There is a lot of buzz around at the moment about ‘super foods’. Every food under the sun – from broccoli to blueberries – is now being touted as the best thing we can possibly eat for our bodies. The truth is, foods such as these aren’t new or innovative. They have been around for donkey’s years and they are not overly difficult to obtain, nor are they expensive. There are however several foods on the market that have emerged recently as real powerhouses in the nutritional sphere. One such food that has caused a bit of a stir is hemp. (Please keep in mind while reading this that human consumption of hemp products in Australia is still illegal and strictly prohibited. It is an acceptable product in the US however).
So what is hemp and how is it eaten? Hemp in the diet is bought and eaten as hemp seeds. Technically these seeds aren’t seeds at all but are a fruit. The food itself is small and boasts a similar taste to sunflower seeds or pine nuts.
Why are hemp seeds so healthy for us? Although tiny in size, hemp seeds are a power house of nutritional goodness. They are an excellent source of vegan protein as they are one of the only plant-based complete proteins (and are also a great alternative to those who don’t consume soy). Three tablespoons of these seeds provide 11 grams of protein. This is because hemp seeds contain all 10 essential amino acids.
Hemp seeds are also a sound source of essential fatty acids (think Omega 3s and Omega 6s) as well as polyunsaturated fat. It is essential that these fatty acids are consumed via the diet as the body is unable to produce them on its own. The fibre content of hemp seeds is high too, as are the levels of vitamins such as thiamine, B1 and riboflavin B2. They are also a solid source of the minerals phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, sodium, manganese, zinc and copper.
Now that you know the amazing health benefits of this super food, how can you incorporate it into your daily diet? It is very easy to include hemp seeds in your morning smoothie or topped on cereal or with yoghurt. Their gentle flavour means that you won’t be left with a funny aftertaste or texture. The seeds can also be added to soups or sprinkled on top of salads (similar to how you would sprinkle walnuts or other seeds on to a salad).
You will find hemp seeds at fine food grocers such as Whole Foods or other speciality health food grocers. As for Australian consumers, some health stores are selling the seeds under the guise that they are intended for ‘animal consumption’ (nod, nod, wink, wink) so keep a look out for this in your local health food store to get your hands on them.