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  • Sylvia Meo, R.D.

Hemp 101- Nutrition, Health Benefits, How to Buy and Use Them Daily


*This segment is a paid collaboration with Planet Hemp Superfood. All opinions, tips and information are my own.

If you have been following food trends for a while, you already know how plant-based foods have skyrocketed in popularity over the last few years and how the number of people adopting a vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian diet has equally rapidly increased. We are becoming increasingly more concerned about our health, animal welfare, sustainability and our planet, and these concerns are for many of us determining what foods we choose to put on our plates. In fact, the hottest food or diet trend right now is plant-based. You may have noticed how alternative plant protein ingredients and foods are starting to take up more space on our supermarket shelves.

One such powerhouse ingredient is hemp. The once humble hemp plant has become quite the big deal and with good reason. Although it is related to marijuana, they both come from the same cannabis species Cannabis sativa, the hemp plant is a different, sturdier variety grown for its strong and long natural fiber (used to make rope, paper, and fabric) or for its edible seeds, and it contains nearly undetectable levels of the psychoactive cannaboid THC. In other words, it is the sober, non-hallucinogenic first degree cousin of marijuana! ;-) You, and your kids, can eat as many as you want and never have to fear getting high.

Historically, like with most seeds, the hemp seeds were commercially grown for animal or bird feed. Let’s dig into why these little seeds are now considered a superfood.

Nutritional Profile

They may be called hemp "seeds" but they are technically a nut. The hemp seed is the fruit of the hemp plant and its edible kernel, also known as the hemp heart, can be found inside a shell. Hemp "seeds" are typically hulled or shelled and the hemp hearts are eaten raw and whole. They have a mild, nutty flavor and buttery texture which reminds me of chopped sunflower seeds or pine nuts.

Although they are quite different, they are often compared to two popular seeds: flax and chia seeds. Hemp hearts are a nutrient dense food. They contain high levels of protein; typically three tablespoons contain 10 grams of protein, that's 50 to 75% more than the amount found in either chia or flax seeds. Like chia seeds, hemp hearts contain all nine essential amino acids and are considered a complete protein, an important factor to consider when integrating more plant-based proteins into our diet. They also contain more iron and more total omega fats than both chia and flax seeds. Hemp hearts are a concentrated source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, with the latter fats present in higher amounts yet maintaining a healthy 3 to 1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3. Considering it is a plant source of omega 3 fats (ALA), the average three tablespoons serving of hemp hearts produce more anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA combined) than recommended daily for a healthy adult.

Finally, hemp hearts are a good source of a variety of minerals such as phosphorous, manganese, magnesium, potassium, calcium, zinc, copper and iron, as well as contain high levels of antioxidants.

If you have been trying to follow some of the recommendations listed in the new Canada Food Guide and trying to introduce more plant food sources and plant-based proteins into your diet, hemp hearts are definitely a great place to start!

Health Benefits

Hemp seeds contain a specific omega 6 fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). GLA has proven anti-inflammatory benefits for conditions such as eczema, arthritis and heart disease, and several studies have indicated that hemp seeds may also help with hormonal balance during menopause and with reducing PMS symptoms.

They also contain high amounts of the amino acid arginine which has been linked to decreased levels of inflammation marker C-reactive protein (CRP) and a reduced risk of heart disease.

Not only is hemp protein a complete protein, but it is also more highly digestible than other proteins, especially plant-based proteins found in most grains, nuts and legumes. This is an important consideration when choosing our preferred sources of protein, particularly if we are trying to add more plant-based food sources to our diets, because highly digestible proteins are better absorbed by our bodies and provide our cells with the amino acids they need.

Other interesting benefits of hemp is that the plant is sustainable, it can grow anywhere and quickly, eco-friendly and naturally resistant to pests. Under proper growing conditions no pesticides or insecticides are needed, and unlike many crops nowadays, most hemp plants are non-genetically modified. All of which are things I consider important when choosing a food to nourish myself and my family with.

How to Buy

Like with many foods, much of the world’s hemp supply comes from China. The hemp plant is actually native to China. Canada is the second biggest hemp plant grower. For many reasons, my favorite hemp products company is 100% Canadian. I am a huge fan and supporter of Planet Hemp Superfood hemp products. Their hemp plants are grown locally by trusted farmers across the country and their hemp products are manufactured in the Prairies, this ensures the highest quality from start to finish, as well as traceability. They have also elevated the standards of farming with their proprietary S.A.F.E. Soil program which essentially improves soil fertility and crop production, resulting in a healthier and more nutrient dense hemp product.

Planet Hemp Superfood offers a full range of products that I absolutely love and use daily: hemp hearts, super seeds (two savory blends of hemp hearts, sunflower seeds, white and black sesame seeds; I’m absolutely addicted to the onion flavored one; and a new sweet flavor is coming out soon!), hemp oil and an array of organic smoothie mixes. All their products are non-GMO Project Verified, and some are also certified organic. Their hemp oil is organic, cold-pressed, and essentially a virgin oil meaning it hasn’t been chemically treated like in the case of sunflower, corn or canola oil.

Valid until the end of the month you can use my promotional code TheFoodfulLife for 25% your purchase on the Planet Hemp Superfood website.

How to Use

Planet Hemp Superfood hemp products can be enjoyed in many ways and are extremely easy to use on the daily. Like any other seed or nut you can simply eat them as is. You can also sprinkle them on salads, yogurts, cereals, smoothie or grain bowls, add some to any of your baked goods (muffins, cakes, breads, cookies, pizza crust) or energy ball recipes, blend them into smoothies or soups, or make a quick pesto or healthy seed butter. They are gluten-free making them a great bread substitute for breading chicken or fish.

Personally, I love adding their Superseeds to my bread crumbs when making breaded fish or chicken fingers for my sweet Trinity. I also add a tablespoon or two of their hemp hearts and protein smoothie mixes to Trinity's homemade fruit purées to add some extra protein and beneficial nutrients to them.

It's simple, hemp products are a quick, easy and perfect way to add a protein, omega 3 and nutrition boost to any meal or dish, every day and for the whole family!

For more tips and tricks on how to incorporate plant-based foods into your diet, the following articles are a great place to start:

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