Tips for a Hemp-Healthy Diet

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It’s difficult to overstate the many uses and benefits of the hemp plant. The non-psychoactive version of Cannabis sativa can be made into fiber, textiles, building materials, fuel and even plastics. Beyond its value as a renewable resource, hemp also offers a multitude of health benefits as a food source. Low in cholesterol and sodium, hemp is a great source of calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium and vitamin E. Its caloric content is made up of 30% oil and 25% protein — as much protein as beef or lamb, but in a more digestible form than nuts, grains or legumes. Additionally, hemp provides all of the 10 amino acids that the human body needs to function but cannot produce on its own, making it one of the rare plant foods that qualifies as a complete protein. Hemp also offers omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in a 3:1 ratio, which is optimal for uptake in the human body, as well as the more rare gamma linoleic acid. These healthy fats are proven to promote heart health, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation and ease symptoms associated with PMS and menopause.

One of the most common forms of hemp to consume is the seed. Whole or shelled seeds, known as hemp hearts, are often added to oatmeal, granola salads or smoothies for their mild nutty flavor and nutritional benefits. Just three tablespoons of whole or ground hemp seeds can provide 11 grams of protein (double that of chia or flax seeds), which can help with repairing and building lean body mass.  Hemp seeds can be enjoyed raw, cooked or roasted, though it should be noted that when shelled, they provide less fiber and therefore fewer digestive benefits. Ground seeds, hemp flours and hemp protein powder can be a nutritious, yet barely noticeable addition to smoothies, baked goods or pancakes. Adding whole or ground seeds to the foods you already make can be one of the easiest ways to incorporate hemp into your diet.

Hemp oil has been used as food and medicine in Eastern cultures for at least 3,000 years. It is best not to heat the oil for cooking, as it can denature the unsaturated fats into saturated fats. Rather, use hemp oil for raw recipes like salad dressings, dip and pesto (see recipe below). Hemp milk is a great option for a dairy-free milk substitute, as it is more sustainably produced than almond or soy milk. It contains more protein and omega fatty acids than almond milk, and is a delicious addition to cereals, smoothies or coffee. Choose an unsweetened version to reduce your sugar intake and optimize the nutritional benefits. POT LEAF

Whatever form of hemp you choose to consume, you won’t have to worry about getting the munchies or failing a drug test — hemp is entirely non-psychoactive and provides all of the aforementioned health benefits without getting you high. According to the Hemp Industries Association, sales of hemp food are up 24% in recent years, and the more that people realize the benefits of eating hemp, the more demand we should expect to be met by this growing industry.

Hemp Pesto:

Combine in a blender or food processor ¼ cup hemp oil, juice from 1 lemon, 1 tbsp minced garlic, 2 cups fresh basil leaves, ½ cup hemp seeds, 1 tbsp grated cheese (or nutritional yeast), salt and pepper to taste for a simple and delicious pesto to pair with pasta, fish or vegetables.

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