To keep a lamp burning we have to keep putting oil in it. ~Mother Teresa
I'd been happily eating flax seeds for quite some time when I met hemp advocate John Roulac, Founder and CEO of Nutiva. I'd seen hemp oil in lip balm and clothes, and I'd tried hemp milk before, but I never thought of it as a food. John introduced me to hemp seeds and some other hemp products, and I just wish I'd learned about them earlier - they are delicious and oh so nutritious. I am going to switch most of my flax seed eating over to hemp seeds. I also learned about superfood chia seeds, which is the subject of an upcoming blog post.
Hemp is one of the earliest cultivated crops - the Chinese grew it 4000 years ago, and it was popular across Asia and the Middle East. Hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts, are the basis of hemp foods. You can eat them shelled, or they are also processed into hemp oil and hemp milk. I find shelled raw hemp seeds to have a fresh, nutty, kind of sprouty flavor. What makes them so special?
- They are a nutritional powerhouse, full of omega-3 and 6, and a complete protein. Hemp seeds have about 3300mg of Omega-3 and 8100mg of omega-6 in 3 tbs (compared to 4050mg of Omega-3 and 800mg Omega-6 in 3 tbs of flax seeds). Omega-3 is harder to get than 6, and though there is more in flax seed, it is all ALA. Some of the omega-3 in hemp seed is the easier to absorb and harder to find SDA. The ratio of omega 3 to 6 is almost ideal in hemp seeds (ideal is considered 1:2 or 1:4. It's actually on the lower range of ideal, which is a bonus because most of us get enough omega-6 already. As for protein, hemp seeds are 33% protein and contain all the essential amino acids and nearly all the amino acids. 3 tbsp contain 11g protein. Hemp also does not appear to contain phytic acid that may reduce nutrient absorption.
- Hemp is environmental. It is illegal to grow hemp in the U.S., so most of it is imported from Canada. Hemp grows quickly and has a deep root structure so it is good for the soil. This miracle plant also naturally resists pests so it doesn't need pesticides. Hemp likes nitrogen rich soil, so like all other crops, organic farmers will rotate. Unorganic farmers tend to use fertilizer.
- Hemp seeds are easy to use. They are more shelf stable than flax seeds, but not as stable as chia seeds. Nutiva recommends using within 8-12 weeks of opening. They also don't need to be ground.
- Hemp seeds won't get you high. There are many varities of hemp, and the kind that gets you high is marijuana, which is high in THC (the stuff that gets you high). Hemp seeds are grown from industrial hemp plants which contain too little THC to get you high, no matter how much of it you eat or drink.
Bottom line: I'm replacing much of my flax seed consumption with hemp seeds. They are more expensive but I find hemp to be tasty enough to eat straight out of the bag as a snack, and they last longer. I think flax is more neutral in flavor and has more omega-3, so I'll still be using it. Just not as much.
What to do: Eat Hemp Seeds
- Buy hemp seed products. You can buy the seeds, hemp milk or hemp oil in natural foods stores and Whole Foods. You can also buy directly from Nutiva. If you like supplements like protein powders, you can also find hemp protein. Nutiva makes hemp shake mix and hemp seed bars as well. I'm not a big fan of supplements or bars, but the bars are impressively clean: sunflower seeds, honey, hemp seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds.
- Eat/drink the seeds and milk straight or add the seeds and oil to your meals. Sprinkle seeds in grains, yogurt and salad or drizzle oils over salads and anywhere you would use olive oil. Don't cook with the oil though.
- Store in airtight containers in the refrigerator. They will turn rancid after opening, so use them in the time suggested.
Want to learn more?
What I ate: 1 apple, 1 cup grapes, Oogie's black pepper and asiago popcorn, quinoa, tofu, steamed broccoli, 1 slice whole wheat bread + Justin's chocolate hazel nut butter, 1 banana, 1 green tea + rice cakes and seafood, crispy noodles, soup dumplings, vegetable dumplings, bubble tea, tea, 3 tbsp hemp seeds, 45 oz. water
Exercise: jogged 4.5 miles