Somehow this seed from future has come to rescue of mankind, has it? Hemp belongs to the same family as marijuana. Then how has this small seed considered superfood today. Dietary Hemp seeds available today do not contain chemical THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which is present in marijuana and offers psychoactive effects. This means it is impossible to get high using hemp seeds.
What does this nature’s gift offer to mankind? These tiny round, sesame sized nutty flavored seeds offers a complete vegan, gluten free source of protein with unique combination of Omega fatty acids. Isn’t that amazing? This makes hemp seeds be considered as amongst super-foods. It offers broad spectrum of nutritional value and health benefits, which we are going to discuss further.
Hemp plant also offers other benefits to mankind. The fibrous stem of this plant is used to make paper, rope, cloth and plastic! A popular rumor is that Henry Ford build his first car using hemp plastic, which he considered to be 10 times stronger than steel and also ran this car on hemp fuel as well, which was cleaner and cheaper that other fuel. While most pro-hemp website published this, it is most probably a myth. However this does not undermine the use of hemp in making bio plastic material. Hemp is also used as construction material. Hempcrete is considered eco-friendly alternative to concrete.
History of Hemp cultivation and its use goes way back to Neolithic Age. It use has been widespread in Chinese civilizations. Records also found its use in India, Persian and Egyptian cultures for nutritional and other purposes.
Nutrition facts of Hemp seeds
Nearly one third of Hemp seeds by weight is composed of various fatty acids. Another one fourth of hemp seeds are complete protein including all essential amino acids. Another one fourth of hemp seeds consists of dietary fibers which includes about 20% of digestible dietary fibers. Composition changes on processing of seed. For example hemp seed meal contains more of protein and fibers once the oil is extracted. For Vegan, hemp seed is good non dairy alternative for protein. It is absolutely gluten free and does not contain allergens as present in soy or dairy. It contains sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, Vitamin B, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, copper, sulphur, potassium and phosphorus.
Hemp seed – a complete protein vegan source
Hemp seeds offer about 25 grams of protein per 100 gram, which is quite good for a vegan food. It further offers all 9 essential amino acids required by body in sufficient quantity. Protein obtained from Hemp seed is easily digestible. Table below shows comparison of protein content of hemp seed and other foods. Hemp seed is comparable to Soy bean and Rapeseed and seems better than egg white or whey powder. Amino acids are building blocks of our body and critical for body health.
Hemp seed with unique combination of Omega fatty acids
There are some foods like chia seeds, walnuts, flax seed which are good in Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA) – Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. These are considered essential fatty acids as body cannot synthesize them. They play vital role in brain function, normal body development, skin and hair growth, regulating metabolism and reproductive system. However both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids need to be optimally consumed. While Omega-3 fatty acid reduces inflammation, omega-6 fatty acids act other ways. A perfect balance between omega-6 and omega-3 is essential. A optimal ratio of Omeaga-6 to Omeaga-3 fatty acid is lower than 4. Abnormal ratio may lead to inflammation in body parts. Table below shows profile of various seed oil.
Hemp seed oil has omega 6:3 ratio of less than 3. Further it also supplies body with gamma linoleic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid which is not very common and is building block for anti-inflammatory hormones. Some health benefits of GLA includes it ability to increase fat metabolism, aid weight loss, relieve pre-menstruation symptoms, reduce inflammatory conditions like asthama, arthritis and fibromyalgia. It also helps lower bad cholesterol.
Health benefits of Hemp Seed
We already read how most benefits of hemp seed flow from the nutritional value. Other benefits of hemp seed are discussed here.
Hempseed aids weight loss
Hemp seed aids weight loss in many ways. It contains GLA fatty acid which increases metabolism of fat. It is complete source of protein and helps in maintaining muscle mass and density. It is good supplement for your workout regime. It offers good amount of fibers and can reduce sugar metabolism. Fiber also causes feeling of full stomach, thereby reducing food cravings. Hemp seed oil makes good dressing oil for salad.
Hemp seed for diabetes
Hemp seed contains dietary fibers which reduces sugar metabolism and is helpful as diabetic food. Further studies suggest that GLA present in hemp reduce inflammation and pain in diabetic neuropathy.
Anti-inflammatory properties of Hempseed
Unique combination of omega 3 and omega 5 fatty acid along with GLA offers it anti-inflammatory properties. Along with evening primerose oil it is used in treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, mastalgia or breast tenderness and multiple sclerosis. GLA supplement have shown benefits to women with osteoporosis; hence hemp seed may benefit for the same. Along with evening primrose oil hempseed oil also reduces symptoms of eczema.
Benefits of hempseed for women
One study suggests that GLA rich food can reduce risk of breast cancer. GLA is believed to inhibit tumor activity in breast cancer. Research is active in field of Omega 6 fatty acid rich food and breast cancer. Hemp seed oil may alleviate symptoms associated with menopause including hot flashes and night sweats. It also helps relive from premenstrual symptoms like bloating, swelling and breast tenderness.
Hemp seed and brain function
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids play a vital role in brain development and function. Some brain disorders like ADHD symptoms are associated with lack of omega fatty acid in body. Research suggests proper balance in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid like hemp seed oil may delay or reduce conditions like Alzheimer’s or parkinson’s disease. Hemp seed oil is good alternative to fish oil for vegetarian.
Benefits of hemp seed for skin
Hemp seed oil offers various benefits for skin. Hemp seed oil is non greasy, infact driest vegetable oil. Unlike some other oils, Hemp seed oil does not clog skin pores. Some of these benefits are listed below:
- Hemp seed oil helps reduce blackhead and acne. It is effective over acne and pimples as it doesn’t clog pores.
- It offers essential nutrients and fatty acids for development and health of skin.
- It offers anti-inflammatory benefits to skin and reduces skin inflammation. It is used in treatment of psoriasis and eczema.
- Essential fatty acids and Vitamin E also offers antioxidant properties to hemp seed oil which makes it good to prevent aging of skin.
- This non greasy oil works as good moisturizer and helps rejuvenate skin.
- Together with aromatic oil it finds its use in aromatherapy, body oils and massage oils.
- It is believed to detoxify your skin and works as natural sunblock.
Because of all these benefits of Hemp seed oil for skin it is used in various cosmetic applications and skin care formulations.
Hemp seed oil benefits for hair
Essential fatty acids, proteins and Vitamin E are building blocks of our hair and scalp. Hair needs to be nourished with essential nutrients to be healthy and strong. Hemp seed oil provides these vital fatty acids and ensures strength of hair. Hemp seed oil is non greasy and very dry. At the same time it works as good moisturizer and conditioner for hair. External application or internal consumption of hemp seed oil both offers benefits to skin and hair. Hemp seed oil stimulates hair growth and protects from hair loss or damage. Today hemp seed oil is part of various shampoos, conditioners, moisturizers or hair oil. It offers various benefits as part of hair treatment formulation. Apply hemp seed oil to hair and scalp at night a day before you shampoo your hair.
Hemp seed oil and Cardiovascular Health
Whenever you read about omega 3 or omega 6 fatty acids the discussion is often referred to cardiac health. These essential fatty acids offer various benefits to your heart and reduce risk of cardiac disorders. Hemp seed oil with optimal ratio of both omega fatty acids is thus helpful for your heart. They offer nutrients which are essential for normal functioning of heart. They also offer fibers which helps get rid of harmful cholesterol from body. Hemp seed works as great weapon against any heart disorders. Studies also indicate its benefits in reducing cholesterol and blood pressure.
Hemp seed aids digestion
Hemp seed is good source of dietary fiber. Though large part of it is insoluble fiber; these insoluble fibers helps in bowel movements. It makes hemp seed good over constipation and other digestive tract problems. Fibers also block absorption of bad cholesterol in our body. Soluble dietary fibers plays important role in delaying sugar metabolism. This is useful for proper digestion. Studies show that high fiber diet is good to prevent risks like cardiovascular disease or cancer.
Hemp seed and cancer cure
Hemp seed contains fibers which blocks absorption of carcinogenic toxins in intestine. Hemp seed also contains various phytochemicals which are considered to be useful in mutation in cells and thus preventing cancer, Research in this area is still nascent and more benefits of hemp seed for cancer cure are yet to be published.
Hemp seed improves immunity and regulate hormones
It is believed that hemp seed offers various nutrients including EFA, fibers, proteins, vitamins, minerals and phytochemcials which help in increasing body immunity and protecting it from infections and health conditions. Gamma linoleic acid present in hemp seed oil is considered as building block for body hormones. Thus hemp seed oil offers benefits in regulating endocrine system in body. It protects us from disorders due to hormonal imbalance.
Any side effects of Hemp seed?
THC free hemp seed and hemp seed oil is generally safe and doesn’t have any side effects. It is believed to interact with some drugs like anti-coagulant drugs. Hemp seed doesn’t create any known allergic reactions but contact with other parts of plant may result in allergy. Contamination with THC from other parts of plant is possibility, hence be sure on source of hemp seed or hemp seed oil.
Health way to consume hemp seed
Hemp seed offers mild nutty flavor and used in various dishes. Hemp seed smoothie is popular vegan food recipe. Hemp seed oil is also used in salad dressing or just sprinkle some hemp seed over your salad. Try out some Hempshake with seasonal fruit or coconut milk. Hemp Protein Powder is good alternative to whey protein powder or soy protein powder.
Where can you buy hemp seeds?
Majority of hemp seed production globally happens in China. You ought to find some hemp seed in Chinese markets around you. Various online portals sell hemp seed these days, you can buy from one of them.Image Credits: Flickr - Heather McCoy, Flickr - Laurel