Did you know that a few centuries ago, when early settlers in America were cultivating the rich, fertile landscape of the eastern United States, many farmers were required by law to grow and harvest hemp? But why?
Hemp is part of the Cannabis sativa family of plants, with its cousin being marijuana. Of course, marijuana is infamous for its ability to get recreational users ‘high’ and the negative stigma therefore attached to it. Hemp, on the other hand, is different – it contains less than 0.03% THC, meaning it won’t get anybody stoned. However, it is high in cannabidiol (CBD), meaning it might have some good health benefits.
The hemp plant is not only nutritional, but its fibres can also be used in construction and textiles, able to make rope, paper, and even clothes.
This is why it was so crucial for the first colonizers in America. Fast forward to present day, though, and you’ll find that hemp is not very widely grown in either America or Europe. This is, in part, due to the notoriety of cannabis, but also due to tricky-to-navigate laws that now surround the plant. What once was encouraged is now all but illegal – a licence is required to grow hemp seeds in the UK.
Despite this difficulty, there is a market for hemp products in this country, including hempseeds and hemp oils. And that’s no wonder, since hemp has some pretty great nutritional benefits. In this article, we’ll look at 5 key health benefits you can derive from hemp, explaining why we think you should be taking hemp oil as a food supplement.
A brief history of hemp seeds and their usage
In reality, cannabis seeds as a collective do not have many differences between one another. In terms of fundamental nutritional benefits, there is no real difference between a hemp seed and a marijuana seed. In fact, it is legal to possess cannabis seeds of any variety in the UK, but it is not legal to grow any cannabis plant without a licence, and a licence will only usually be granted to grow hemp (researchers may be allowed to grow marijuana for scientific purposes). More often, hemp products here are made from hemp grown in Europe.
The lack of difference between seeds occurs because cannabinoids do not actually exist within the seed – they develop in the stem, flowers and leaves of the plant itself. In other words, seeds do not contain CBD, THC, or any other cannabinoid compounds.
Despite this lack of cannabinoids, hemp seeds have an incredible range of health and nutritional benefits. They contain lots of essential fatty acids and proteins, making them a fantastic plant-based food.
Hemp seeds, for this reason, are sold in health stores all over, including full seeds and shelled versions called ‘hemp hearts.’ They are categorised as a food supplement that can be added to a variety of foods or smoothies. But in addition to buying actual seeds to sprinkle on your morning porridge, you can also buy hempseed oil, which is made by cold pressing hemp seed, delivering the same nutritional benefits in the form of an oil.
Whichever product you use is up to you. Now, let’s check out the top 5 reasons why you should be using hemp seeds and oils as part of your diet.
1. Hemp seeds are high in natural, easy-to-digest proteins
Plant-based proteins are increasing in popularity with the rise of veganism. But even if you aren’t a vegan, you should be eating more plant-based proteins than you probably are. Not only are they better for the environment (as animal farming creates a significant amount of greenhouse gases), but plant-based proteins are healthier and easier for the body to digest.
In fact, a study by the Massachusetts General Hospital looked at the health records of more than 130,000 people over a period of thirty years, discovering that individuals who did not eat animal protein had “substantially lower death rates than meat-eaters,” and that every 3% increase in plant protein calorie intake reduced the risk of death by 10%.
Hemp seeds are one of the best sources for plant-based protein. This is why hemp seeds are still used as an animal feed. It’s also the reason for hemp protein hitting the market in gym circles. Athletes like Ronda Rousey reportedly use hemp hearts as a daily supplement, and that’s probably thanks to this high protein content!
2. Hemp seeds can help you manage your weight
Hemp seeds are full of vitamins such as vitamins E and B, as well as minerals (including potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc), nutrients and protein. These healthy components are incredibly useful for people looking to go on a diet and shed some pounds, as you can get a lot of what you need from just a few seeds! A high protein content also means that the seeds will help you to feel fuller for longer, preventing you from overeating.
And if you’re looking to build muscle or put on some weight, hemp seeds are once again beneficial due to these exact same characteristics.
3. Hemp seeds contain essential omega fatty acids
Omega fatty acids are key for our survival, and yet the body does not naturally produce them. This is why we have to get them from outside sources in our diets. Well, you’re in luck, because hemp seeds contain plenty of crucial omega fatty acids such as Omega 3 and 6.
Often, health-lovers invest in packets of chia seeds, walnuts, or flax seed to get their omega fatty acid fix, but some sources suggest that hemp seeds contain more fatty acids than all of the above. If you want to stay healthy, hemp seeds might be the way to go.
4. Hemp seeds are incredible for your heart health
Diets high in omega fatty acids (like we just discussed) are great for heart health, as they can reduce blood pressure, lower the risk of strokes and blood clots, and increase overall cardiovascular function.
Hemp seeds also contain something called arginine, which produces nitric oxide. This compound can help blood vessels to relax and dilate, lowering blood pressure and thus reducing the risk of several conditions such as heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. In some instances, patients are recommended hemp seeds after a heart attack to help them recover.
Finally, hemp seeds also contain gamma-linoleic acid in abundance. This acid can reduce the quantity of proteins that cause inflammation – in particular inflammation of the heart and surrounding cardiovascular tissue.
5. Hemp seeds can help you avoid disease and promote general wellness
On top of all the other health benefits we have mentioned above, hemp seeds can promote general wellbeing and help you to avoid disease.
The properties that help them to reduce the risk of bad cardiovascular health could also help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other psychological conditions. With these potential benefits, hemp seeds might even promote mental health as much as they do physical.
Plus, hemp seeds are one of the only plant-based food sources containing every single amino acid necessary for human survival – what more could you want?!
How can you eat hemp seeds?
By now, we’ll bet you’ve been persuaded to give hemp seeds a try. After all, with all these great benefits, why wouldn’t you? That being said, you might be wondering how you can consume them?
You can actually eat them raw, cooked, shelled, unshelled… virtually any way you can think of. This gives you a variety of options to help you reap the benefits.
Although this means you could snack on them right out of the packet, they are a little tastier when you add them to other foods. For example, you can roast them and combine them with another crunchy, plant-based snack such as kale chips. Another favourite is to roast the seeds and then put them in boiling water with a few spices to create hemp tea. Or, you could buy hempseed oil and add that to your favourite meal!
Seeds can be sprinkled on porridge, quinoa, yoghurt, salads, hummus, or smoothies to add a nutritional hemp kick. Or, you can drizzle hemp oil onto your salads as a dressing, drip some into your coffee, or cook it into your curry sauce. The possibilities are endless!
Final thoughts on hemp food supplements
We hope that this article has helped you to understand just how amazing hemp can be as a food supplement. Whether you choose to buy the raw seeds or get your hands on a ready-made hempseed oil, this plant offers a fantastic way to get all these nutritional benefits into your diet.
And with so many ways to consume them, you’ll never get bored!