Hemp seeds are an important food source
The seed of Cannabis sativa L. has been an important food source and medicine for thousands of years. Eaten raw, the cannabis seed was certainly used by prehistoric humans, yet, as a direct consequence of prohibition, the true potential of this superfood has not been exploited to any great extent within Western culture. The ancient Chinese medical text Pen-Tsao Kang-Mu states, “The Ancients used this medicine to remain fertile, strong, and vigorous.”5 The compiler of this epic Chinese Materia Medica, Li Shih Chen (1518-1593), writes that in ancient times, varieties of ma zi (the hemp seed plant) were readily distinguishable from drug crops. One variety originated on Mao Luo Island in the Eastern Sea, and its seeds were reported to be as large as those from the lotus plant.
Сannabis seeds are an important part of the diet
Hemp seeds can be successfully used as part of a healthy, calorie-controlled diet, and have been found to leave individuals feeling more energetic, fuller, and far less likely to crave starches, carbohydrates, or sugary snacks.
Hemp can be grown in poor soil and produces an abundant crop within a short growing season. If used to its full potential, it could be of real benefit in areas suffering from food shortages. The plant is easily grown without pesticides or herbicides, and besides its highly nutritious seed, it yields a strong fiber that can be used for weaving cloth and utilized as a building material for the construction of shelters. Hemp can be fertilized with organic waste, and if fertilizer is properly applied, the crop may be grown for decades on the same soil with no corresponding drop in yield. If it can’t be grown in a region that requires food aid (due to drought, civil unrest, or warfare), it can be imported cheaply as it is light to ship and easy to prepare. Yet as a food resource, it is suppressed, undervalued, and largely ignored in the West, although hemp seed has long been valued as a nutritional food source throughout Asia, India, Russia, and Eastern Europe. In Russia, hemp seed is used as a substitute for dietary fats such as butter and hydrogenated margarine. In China, street vendors still sell roasted hemp seeds that are purchased as a popular snack, and Houma you, a soup containing hemp seed oil, is traditionally eaten twice a day in some rural areas. Hemp seed has always been part of the Japanese diet and can be found in Asian restaurants and grocery stores as shichimi, used for seasoning, and asanomi, which are tofu burgers with a hemp seed coating. Cannabis is still used in rural Cambodia and Laos to flavor soups, but generally, it is the stalks and leaves that are used in much the same way Westerners would use herbs.
Сannabis seeds as a legal food product
The meat of the shelled hemp seed resembles that of other cultivated grains, including wheat and rye, and does not contain any psychoactive compounds. Hemp seeds can be eaten raw, ground into a meal, sprouted, made into nondairy milk products, prepared as tea, brewed into beer, or used in cooking. They are obtainable as a legal food product and becoming increasingly available in North America and Europe. Products now readily obtainable include cereal bars, pasta, muesli, bread, waffles, hemp tofu, a variety of spreads, and hemp nut butter, along with bottled hemp seed oil.
Hemp seeds contain a full complex of amino acids
Technically classified as a nut, cannabis seed contains rich translucent oil, high in amino and fatty acids, which are 90% unsaturated. However, if you wish to benefit from the full profile of amino acids, it is better to consume hemp seeds uncooked as some amino acids are destroyed by heating. The seeds typically contain around 33% protein, second only to soy (35%), but are more easily digestible and their primarily globular proteins are one of the most complete forms of protein available from plants. Hemp seed’s overall protein content of over 30 grams per 100 grams of seed is better than that found in nuts, other seeds, dairy products, fish, meat, or poultry. Hemp protein also has high arginine content, typically 123 milligrams per gram of protein, and histidine at 27 milligrams per gram of protein. Arginine is classified as a semi-essential or conditionally essential amino acid, whereas histidine is an essential amino acid for humans. It was initially thought that it was only essential for infants, but longer-term studies established that it is also essential for adults. Hemp seed is also high in the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine at 23 milligrams per gram of protein and cysteine at 16 milligrams per gram of protein, which the body needs for proper enzyme formation. Hemp seeds also contain a high antioxidant content in the form of alpha, beta, gamma, delta-tocopherol, and alpha-tocotrienol.
Essential nutrients are not produced by the body and must be obtained from a dietary source. Nonessential nutrients are those nutrients that can be made by the body, but these are also absorbed from consumed food. The majority of animals ultimately derive their essential nutrients from plants. For humans, these include essential fatty acids, essential amino acids, vitamins, and certain dietary minerals.
Hemp foods are low in cholesterol
No one food source has them all, but hemp seed comes close, and its amino acid profile is almost complete when compared to more common sources of protein such as meat, milk, eggs, and soy. It has an omega-3 content even higher than walnuts, which contain 6.3%.
Once harvested, the seeds are not destined for sale as hemp nuts are cleaned and cold pressed in a dark and oxygen-free environment to preserve the product. This produces high-quality polyunsaturated oil and crushed seed hulls known as “seed cake,” which can be ground into a flour that is 41% protein but gluten-free, and which has been approved by the U.S. Celiac Society as a safe ingredient for anyone suffering from gluten allergy. No known allergies exist to hemp foods and the fat content of shelled hemp seed is relatively low compared to other nuts and seeds. Hemp food products have low cholesterol content and contain high concentrations of natural phytosterols that have a well-documented cholesterol-lowering effect.