Hemp and why it deserves superfood status

This popular new superfood is packed with vegan protein, omega 3 & 6 and tops the sustainability list too. 

Many people are choosing to eat more plant-based foods to support the environment and a healthy lifestyle. Unsuprisingly, interest in hemp is growing as it has an impressive nutritional profile and is a versatile and sustainable crop. So, let's take a look at the history of hemp, its health benefits and how to include it in your diet to support overall wellbeing. 

As of November 2018, hemp became legalised as food in New Zealand, which is great news - not just foodies, but for everyone. To clear up any confusion, hemp and marijuana come from the same plant species, but are different varieties. While some people are concerned hemp will get you high, the truth is it contains little to no THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and can only support your health. 

Food Safety Minister David Bennett further clarifies,“Low THC-hemp seed is nutritious, safe to eat and will add to the New Zealand economy. Hemp has no psychoactive effect and has historically been used as a source of fibre and oil because it contains proteins, vitamins, minerals and fatty-acids”.

An ancient sustainable crop

Hemp has been cultivated for over 12,000 years. The whole plant is utilised to make durable textiles, paper, fabric, fuel and plastic alternatives, as well as a nutritious food source. This plant species is hardy, fast growing and needs very little space or water to flourish in a variety of climates and soil types.  It's also naturally resistant to most pests, reducing the need for pesticides. All together this makes it very sustainable, with a much smaller environmental footprint than many other crops.

Perhaps most compelling is that the hemp plant has been used for phytoremediation, a process of using plants to remove toxins and chemicals from the soil. An example of this is when it was planted around Chernobyl to remove toxins and pollutants from the Ukrainian soil and groundwater. 

The nutritional benefits of hemp

Let’s look deeper into the amazing nutritional profile of hemp and how it can support your wellbeing. 

1. Big on Protein. Hemp is one of very few plant-based proteins that provides a complete source of protein, containing 21 amino acids, including all nine essential amino acids. Plant-based protein is more digestible than animal sourced protein, meaning the body can utilize the nutrients more efficiently. 

2. The Perfect Balance of Omegas. Healthy fats are essential for optimal body function. Hemp has the ideal balance of omega-3 & omega-6 essential fatty acids which is a ratio of 3:1. With this combination, omegas can best support functions such as heart and joint health, liver and brain function, strong metabolism, an effective immune system and more. 

3. Source of Fibre. Everyone can benefit from more fibre and hemp is a great source of both soluble and insoluble fibre. Three valuable reasons to increase your fibre intake are: to naturally keep the colon clear, to feel fuller longer and to help reduce sugar cravings. 

4. Minerals and Vitamins. Hemp is a powerhouse of nutrients and antioxidants. It is particularly rich in powerful antioxidants vitamin E, phytol and tocopherol all which fight free radicals and the aging process. Hemp is also a good source of magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. 

How to add hemp to your diet

Adding hemp to your diet can be easy with a bit of guidance. Read on for ways to use hemp oil, hearts and powder and choose the type that best suits you. 

Hemp Seed Oil is made by cold pressing raw hemp seeds into an oil. This smooth green oil has a distinctive yet delicate, nutty flavour that will jazz up your meal. The oil provides the most concentrated form of omegas. 

How to use hemp seed oil: 

  • Use it in salad dressings, pesto, sauces, dips and marinades 
  • Drizzle it over dishes as a finishing oil, such as roasted vegetables, pasta, fish, or even popcorn
  • Add to protein shakes and smoothies
  • For minor skin irritations, it can be applied topically 

To protect the nutritional profile of hemp seed oil, it is not recommended for hot cooking or frying.

Hemp Hearts are the raw, shelled seeds of the hemp plant. These small creamy seeds have a light and nutty flavour and are easy to add to any diet, providing protein, fibre and omegas.  

How to use hemp hearts:

  • Sprinkle them on salads
  • Perfect for breakfast – stir into granola, porridge or yoghurt
  • Add to sweet or savoury baking such as cookies, muffins or breads 
  • Coast chicken, fish or tofu in hemp seeds for a crunchy crust
  • Soak, blend and strain to make your own vegan hemp milk 
  • Add to smoothies 

Hemp Protein Powder is made from raw, shelled hemp seeds that are milled into a fine powder which has a slightly nutty flavour. The powder provides the most protein and fibre bite for bite. 

How to use Hemp protein powder: 

  • Add to smoothies and protein shakes
  • Perfect for breakfast – add it to cereals or stir into yoghurt
  • Boost your baking - replace up to 25% of the flour in your favourite recipes 

Hemp has become one of the hottest ingredients around the globe. But what's next? Keep an eye out for the upcoming and controversial cannabidiol. Better known as CBD, it's an essential component of the cannabis speicies that is derived from the hemp plant and is highly valued for its significant health benefits. Currently, it's available in New Zealand by prescription only. How long until it is accessible to all? 


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