Once in nearly every few weeks, a new superfood works its way into health food stores, the latest being Hemp. Belonging to the Cannabis family, it is commonly confused with marijuana, even though the two plants are quite different. Hemp contains less than 1 per cent of the psychoactive drug while marijuana contains up to 20 per cent or more.
Hemp has been used for food and fibre for as long as one can remember. While hemp seeds are grown in many parts of the world, its major producers include Canada, France, and China. Hemp, the seed of Cannabis Sativa L has been an important source of nutrition in Old World cultures. In several western countries, including North America, Germany and UK, hemp seeds and oil are gradually making a comeback.
The value of hemp seeds lies in their exceptionally high levels (30 per cent) quality of protein, second to soybean. Interestingly, unlike soybean, hemp seeds do not contain phytic acid (an anti-nutrient that prevents us from absorbing essential minerals like iron). The protein quality is high with all essential amino acids. Globulin and albumin — proteins that can be easily digested — are the chief constituents.
Hemp seeds are high in Arginine, an essential amino acid known to improve heart health and protect from heart disease.
Besides being a good source of proteins, hemp seeds also provide excellent source of fibre and good quality fat predominantly poly-unsaturated fats (PUFAs) and essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids boost immunity, improve brain function, possess anti-inflammatory properties, protect against heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, asthma, psoriasis, pre-menstrual syndrome and certain types of cancer.
The high fibre content of hemp seeds helps maintain good digestive health, heart health and blood sugar levels within range. Hemp seeds are also rich in Vitamin E and minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, and zinc.
Due to their high fat content, hemp seeds may quickly go rancid, therefore, they are best kept cool and used quickly. Heating hemp seeds will destroy their nutritional benefits, so add these to your food after cooking. They may be roasted and sprinkled on your salads, soups, breakfast cereals or added to your yogurt or smoothies. Their creamy texture and nutty taste blends well with cakes, cookies and desserts.
Hemp seeds are generally considered allergy free and safe and are not known to cause any interactions with common medications except the