WHY YOU CAN BELIEVE THE HYPE ABOUT HEMP
It’s important to note that the omega-3 in hemp – like all plants – is different to the omega-3 we get from oily fish. It may be more difficult for our bodies to process and absorb this type of omega-3, and we need more of it to get equivalent benefit compared with fish oils. But if you’re not into fish, or are vegetarian or vegan, hemp seed oil could be a useful way to get omega-3 into your diet.
There’s also some interesting research looking at the effect of hemp seed oil, when consumed, on skin conditions such as dermatitis and eczema, that’s found a positive effect here too.
However, the oil is not suitable for cooking with – it has a low smoke point – so it’s best used for dressings or finishing. It also has a fairly strong, nutty flavor, which you may find is an acquired taste – so dressings using other strong flavors such as balsamic vinegar will balance that out.
Hemp seeds are especially high in protein compared to other seeds. This is why they’re often made into protein powders. Hemp is a complete protein, which means it contains all nine essential amino acids. This is fairly rare among plants (quinoa is another example) and makes it useful for anyone not getting much protein from animal sources.
If you’re looking for a plant-based post-workout protein powder, hemp is a little lower in protein than other plant proteins like pea or soy, but it is quite a bit higher in fiber, which is a useful bonus.
It's in the area of fiber, in fact, that hemp might be particularly good for us. The whole, unhulled seeds are high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, which have proven gut and heart health benefits. Hulled seeds (hearts) have less fiber, but are easier to eat.
Most of us could use more fiber in our diets to get to 30 grams a day, the level where serious health benefits kick in. The fiber content in the seeds available for sale seems to vary a bit, which may depend on how much they’ve been processed. If you’re thinking of trying hemp seeds, compare labels and go for unhulled, higher-fiber types.
As with other seeds, hemp seeds can be added to all sorts of dishes: try them in cereal, salads, smoothies and baking.
If you’re prone to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, it’s worth knowing that hemp seeds are gut-friendly – they’re a low-FODMAP food so shouldn’t aggravate a grumbly tummy.
When it comes to hemp-based treats, it’s worth being circumspect. Hemp chocolate, bliss balls and sweets are probably not health foods. As with anything else we see promoted as ‘super food’, eating hemp in a product that also contains tons of sugar and saturated fat tends to counteract any possible benefit.
But in its whole and oil forms, hemp is an ancient food that’s well worth getting to know again.
Article by Niki Bezzant supplied by Les Mills International.