Now that hemp-based foodstuffs are legal, supermarket shelves are groaning with hemp products.
Hemp seeds are high in protein compared to other seeds. They are also high in fibre, omega-3 and have a good balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fats. They also contain iron (non-haem, as with other plant foods), vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, B vitamins and zinc.
Nutritionist Jessica Giljam-Brown says everyone can benefit from including hemp in their diet. Hemp is one of only a few complete proteins from the plant world. This means that they contain all nine essential amino acids that humans need for muscle and tissue building and repair.
“Hemp allergies are uncommon at this stage and hemp hearts are well-tolerated and easily digested by most people,” she says.
Jessica says the oil is a great way to get a concentrated dose of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and she uses the hearts mixed through granola or porridge, added to smoothies and salads or made into a seed butter. Hemp seeds can be toasted and sprinkled on top of salads and soups.
“Hemp products are nutrient-dense, high-fibre and a great source of plant protein,” she says. “As a country, we rely heavily on animal proteins in our diet and by using plants like hemp we can move away from this reliance. We know that humans benefit from a higher intake of plant foods, especially when they are as nutrient-dense as hemp.”
You’ll see it as an ingredient in breads, wraps, cereal, snack bars and balls, nut butters, crackers, smoothies and even burgers and cookies. There are also several “whole” hemp foods, including:
1 Hemp seeds
The whole seeds – they can be added to foods such as cereal and smoothies and used in baking.
2 Hemp hearts
Hulled hemp seeds after the outer layer of the seed has been removed. They can be used in similar ways to whole seeds.
3 Hemp oil
A nutty-flavoured, dark oil, made from cold-pressing hemp seeds. It has a low smoke point, so is best used for dressing and finishing rather than cooking.
4 Hemp protein
It can be used in the same way as other protein powders, and is made by grinding whole hemp seeds to a fine powder.
5 Hemp flour
Made by finely grinding or milling the seeds, which have had the oil removed. It’s a high-fibre, gluten-free flour that can be added to baking, although it’s not suitable as a complete replacement for regular flour, since it doesn’t perform the same way in baking.
6 Hemp milk
Hemp milk is made in a similar way to other plant milks, by blending hemp seeds or hearts with water and flavourings. It’s not comparable to cows’ milk in terms of nutrition, as it’s low in protein and doesn’t naturally contain calcium, although this can be added.