Hemp Hemp Hooray for
Full of protein and omega oils - in the optimal human balance. Hemp seed is food fit for a super hero!
emp has been cultivated for over 10000 years, being one of the earliest crops grown by our ancient ancestors. Initially it was largely used for its plant fibre, which was woven into fabric. By 2700 BC hemp was used as a fabric as well as an increasingly important source of nutrition in the old world cultures of Asia, the Middle East and Africa where it was also valued for its medicinal properties. Within a few hundred years nomadic tribes migrating from these Eastern realms had introduced hemp to Europe. By 1000BC hemp was one of the worldâ€™s largest agricultural crops, providing materials for industry, fabric and rope, it was used in oil for lamps and as a medicine and food for humans and domesticated animals. From then hemp continued to be a staple crop throughout many civilisations. In the 16th and 17th centuries there were hemp laws that made it mandatory for hemp to be grown in various states in the USA and in the Spanish territories of Central and South America. Hemp even became legal tender throughout most of the Americas until the 1800s. In the 19th century extracts of hemp were some of the most prescribed medicines in the USA. Queen Victoria is said to have used cannabis resins to treat menstrual cramps. However, hempâ€™s association with cannabis, the drug, meant it fell out of favour and was banned in many countries.
Over the past couple of decades hemp has had a renaissance as a food crop and fabric in many regions of Europe and Canada.
The Essential Fats
Hemp and Protein
Shelled hemp seeds contain up to 50% oil (1), much of this being in the form of beneficial polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated oils. Like many seeds hemp seeds are a good source of the omega 3 and 6 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). The Essential Fats are needed by every cell in the body and are particularly important for brain function, cardiovascular health, hormone balance and skin, bone, nail and hair health. The body cannot make the essential fats, hence it is essential that we get them from our food. What sets hemp seeds apart from other seeds is their balanced ratio of between 1:3 and 1:2 parts omega 3 to omega 6 fats. The oil from hemp seeds contains a useful 15% omega 3 oils (1).
Hemp seeds are a great source of bio-available vegetarian protein (8). Whole hemp seeds contain 24% crude protein with protein digestibility being around 85%. Removal of the hull improves protein digestibility meaning shelled hemp seeds are an even better way to get your protein. Hemp protein powder contains about 40% crude protein with about 90% protein digestibility. Hemp seeds have a protein value greater than that of many other plant foods including nuts and pulses. (9).
GLA In addition to the Essential fats hemp seeds are one of the few foods that also contain GLA â€“ this is the broken down form of the omega 6 fats. GLA is not strictly speaking an essential fats as it is possible for the body to break down the omega 6 fats from food into GLA with the help of an enzyme called delta-6-desaturase. However, if delta-6-desaturase is in insufficient supply this conversion cannot take place and a deficiency of GLA may arise with subsequent symptoms. Research between the 1930s and 1950s established that a deficit of omega 6 essential fats can lead to inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema. However, more recent research has found that those with atopic eczema actually have elevated levels of linoleic acid (the omega 6 fat found in most nuts and seeds) but reduced concentrations of its metabolites such as GLA. This indicates that these people are not converting linoleic acid to GLA and it is the low GLA levels that are causing the skin problems. The conversion of linoleic acid to GLA is dependent on the enzyme delta-6-desaturase. Hence, a deficiency in this enzyme may lead to a deficiency in GLA. Those with inflammatory disorders such as atopic eczema (2,3), asthma (4), and diabetes may have an inherited or acquired deficiency of delta-6-desaturase and subsequently inadequate levels of GLA. Increasing GLA levels through the use of hemp foods may aid the treatment of diabetic neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, ADHD, eczema and other skin disorders (5,6). The benefits of the oils in hemp seeds are not restricted to those with diagnosed skin diseases; hemp seed oil can also alleviate dryness and other problems associated with the ageing process. (7). Their high vitamin E content is another factor that makes them useful for healing and repair of body tissues.
The two main proteins in hemp seeds are edestin and albumin, both of which are highly digestible with a good range of all the essential amino acids making them a high quality protein food, comparable with soya and eggs. In particular, they have high levels of arginine, needed for fertility (10) and glutamic acid needed for brain function, as well as good quantities of the sulphur amino acids methionine and cystine, which can be converted into glutathione, a powerful antioxidant.
Hemp and Cardiovascular Disease Inclusion of hemp seeds in the diet has a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels and platelet aggregation, thus potentially reducing the risk of suffering a heart attack (11). Hemp seeds contain about 18% monounsaturated fats (1). These fats are associated with a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome (12), heart disease and atherosclerosis (13). This makes hemp seeds a good choice for those wishing to reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease or even treating the symptoms that they already have (14). They may also be protective against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimerâ€™s (14).
Hemp, Fatigue and Immune Function Hemp seeds exert a profound antioxidant effect as well as having a protective effect against cytotoxicity (toxicity within the cells) (14). Research on mice found that hemp seed protein had anti-fatigue and immunomodulating effects (15).
Hemp, Pain and Inflammation Hemp has been used for centuries as a herbal remedy for pain and inflammatory disorders. It is only recently that researchers have investigated the scientific basis behind these traditional uses. It has been discovered that the cannabinoids present in hemp seeds and products have analgesic (pain relieving) effects with activity similar to weak opioids. The high content of anti-inflammatory fats in hemp seeds may reduce inflammation and pain in those with chronic musculo-skeletal inflammatory disorders. (16). The
cannabinoids in hemp seeds are also recognized as having anti nausea effects on those undergoing chemotherapy and in wasting-syndrome suffered by those with AIDS (16).
Hemp and the Planet Hemp is a hardy plant that produces high yields without the need for pesticides. The whole plant can be used meaning nothing need be wasted. Whilst the seeds are used for food the fibrous stalks can be used to make paper, textiles and building materials.
Hemp won’t make you high! The type of hemp grown for food use contains little, if any, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the main psychoactive ingredient in drug varieties of cannabis, so it will not have any physical or psychological effects.
Restricted Diets Hemp seeds are great for those who need to avoid foods due to allergies, intolerances or for ethical reasons. Hemp seeds have no known allergens so may be suitable for those with multiple intolerances. So, whether you are intolerant to soya, wheat, dairy, nuts or gluten or if you are vegan or vegetarian hemp seeds and hemp powder could fill the gap in your diet.
Here’s a recipe to get you started. Hemp and Apricot Fudge 1 cup of unsulphured apricots, soaked for a few hours 1 cup of tahini ½ cup of hemp protein powder 4 tbsp cacao powder or carob powder 4 tbsp honey ½ cup of shelled hemp seeds Drain the apricots and put them into a food processor with the S blade and blend. Add the tahini and blend thoroughly. Add the hemp protein powder, cacao or carob powder and honey. Blend again until you have a really thick paste Add the hemp seeds and blend briefly. Transfer the mixture to a lined, square or rectangular tin. Press down firmly. Cover and refrigerate for an hour or more. Cut the fudge into squares and serve. These can be stored in a covered container in the fridge for several days (if you have any left!).
Hemp Foods Hemp comes in a variety of forms including as whole seeds, shelled seeds and as a protein powder. All have the nutritional benefits described above and a light nutty flavour that works well in savoury or sweet dishes. Whole Hemp Seeds and Shelled Hemp Seeds – these can be sprinkled onto salads and cereals or added to breads, flapjacks and other baked goods. Hemp Protein Powder – this can be used alongside other flours in baked goods. It can also be added to smoothies and juices to increase their nutritional value.
References Li D, Yao T, Siriamornpun S. Alpha-linolenic acid content of commonly available nuts in Hangzhou. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2006 Jan;76(1):18-21 Horrobin DF, Essential fatty acid metabolism and its modification in atopic eczema. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jan;71(1):367S-72S Callaway J, Schwab U, Harvima I et al. Efficacy of dietary hempseed oil in patients with atopic dermatitis. J Dermatolog Treat. 2005 Apr;16(2):87-94 Surette ME, Stull D, Lindemann J. The impact of a medical food containing gammolinolenic and eicosapentaenoic acids on asthma management and the quality of life of adult asthma patients. Curr Med Res Opin. 2008 Feb;24(2):559-67 Dobryniewski J, Szajda SD, Waszkiewicz N, Zwierz K. The gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)--the therapeutic value. Przegl Lek. 2007;64(2):100-2 Horrobin DF, Fatty acid metabolism in health and disease: the role of delta-6-desaturase. 1993 May;57(5):732S736S Sapino S, Carlotti ME, Peira E, Gallarate M. Hemp-seed and olive oils: their stability against oxidation and use in O/W emulsions. J Cosmet Sci 2005 Jul-Aug;56(4):227-51 Odani S, Odani S. Isolation and primary structure of a methionine and cystine rich seed protein of Cannabis sativa. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 1998 Apr;62(4):650-4 House JD, Neufeld J, Leson G. Evaluating the quality of protein from hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) products through the use of the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score method. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Nov 24;58(22):11801-7 Lefevre PL, Palin MF, Murphy BD. Polyamines on the reproductive landscape. Endocr Rev. 2011 Oct;32(5):694712 Prociuk MA, Edel AL, Richard MN, Gavel NT, Ander BP, Dupasquier CM, Pierce GN. Cholesterol-induced stimulation of platelet aggregation is prevented by a hempseed-enriched diet. 208 Apr;86(4):153-9Esposito K, Ceriello A, Giugliano D. Diet and the metabolic syndrome. Metab Syndr Relat Disord. 2007 Dec;5(4):291-6 Martins e Silva J, Saldanha C. Diet, atherosclerosis and atherothrombotic events. Rev Port Cardiol. 2007 Mar;26(3):277-94 Lee MJ, Park SH, Han JH, Hong YK, Hwang S, Lee S, Kim D, Han SY, Kim ES, Cho KS. The effects of hempseed meal intake and linoleic acid on Drosophila models of neurodegenerative diseases and hypercholesterolemia. Mol Cells. 2011 Apr;31(4):337-42 Li Y, Yang R, Hu X, Long Z et al. Initial study of Hemp seeds protein on antifatigue and the immunomodulation effects in mice. Wei Sheng Yan Jiu 2008 Mar;37(2):175-8 Shaladi AM, Cretani F, Tartari S, Piva B. Cannabinoids in the control of pain. Recenti Prog Med. 2008 Dec;99(12):616-24
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Information on Hemp Seeds including the health benefits, and recipe.