between 25–35% oil by weight, which is high in essential fatty acids (EFAs). Cold-pressed, unrefined hemp oil is light green, with a nutty grassy flavor. It is a superb nutritional supplement for EFA and imparts a desired flavor into dressings, dips and spreads. Its can be combined with or used in replacement of olive, walnut and safflower oils for cooking and eating.
Hemp protein is an excellent alternative to meat for protein consumption. It has more protein ounce for ounce than any meat source and is cholesterol free. It can be mixed into juice and homemade smoothies or purchased as a ready-made shake mix. It also comes in flavored versions such as vanilla and chocolate.
If you are shopping for plain hemp protein powder, you will see that it comes in three forms: hemp protein plus fiber, 50 percent hemp protein, and hemp protein concentrate. Each meets a different goal. For example, hemp protein plus fiber will give you 50 percent of your recommended daily intake of fiber. 50 percent hemp protein will be an answer to a tasty, vegetarian source of protein with some fiber removed. And hemp protein concentrate (also called 70 percent hemp protein) is water soluble in that it can be added to liquids. In addition, it is made up of 70 percent protein, so it offers the most protein of the three options described.
After hemp seed has been crushed for oil, the remaining product still contains 25% protein and is an excellent source of dietary fiber – it still remains a very appropriate food ingredient and nutritional supplement for people and animals. And it can be used to brew beer.
What’s So Special About Hemp Foods?
It is not common knowledge, but hemp seed delivers the highest levels of essential fatty acids (EFAs) of any plant in a ratio exactly suited to the bodies needs. It also contains all 9 of the essential amino acids (proteins) needed to maintain good health, and is easily digested and absorbed by the body, which makes it a perfect vegetarian alternative to animal protein.
It is unfortunate that hemp seed has been tarred with the controversy surrounding its outlaw cousin. From a nutritional standpoint the seeds are highly desirable. They contain up to 35% protein which, unusual for a plant protein, contains all nine essential amino acids. The seeds are also high in unsaturated fat — so-called “good” fat. Even better, these unsaturated fats are a good source of essential fatty acids. Between 15% — 25% of hemp’s EFAs are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). This is an omega-3 fatty acid often lacking in out diet. As a final bonus, hemp seeds contain a wide variety of minerals, phytosterols, and phospholipids such as lecithin.
Hemp is not marijuana. Industrial hemp produces no significant levels of THC (psychoactive ingredient in marijuana). Hemp seed is grown throughout the world, including China, all of Europe, and Canada. Most all hemp foods available in North America are grown and processed in Canada. Health Canada is the government agency that oversees hemp licensing, cultivation, and testing for THC. Health Canada allows a tolerance of 3 parts per million of THC or less, though tests reveal no detectable level of THC all hemp foods. Therefore, consuming hemp food will not result in a failing a drug test.
Global Hemp, Inc makes no implied or express warranty regarding use of this guide; it should not be relied on in providing, or in lieu of seeking professional, nursing or medical advice, assistance or care.