As of yesterday, low THC hemp seeds are legal to eat in Australia. You've been able to buy hemp seeds in Australia for some years now, but previously the products were required to carry stickers stating they were not for human consumption. Now I know a number of people who have been making 'home made face scrubs' or feeding hemp seeds to their non existent pets for years, but given the new regulations we will likely see many food products become available over the coming months.
Before we dive into the nutrition profile of hemp, it's important to give a little background - low THC hemp seed foods have been assessed as safe for human consumption, and do not contain psychoactive properties. Unlike Marrijuana, hemp has extremely low levels of the mind-altering chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Industrial hemp has THC levels of about 0.03%, compared to marijuana, which can contain up to 30%. Packaging of hemp products can no longer use images or representations of any part of the cannabis plant, other than the seed - this is to make it very clear that hemp and cannabis are two different things.
Hemps seeds are small and crunchy, and are usually de-husked before selling. The inside of the seed is white with a creamy, soft texture. Most people with nut allergies have no reaction to the seeds, making them a school-lunch friendly choice. As an added bonus, hemp is also a sustainable, eco friendly crop. It can be grown in many different climates and soil types, and is naturally resistant to many pests, reducing the need for pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Some farmers use hemp to assist in soil regeneration - it was even used at Chernobyl to remove pollutants and toxins from the soil and groundwater.
Nutritional Benefits of Hemp Seeds
Being a seed, hemp is high in fats, and therefore high in calorie density - but the good thing is you really don't need to use that much to get nutritional benefits. The majority of the fats found in hemp are Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids - more on this in just a sec. Hemp seeds are also very long in carbohydrates, but still a good source of fibre.
Vitamins and Minerals
Hemp seeds are essentially little multi vitamins - they are an excellent source of vitamin E, Magnesium, Zinc and Manganese, a good source of Iron, and also contain notable amounts of Thiamine, Phosphorus, Calcium and Potassium. Additionally, they contain phytosterols, beneficial for lowering cholesterol levels.
Hemp seeds provide all essential amino acids and have a high protein digestibility. The seeds contain roughly 25% protein. A 30g serve will provide you 11g of protein (twice that of a medium egg)!
Essential Fatty Acids
Hemp is one of the most concentrated sources of plant-based Omega-3 fatty acids on the planet. The ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is 3:1 - I'd consider this is a good ratio, and here's why: Typical western diets have a ratio of somewhere between 10:1-15:1. Some studies suggest excessive consumption of Omega-6 fatty acids, and a high Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio (as found in the standard Australian diet), promotes the development of many diseases including heart disease, cancer and inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. Increased levels of Omega-3 fatty acids however, may have suppressive effects.
Hemp seeds also contain a specific Omega-6 fatty acid called Gamma-linolenic Acid (GLA). Unlike some others, GLA is an Omega-6 fatty acid that may actually reduce inflammation. Preliminary clinical research suggests GLA may be useful for conditions such as diabetic neuropathy, eczma, acne, rheumatoid arthritis and PMS - I'd say watch this space for more conclusive research.
Incorporating Hemp Seeds Into Your Diet
They're pretty versatile little seeds and can be used in many different ways:
- Blended with water and strained to make hemp milk
- Eaten raw
- Sprinkled on top of cereals, salads or yoghurts
- Added to baking, muesli bars or smoothies
- Ground to make a spreadable seed butter.
Try this super simple choc berry smoothie recipe to get started