Updated: Sep 10, 2019
Hemp. Hemp hearts, hemp seeds, hemp oil, hemp protein -- what is this so-called "hemp" and what does it do for me on a daily basis? What are the benefits of adding it into my diet? Is it good for me?
All of these questions have entered my mind many times before, especially once I started learning more and more about holistic nutrition. I knew just from word of mouth and through my trusted nutritional sources that hemp was great for you, but I truthfully didn't know why. Over the recent years, it has become a staple in my diet and something that I highly recommend for my clients and I'm here now to share it in more detail with you!
In honor of the end of Hemp History Week, I'm here to dive in a little bit deeper about hemp and talk more about where it came from, its benefits to our bodies, and so much more.
First and foremost, hemp seeds, or even sometimes known as hemp hearts, are the seeds of a hemp plant, known as Cannibis Sativa. While they do come from the same plant as marijuana, hemp seeds only contain minor traces of THC (which is the active ingredient in marijuana) and will not get you high, not are they illegal or unsafe. Hemp oil is simply created by pressing down hemp seeds and extracting out the oil. While hemp oil is not recommended for cooking or frying, it's a great addition to smoothies, smoothie bowls, etc. for an added boost of essential fatty acids. Hemp seeds, or hemp hearts, can be consumed raw, cooked or roasted. I typically throw some into my smoothies, or add on top of toast, pancakes, salads or other meals to give me some added healthy fat, fiber and even protein as well.
Unlike a lot of foods out on the market today, hemp is extremely versatile! It grows like a weed and can be used in the production of many things --- all the way from clothing items, personal care products, plastics, construction materials, textiles and of course, as an addition to many foods or within your diet.
With the various parts of a hemp plant you can make many things:
Flower: CBD oil, essential oil
Seed: Snacks and meal toppers, protein powder, supplements, oil paints, soaps, shampoos, cosmetics
Bast Fiber: Rope, netting, carpet, clothes, shoes, bags
Stalk: Paper products, cardboard, filters, biofuel
Hurd: Animal bedding, insulation, mulch
Leaves: Compost, juice, tea
Roots: Herbal supplements, compost
and many more!
The best benefit of hemp is that it is incredibly nutritious for the body and consists of not only healthy fats, but also plant-based proteins and other important vitamins and minerals (fiber, iron and magnesium) that are necessary for the body to function. Not only is hemp an awesome source of dietary fiber, but it also is a complete protein (meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids, which are ones that our body can't normally manufacture on its own) and contains no enzyme prohibitors, making it easily digestible by the body. About 25% of the total calories of a hemp seed comes from protein itself! They're great additions to meals because they help to build your satiety and keep you feeling full for many hours after consumption which prevents you from feeling like you have to eat every hour (hello, weight loss!).
Hemp is a healthy fat (yes, fats can actually be good for you!) and healthy fats are vital for our brain and heart health. However, one of the most common health problems in the United States is that we focus on eating way too many UNHEALTHY fats, which then lead to improper ratios of two of the most important fatty acids within our diet, linoleic acid (known as LA or omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (known as ALA or omega-3). Our ratio, if well-balanced, should be about 1:1, but the problem is that our ratios are way off and can instead be up to 15:1!! This is due to Americans consuming WAY more omega-6 within our diet because it's much easier to come by with all of the unhealthy foods that we eat on a daily basis (i.e. chips, pizza, pasta, salad dressings, etc).
The key is to have a balance between both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to prevent inflammation and susceptibility of other diseases such as cancer, heart disease or depression in the long run. Although omega-6 is known as inflammatory, this doesn't mean it's bad. It works to assist in the inflammatory phase of wound healing and is necessary for repair. Receiving it from organic, whole food sources such as eggs, seeds, nuts or grass-fed meats is not the issue, but rather (as mentioned above) when we receive it from unhealthy foods such as processed foods, pizza, pasta products, etc.
In a nutshell, hemp seeds provide a solution to this problem as they have a higher omega-3 ratio and are great for balancing inflammation levels and strengthening your immune system. Yay hemp!
In addition, hemp seeds also are rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which is vital building block in the body which helps to support the normal growth and function of cells, nerves, muscles and organs throughout your body. GLA also plays an essential role in regulating body temperature and reducing inflammation. Foods that are rich in GLA have shown a connection to help people who suffer from:
High blood pressure
Other health benefits of hemp can include:
Reduced arthritis and/or joint pain
Potential weight loss
Improved digestive health
Enhanced hair, skin, or nail health
All in all, hemp is an old staple food that has been around a long time, but we are just now becoming more aware of its many health benefits. Unlike a lot of foods out there available to us, hemp has a ton of nutritional value for our bodies, and is a superfood that I definitely encourage my clients to consume regularly.
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