Hemp is one of the oldest cultivated plants known to man — and also one of the world’s most versatile plants. It's currently being used in everything from fabric to fuel, paper and building material. And of course, it's also a food.
Before we explore its superfood status, let's clarify one thing: although growing hemp is restricted in the United States, purchasing and eating hemp food products — like seeds or oil — is perfectly legal. While hemp is a member of the plant genus Cannabis, it has little to no psychoactive potential.
America is one of the only industrial nations that prohibits hemp cultivation, although the U.S. imports more hemp than most other nations in the world.
While there's still limited research on the plant's nutritional power, hemp has recently started to gain popularity as a nutrition powerhouse. Here's why
1. It's loaded with protein.
Hemp contains all 20 amino acids, including the 10 essential amino acids our bodies can't produce. One ounce of hemp seeds packs in about 10 grams of protein. This makes hemp one of the most complete plant-based sources of protein available.
2. It's full of essential fatty acids.
Hemp seeds are also a rich source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which the body needs for energy production, nervous system function, skin health, brain development, immune system support, and cardiovascular health. They're essential fatty acids because our bodies don't produce them.
Some research also finds that the ratio of fatty acids found in hemp seed oil is well balanced and optimal for health. In general, Americans consume as much as 25 times more omega-6 than omega-3, and some studies suggest that this unbalanced ratio can contribute to cardiovascular diseases and autoimmune diseases.
3. It contains natural fatty acids.
In addition to the omega fatty acids, hemp seeds and oil contain some fats that are even more difficult to find. These are gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) and stearidonic acid (SDA), which help the body convert omega fatty acids more efficiently.
SDA and GLA can't be found in flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts or hazelnuts.
4. It can help support your immune system.
How to Add Hemp to Your Diet
Drizzle hemp oil over foods or salads in place of your usual olive oil. Add hemp seeds to salads, cereal or yogurt, or hemp protein powder to your morning smoothie. You can even enjoy chocolate bars with hemp seeds in them. Not matter how you choose to eat them, hemp can increase both the flavor and health benefits of many meals.