- Hemp seeds have become a star product in the next wave of healthy eating. Fitness bloggers frequently talk about how good these seeds are, which seem to be a must-have in the breakfast bowl of any self-respecting health-conscious individual. But what is all the fuss about?
- Hemp seeds are in the spotlight especially for being the vegetable food with the highest protein and fatty acid (Omega-3 and Omega-9) content.
- And that’s not all. Hemp seeds also contain high levels of arginine and glutamic acid, which stimulate the immune system, dilate blood vessels, and encourage muscle development.
- Let’s have a look at the nutritional properties of this trendy superfood, and how it can be consumed.
Hemp seeds are becoming increasingly popular. Nowadays they can be found on supermarket shelves, and it is easy to find recipes that include hemp seeds and have nothing to do with cannabis. Their nutritional properties are the real stars of this product: hemp seeds do not stand out for their flavour and texture but more for their nutrient quality and composition. Before we have a closer look at their nutritional value, let's point out that hemp seeds should not be confused with marijuana seeds.
Marijuana seeds are grown to produce different cannabis strains. Hemp seeds, on the other hand, are seeds from a different variety, Cannabis Sativa L, a plant from the same family but with morphological differences and no psychoactive effects. THC is the cannabinoid responsible for cannabis' psychoactivity, and hemp has THC levels lower than 0,2%. Hemp fibre has traditionally been used in the textile and construction industries, and also as a source of food. Hemp plants are taller than marijuana plants and have less branching.
Hemp is legal in Europe, and that is why it can easily be found in food superstores. According to Spain's Ministry of Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Welfare, "of all the food products derived from hemp that are authorised to be comercialised in the European Union, the only ones with a safe and significant consumption history are those derived from hemp seeds, for instance hemp seed oil, protein and flour, as long as they originate from the Cannabis sativa L. strain, and have tetrahydrocannabinol levels below 0,2%."
How are hemp seeds consumed?
Regardless of whether the hemp seeds are consumed in solid or liquid form, their by-products always maintain the seed's properties, as they are not subjected to any process involving heat.
Raw hemp seeds: with shell, or shelled and chopped
Many companies sell hemp seeds already shelled and chopped. They are whitish in colour, and their flavour and texture is similar to that of almonds or sunflower seeds. But they can also be found whole and with the shell on, which has a high-fibre content, although this is less common. In both cases they are best eaten raw in order to preserve all the properties of the seeds. They can be added to any dish, with breakfast being a favourite with consumers. The crunchy seeds provide texture and a little extra flavour to traditional muesli or fruit salads.
Hemp seed powder: protein-rich dietary supplements
Hemp seeds in powder format are popular amongst sportsmen looking for protein supplements to help with muscle reconstitution after sports training. Hemp seeds are cold-pressed, which preserves all their nutrients, and the powder can be mixed with water or yoghurt, for instance. One of the proteins present in hemp seeds is arginine, which promotes muscle formation and repair, thus contributing to muscle development.
Hemp seed powder: flour
Unlike flour from other seeds or cereals, hemp seed flour is not obtained from grinding the seeds, which are actually very oily. Therefore, they need to be subjected to pressure to separate the oil from the dry components from which the flour is then made. The resulting product is gluten-free so it is suitable for Coeliac disease sufferers.
Hemp seeds in liquid form: hemp seed oil
A very popular product is hemp seed oil, which must not be confused with CBD oil. Hemp seed oil is produced using pressing techniques, whereas CBD oil is obtained by extracting cannabidiol from the cannabis plant. CBD oil interacts with the endocannabinoid system in the human body, producing effects on it, and is frequently used for therapeutic purposes. On the other hand, hemp seed oil works like any other foodstuff, and can be consumed either as a food supplement or topically.
Hemp seed oil is extracted by cold pressing the seeds. Its most valued attribute is its high content of polyunsaturated fats: Omega-6 (46% linoleic acid) and Omega-3 (14% α-linolenic acid). These fats help with cell regeneration and keep hair and skin healthy. Besides being a food supplement, hemp seed oil can also be used topically to treat skin dryness and eczema.
What are the nutritional properties of hemp seeds?
The two main nutritional benefits of hemp seeds are their high protein and essential fatty acid concentrations. Hemp seeds have a protein level even higher than that of soya beans. But the reason why these proteins are so special is because they contain 10 amino acids, including glutamic acid, which boosts the immune system; or the vasodilating arginine, which encourages muscle development.
Let's have a look at OX Nature shelled hemp seeds. According to their nutrition table, in each 100 g , 30% is complete protein, and 43% is made up of Omega 9, Omega 3 and Omega 6. These components are vasodilators, so they decrease blood pressure, thus preventing cardiovascular disease.
Nutritional information per 100 g of OX Nature hemp seeds
- Lipids: 49 g
6,0 g fatty acids
5,5 g Omega 9 (w9)
9,5 g Omega 3 (w3)
28 g Omega 6 (w6)
- Carbohydrates: 4,8 g, of which 1,7 g are sugars
- Fibre: 8,5 g
- Proteins: 30 g
- Salt: 0,6 g
- Vitamin E: 13,6 mg
- Niacin: 49 mg
- Vitamin B6: 0,55 mg
- Potassium: 1000 mg
- Phosphorus: 1480 mg
- Magnesium: 630 mg
- Iron: 10 mg
Essential amino acids
- Phenylalanine: 2820 mg
- Isoleucine: 1880 mg
- Leucine: 3190 mg
- Lysine: 1470 mg
- Methionine: 1120 mg
- Threonine: 2400 mg
- Tryptophan: 280 mg
- Histidine: 1430 mg
- Valine: 2970 mg
Click here to see the full nutritional table
Where to buy hemp seeds?
Hemp seeds can be found in supermarkets and health food stores. They can also be bought online, via the manufacturers' own websites, or through other more general retailers like Amazon.