While Hemp may resurrect images of the Grateful Dead and Half Baked, today’s post delves into whether or not it belongs on your dinner plate. This is another one of our most requested foods, so channel your inner hippie and light some incense… here we go.
What is Hemp?
Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant (Cannabis sativa L) grown for it’s seeds and fiber to be used in food and textiles. Hemp plants grow very quickly in varying soil conditions and have been a staple crop in China for thousands of years.
Hemp has commonly been confused with marijuana since the plants belong to the same family. While there are many differences between the hemp and marijuana, the most important is concentration of THC. Hemp has less than 1% of the psychoactive drug (marijuana can contain 20% or more).
Why Eat Hemp?
Hemp seeds are 1/4 to 1/3 protein (mostly albumin and edestine), which is great for a plant source of protein. It is also full of fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, and all essential amino acids.
Hemp seeds (and oil) are also quite high in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Here’s the breakdown:
- Omega-3’s: Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA)
- Omega-6’s: Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) and Stearidonic Acid (SA)
- Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio – 3:1
An ideal omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 1:1. A point to consider is that while hemp has a decent amount of omega-3, it is in the form of ALA rather than EPA and DHA. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, as Mark Sisson points out “to hemp’s credit, the omega-6 content does include the healthier gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and stearidonic acid (SA), both of which are believed to be anti-inflammatory in nature.”
One point of caution: since hemp seeds and oil are so high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, they can easily go rancid. Keep your hemp seeds in the fridge or freezer, and make sure the oil is cold-pressed and bottled in a light-blocking container.
Is Hemp Paleo?
Ultimately, I’d say yes. There are concerns, primarily processing and rancidity, but I see no problem with unprocessed hemp seeds and cold-pressed oil. There are legitimate health benefits to its consumption, and unlike many seeds there’s no need to soak hemp to get rid of phytic acid (win!).
You’ll find that hemp seeds taste like pine nuts. They are mild, but definitely nutty. Great in a salad and easily masked in a smoothie.
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