You may well have heard the buzz about hemp seeds but been a little cautious because of its association with marijuana. Well fear not, although they are the seeds of the hemp plant Cannabis Sativa and from the same species as Cannabis, hemp seeds actually only contain trace amounts of THC which is the compound that causes the drug like effects of marijuana.
Hemp is typically grown in the northern hemisphere and is one of the fastest growing plants in the world. It has many uses and can be refined into a variety of commercial items such as paper, textiles and clothing. In fact it was one of the first plants to be spun into a usable fibre over 10,000 years ago.
Hemp seeds are also loaded with healthy fats, proteins and essential nutrients, so let's take a look as some of these health benefits in a bit more detail.
First up hemp seeds are incredibly nutritious they have a mild nutty flavour and you may see them also referred to as hemp hearts (these are unhusked seeds). The seeds are exceptionally rich in two essential fatty acids - linoleic acid (omega 6) and alpha linolenic acid (omega 3.). They are also a great source of high quality digestible protein - in fact this is nearly twice as much as it’s closest rival the Chia seed. Hemp seeds are also a rich source of a number of essential minerals including magnesium, phosphorus, iron and zinc. Just three tablespoons provides 50 percent of your daily value for magnesium and phosphorus alone. These minerals are essential for maintaining healthy bones and teeth.
Interestingly, eating hemp seeds may also reduce the risk of heart disease, the number one cause of death worldwide. Hemp seeds contain high amounts of the amino acid Arginine, which is used to produce Nitric Oxide in the body. Nitric Oxide is a gas molecule which makes blood vessels dilate and relax - this leads to a lowered blood pressure resulting in a reduced risk of heart disease. In one study of more than 13,000 people an increase in Arginine intake was linked with decreased levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) which is an inflammatory marker linked with heart disease.
Superfoods are great for your skin and hemp seeds are certainly no different as they go a long way towards improving dry, red flaking skin often associated with eczema and certain skin diseases. You may even come across hemp as an ingredient in high end skin and hair products on the market. This is probably because they have about a 3:1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3, which is considered the optimal range. It is because hemp seeds are so rich in these healthy fats that they are able to provide relief from skin complaints and associated uncomfortable symptoms.
Many women of reproductive age suffer from symptoms caused by premenstrual syndrome (PMS). This is very likely due to a sensitivity to the hormone prolactin. Hemp seeds are rich in Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which is a necessary building block for a hormone like substance called prostaglandins. Research in the 1980’s observed that prostaglandins help smooth muscle contraction, control inflammation and regulate body temperature. So researchers have surmised that GLA supplementation is necessary for proper hormone health and many women who suffer from PMS have been helped by it. Not only is GLA great for women who suffer from PMS but a 6 month study published in the journal of Arthritis and Rheumatism found that consuming hemp seeds reduced Arthritic symptoms by 25 percent compared to a placebo at only 4 percent. The seeds also have a fantastic mineral content helps naturally to reduce inflammation which eases discomfort.
Fibre is a nutrient many of us do not get enough of in our diet. According to dietary guidelines women need 25 grams of fibre a day and men 38 grams. Whole hemp seeds contain a good source of both soluble and insoluble fibre. The soluble fibre is a valuable source of nutrients and beneficial digestive bacteria. It may also help reduce spikes in blood sugar and help regulate cholesterol levels. Insoluble fibre adds bulk helping food to pass through the gut and improving bowel function by reducing constipation. Hemp can also help you feel full longer and reduce sugar cravings making it an option for those looking at weight loss. Some experts recommend that adding 4 tablespoons of the seeds to your breakfast will help curb your hunger for the entire day.
Hemp plants grow brown popcorn kernel sized seeds. Inside these seeds lies the soft white or light green insides which are usually called hemp hearts. It is these hearts that you will usually find for sale in your local health food store. The easiest way to eat hemp seeds is to keep them raw and sprinkle them on top of a salad or add them to a yoghurt or smoothie. They are very versatile and their nutty taste goes with a multitude of foods.
Hemp seeds have an incredible nutritional profile and are a great way to fill that hole in your diet.
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