Hemp Seeds: The Unfairly Maligned Superfood

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Hemp appears to have originated in Central Asia and then spread throughout the world as people moved from one place to another. There are more hemp varieties in China than there are anywhere else. According to Chinese texts from the Sung Dynasty, the Chinese people were first ordered to grow hemp for fiber in 2800 BCE by Emperor Shen Nung. During this period, people in Northern India were cultivating hemp plants mainly for fiber; however, legends also state that Buddha survived on one hemp seed each day on his path to enlightenment.

In 100 AD, Dioscorides would name hemp Cannabis sativa and documented a variety of medicinal uses for it. At around this time, the Japanese in this time period were using hemp seeds for food and the plant’s fibers for clothing. In Japan, hemp is known as asa and it is believed to have been introduced there by Chinese merchants.

Hemp was cultivated in the 16th century wherever explorers in the New World landed and would become one of the main crops in North America. George Washington grew hemp himself and ordered farmers to grow it. So ubiquitous was it that the Declaration of Independence was written on paper made from hemp and the first pair of Levi Jeans was made from hemp fabric.

In the 1930s, the producers of synthetic fibers are now believed to have demonized hemp in order to eliminate it as competition for nylon. Marijuana was made illegal and with it, the hemp plants that provided fibers and seeds for food.

In recent years, hemp seeds and other hemp products have been making their way onto store shelves, despite the stigma of being associated with marijuana.

Hemp seeds flavor profile

The flavor of hemp seeds has been likened to that of pine nuts and sunflower seeds. They have a savory and nutty flavor.

Health benefits of hemp seeds

Hemp seeds are considered a superfood because of their abundant nutritional value. Here are some of the nutrients that you can get from them:

  • Protein: Hemp seed is rich in protein; in fact, you can get a similar amount of protein from hemp seeds as you would get from lamb or beef. It is also more bioavailable than the protein from other nuts and seeds. It contains considerably more protein by weight than flax seeds.
  • Vitamins: Hemp seeds are a rich source of vitamin E and also contain a few B vitamins like vitamin B-1 and B-2.
  • Fiber: You can get a significant amount of your daily fiber needs met from hemp seeds alone.
  • Fatty acids: Hemp seeds are a good source of fatty acids, which is one of the main reasons that they are considered a superfood. They contain large amounts of both omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.

You can use hemp seeds to treat or prevent a variety of health problems like:

  • Heart disease: A diet that includes hemp seeds can reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and inflammation.
  • Skin health: The essential fatty acids in hemp seeds can help to treat eczema and provide relief from dry skin.
  • Menopausal symptoms: Hemp seeds can help with the production of prostaglandin E1. As a result, having them in your diet can help to decrease some symptoms of menopause.

Common uses of hemp seeds

These seeds are versatile and easy to use. You can sprinkle a tablespoonful or so into your oatmeal or smoothies; you can also use them as a topping for salads or as a breading for chicken or fish. Hemp seeds can also be ground with water to make a hemp seed milk.