I’m so late to the hemp seeds party, I know.
Better late than never though.
It’s been over two years that I keep hearing about hemp seeds (and, in particular about their amazing health benefits) but never bothered looking into them.
It's time to make amends...
What are hemp seeds?
Hemp seeds are the seeds of Cannabis sativa. Technically a nut, hemp seeds contain over 30% oil and about 25% protein, with considerable amounts of dietary fibers and minerals.
Hemp seeds have been documented as a source of food throughout recorded history. For instance, hemp seed oil has been used as a food/medicine in China for at least 3,000 years.
Hemp seeds as food
Hemp seeds can be eaten raw, ground into a meal, sprouted, made into hemp milk, prepared as tea, and even used in baking.
1 ounce of hemp seeds yields 162 calories, 13 grams of fat, 10 grams of protein and just 2 grams of carbs.
Almost 44% of the weight of hemp seeds is edible oils, containing about 80% polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). They're an exceptionally rich source of the two essential fatty acids (EFAs) linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linoleic acid (omega-3).
Hemp seeds have high levels of proteins. The amino acid profile is close to complete, if compared to other complete sources of protein such as meat, milk, eggs or soy.
In particular, hemp seeds contain all 21 known amino acids, including the 9 essential ones the human body cannot produce.
A direct comparison of protein amino acids profile shows that hemp seed protein is comparable to other high quality protein such as egg whites or soybeans.
Hemp seed are also a good source of trace minerals such as zinc and magnesium.
Chinese traditional medicine maintains the oldest recorded source of information on hemp seeds, both as a traditional food and as a medicine.
Anecdotal reports attribute improvements in skin quality, stronger fingernails and thicker hair to daily usage of hemp seeds over time. Generally, such improvements are considered as good indications of general health and well being.
A clinical study demonstrated the usefulness of hemp seeds oil in healing mucosal skin wounds after eye, nose and throat surgery, when applied topically.
Moreover, the fatty acid profile of hemp seed oil is remarkably similar to that of black currant seed oil, which also seems to have a beneficial impact on immunologic vigor.
Hemp seed oil has also been used in the treatment of eczema with positive results.
There’s no risk of intoxication
Trace amounts of THC (i.e., the principal psychoactive constituent of the cannabis) can be detected in foods made from hemp seed, just as trace amounts of morphine can be found in poppy seeds.
Clinical trials have shown that there is no significant effect of intoxication with such low levels of THC, which cannot be expected to have any significant impact on human health and drug testing.
Furthermore, the hemp seed industry has worked to reduce these trace amounts to a minimum in recent years.
You’re not worried about eating a poppy seed bagel? Then you should not worry with hemp seeds either.
I believe hemp seeds rightfully own a spot among the so-called superfoods as they have an amazing nutritional profile.
Additionally, traditional Chinese medicine, recent anecdotal reports, and scientific studies agree that hemp seeds have health promoting properties. Those are directly linked to the high levels of essential fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids, in addition to being a rich source of important amino acids in an easily digested protein.
So far, I have added hemp seeds to my protein smoothies or sprinkled them over my kale salad. I’m still working on finding new ways to incorporate them in other foods I eat regularly. I’ll for sure need more time to familiarize myself more with these wonder seeds.
The hemp plant, even for culinary purposes, is still illegal to grow in the United States (with the exception of Colorado that recently enacted a hemp farming regulation). Most organic hemp seeds found on the market in the U.S. are grown in Canada.