Are you looking for a superfood that tastes great, is high in vitamins and nutrients, and can fit into a vegan, vegetarian, or raw food diet? Don't look to the new, look to the old, to a plant that has been cultivated and harvested for thousands of years: hemp!
Hemp has dozens, if not hundreds, of uses. The plants can be used for water and soil purification and make an effective biofuel, and the fibers can be used to make rope, clothing, paper, and even jewelry.
And, yes, hemp is edible. The shelled seeds of the hemp plant, also known as hemp hearts – amazing what a little rebranding will do – are nutritional powerhouses that can be used in much the same way you'd use flax, chia, or sesame seeds.
I know what you're thinking, so let's get it out of the way.
Yes, hemp is made from a species of cannabis.
No, hemp hearts will not make you high. Whereas hemp grown for medicinal or recreational purposes can contain between 2-20% of THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, hemp hearts contains no more than 0.2%. You won't fail a drug test or get a cheap buzz off of hemp hearts.
What hemp hearts do contain is protein, almost 10 grams per 30g serving (double that of flax or chia seeds) and only 3 grams of carbohydrates. They're also one of if not the highest plant-based sources of heart-healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Hemp hearts also contain all twenty amino acids, including the nine essential amino acids our bodies cannot manufacture naturally, and plenty of natural fiber.
Hemp hearts are also a rich source of iron, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus, as well as B-vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, folate, and vitamin B-6.
Since hemp hearts are harvested and processed at no more than 108 degrees Fahrenheit and without the use of hexane or other solvents, they qualify as a raw food.
How to Enjoy
Hemp hearts by themselves have a rich, nutty flavor, and since they've been hulled, there's no popcorn-like shells to annoyingly get stuck in your teeth. Consumed raw, they play well with both the sweet and savory side in dishes. Add them to smoothies to add richness and texture, and they can be sprinkled or mixed into yogurt, muesli, granola, or salads.
They can be used in baking applications in the much the same fashion that poppy seeds (which, curiously enough, will cause you to fail a drug test), and they go great in cookies, muffins, and breads – especially banana bread.
Cold-pressed hemp oil, derived from hemp hearts, has the same health benefits and flavor, is a brilliant emerald green color. It has a low smoke point, so it's not ideal for cooking or frying, but it plays well as a finishing oil, or used in lieu of other oils in dressings and sauces. Also, like other nuts and seeds, it makes a tasty and versatile nut butter.
What was old is new yet again, so if you're looking for a versatile and delicious addition to your pantry that truly lives up to the moniker of “superfood,” look no further than hemp. It's good, and good for you.
Dave Meddish, Healthy Goods
Healing-Source.com, “Health Benefits of Hemp Hearts”
Seedguides.info, “Hemp Seeds: Benefits, Nutrition, Side Effects, and Facts”