Hemp – little seeds of goodness

Our little vegan family loves hemp seeds. They’re quite nutty and a bit chewy. I eat a spoonful of them everyday both for my own health and to make sure I’m making good milk for my daughter. They are a great source of omega oils for our toddler, omega-3 fatty acids are important for children’s brain & eye development. She eats them mixed in with her yogurt, mashed with banana or indeed on their own, she loves them!

I went wandering around the web to find out some more information on this amazing but sadly misunderstood food. Here’s what I’ve learned…

From Yorkshire Hemp’s website

Whole hemp seeds contain approximately 25% protein, 31% fat (in the form of a nutritious oil), and 34% carbohydrates, in addition to an interesting array of vitamins and minerals.

Hemp protein contains all 20 known amino acids including the 9 essential amino acids (EAAs) our bodies cannot produce. Proteins are considered complete when they contain all 9 essential amino acids in a sufficient quantity and ratio to meet the body’s needs. Hemp seeds contain an adequate supply of these high quality proteins (EAAs) for a well balanced diet.

Hemp seed oil has been dubbed “Nature’s most perfectly balanced oil”, due to the fact that it contains the perfectly balanced 3:1 ratio of Omega 6 (linoleic/ LA) to Omega 3 (alpha-linolenic/ LNA) essential fatty acids, determined to be the optimum requirement for long-term healthy human nutrition. In addition, it also contains smaller amounts of 3 other polyunsaturated fatty acids in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), oleic acid and stearidonic acid.

Vegetarian Baby has an interesting article on hemp along with this very impressive information

* It can be grown without the use of pesticides and herbicides.
* It can be cultivated in as few as 100 days.
ground hempseed * It requires fewer toxic chemicals and dyes compared to other fibers.
* Hemp seeds are very nutritious and contain essential amino and fatty acids.
* It is naturally resistant to mildew, mold and UV rays.
* It can be successfully grown in arid areas and regions with short growing seasons.
* It preserves nutrients in the soil.
* Clothing made from hemp is durable and long lasting.
* Hemp paper is naturally acid-free, can last for hundreds of years, and is made with less energy and fewer pollutants compared to paper made from trees.

Of course, hemp’s naughty sibling is marijuana and this has led to its cultivation being banned in the US and several other countries. It has a long, long history of use though, over 10,000 years! From the Vegetarian Baby article

Hemp has been in use for more than 10,000 years and was the first crop cultivated for textile production. Clothing, paper, rope and sails are only a few of the many uses of this incredible plant since approximately 8000 BC.

In the USA, both Presidents Washington and Jefferson grew hemp. Benjamin Franklin owned a mill that produced hemp paper while Henry Ford made both a car body and car fuel from hemp. For more than 200 years hemp was an important crop for American farmers. Unfortunately, in 1937, Congress put a prohibitive tax on hemp production (Marijuana Tax Act) that effectively destroyed the hemp industry. Hemp is currently grown in many countries including China, Russia and France. In Canada, hemp was banned in 1938 but was allowed to be grown commercially in recent years.

Cultivation of hemp was banned in the UK between 1971 and 1993. The Guardian has this story from last year about hemp’s return and the politics at work…

hempCampaigners successfully argued that although industrial hemp was a variety of the cannabis plant, it could be grown as a legitimate crop as it contained practically no tetrahydrocannabinol, the property that gives marijuana – a different strain of cannabis – its potent effect.

If you are looking for ideas on how to incorporate hemp seeds into your diet, Dreena Burton uses them in several recipes in Vive le Vegan. Like flaxseed, hemp doesn’t like to be heated, so it’s best suited to sprinkling on cereals, salads, yogurts or mixing in smoothies. Yum!

Living Harvest Hemp Protein Powder
Nutiva Shelled Hempseed

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