Nutritional Superfood: Hemp Seed
One of the most underrated and little known health foods on the market has been consumed by humans and animals for centuries. It has even sustained whole populations during times of famine. Shelled hemp seeds, also known as “hemp hearts”, are rich in heart-healthy essential fatty acids, essential and non-essential amino acids, and a wide spectrum of vitamins and minerals.
While hemp may not be well understood in the West (aside from the fact that is part of the cannabis family), it is a staple in other cultures around the world. In China, you can buy roasted hemp seeds at the cinema in the same way as you can buy popcorn here in the West.
The nutritional composition of hemp seed is hard to beat. Whole hemp seeds contain approximately 25% protein, 31% fat (in the form of a nutritious oil), and 34% carbohydrates made up of dietary fiber and a small amount of sugar. This dietary fiber is made up of 3% soluble fiber and 27% insoluble fiber. In addition, hemp seeds are a storehouse of the human body’s most needed minerals: calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sulfur.
Hemp seed has three unique nutritional factors. It has an ideal balance of omega-3 and omega-6 for sustainable human health; a full amino acid spectrum, meaning it provides complete protein; and a massive trace mineral content—making it truly one of nature’s nutritional “super foods”. No other single plant source has the essential amino acids in such an easily digestible form or the essential fatty acids in as perfect a ratio to meet human nutritional needs.
Hemp protein contains all 20 known amino acids, including the nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce. Consumption of hemp seed is particularly valuable to the veggie/vegan population, and even more so for veggie/vegan athletes, who are always looking for complete protein sources. The basic proteins in hemp are easy to digest. They are comprised of 80% edestin, the most digestible of all protein types. Edestin aids digestion, is relatively phosphorus-free, and is considered the backbone of the cell’s DNA. The remainder of hemp seed protein is albumin, another high quality globulin protein similar to that found in egg whites.
The essential fatty acids contained in hemp seed are required in our diet more than any other vitamin, yet our bodies do not naturally produce them. They must be obtained from external sources in the food we eat. Essential fatty acids are involved with producing life’s energy throughout the human body—without them, life is not possible. In general, North Americans have a high dietary deficiency of essential fatty acids due to our high intake of animal fats versus plant fats, which is related to our high consumption of processed foods and meats versus natural organic foods.
Hemp protein is free of both trypsin inhibitors which block protein absorption and oligosaccharides. These are found in soy and cause stomach upset and gas.
Hemp seed even provides a boost to the immune system. Since hemp seed protein also includes quantities of albumin, its protein is readily available in a form quite similar to that found in blood plasma. Eating hemp seeds gives the body all the essential amino acids required to maintain health, and provides the necessary kinds and amounts of amino acids that the body needs to make human serum albumin and serum globulins like the immune-enhancing gamma globulins.
Hemp seeds have a pleasant nutty flavour. I sprinkle them on everything from cereals, soups and salads to shakes and smoothies when I want to have some extra protein to balance my carbohydrate intake and I really enjoy the taste. I find that hemp seeds are an excellent way to balance my carbohydrate to protein ratio so that I don’t get the spikes in insulin when consuming carbohydrates on their own, especially refined carbohydrates.
For example when I eat some oatmeal porridge in the winter mornings I always add hemp seed to it as well as chia and maca in order to get the high nutrient value and also to make sure that my insulin levels don’t shoot up and I have more sustainable energy from my food. As Dr. Sears states in the Zone books, keeping your insulin levels more stable are the key to providing more energy and ensuring optimal cellular performance.
Dr. Ed Chicoine, Chiropractor
The information provided is for education purposes only. It`s not meant to diagnose or treat any health condition. If you have health problems, please consult with your doctor or other health professional before you make any major changes in your lifestyle.