Hemp seeds have long been prized as a high-quality source of plant-based protein and omega fatty acids. A single serving of hemp seeds, about two heaping tablespoons, provides 10 grams of protein and 10 grams of omegas. Hemp also packs in all nine essential amino acids, which we need to get through diet since our bodies don't produce them naturally. Hemp seed oil, which is the oil derived from pressed hemp seeds, contains the most essential fatty acids of any nut or seed oil. Of the three main hemp products on the market—seeds, oil, and protein powder—hemp seeds will provide the broadest spectrum of nutritional benefits per serving.
These seeds rank high in plant-based protein as it contains 25% of high-quality protein, which makes it superior to other plant-based superfoods like quinoa, flax, and chia seeds. Furthermore, it is composed of a large number of edible oils and a variety of essential fats in the body, including omega 3 and a rare form of omega-6 called GLA (gamma linoleic acid). As per the USDA National Nutrient Database, these small seeds contain high levels of zinc, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, iron, and fiber. It also contains vitamin E, copper, manganese, and moderate levels of carbohydrates and fats.
Hemp is considered by a 1998 study in Environmental Economics to be environmentally friendly due to a decrease of land use and other environmental impacts, indicating a possible decrease of ecological footprint in a US context compared to typical benchmarks. A 2010 study, however, that compared the production of paper specifically from hemp and eucalyptus concluded that "industrial hemp presents higher environmental impacts than eucalyptus paper"; however, the article also highlights that "there is scope for improving industrial hemp paper production". Hemp is also claimed to require few pesticides and no herbicides, and it has been called a carbon negative raw material. Results indicate that high yield of hemp may require high total nutrient levels (field plus fertilizer nutrients) similar to a high yielding wheat crop.
A 100-gram portion of hulled hemp seeds supplies 586 calories. They contain 5% water, 5% carbohydrates, 49% total fat, and 31% protein. Hemp seeds are notable in providing 64% of the Daily Value (DV) of protein per 100-gram serving. Hemp seeds are a rich source of dietary fiber (20% DV), B vitamins, and the dietary minerals manganese (362% DV), phosphorus (236% DV), magnesium (197% DV), zinc (104% DV), and iron (61% DV). About 73% of the energy in hempseed is in the form of fats and essential fatty acids, mainly polyunsaturated fatty acids, linoleic, oleic, and alpha-linolenic acids.
Eating shelled hemp seeds, or hemp hearts, is as simple as sprinkling a spoonful or two into smoothies or on top of cereal, salads, or yogurt, says Kelly Saunderson of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods, the world's largest hemp foods manufacturer. People with gluten sensitivity can use hemp seeds as a substitute for breadcrumbs to coat chicken or fish. Just like you can blend almonds and water to make almond milk, you can do the same with hemp seeds for hemp seed milk, which you can use as an alternative to dairy milk in drinks and recipes. And because of its nutty flavor, hemp seeds make a great substitute for people with nut allergies—you can dry-toast them over low heat to bring out even more of that nuttiness.
Author Paoli Ranalli in the book, Advances in Hemp Research, states that one of the major minerals that one can find in hemp seed is iron, an integral part of red blood cell construction in the human body. Iron deficiency can result in anemia, so having a proper amount of iron intake from foods like hemp seed can help prevent anemia, which displays itself in symptoms like fatigue, headaches, muscle weakness, and a wide range of other symptoms. Iron also helps in reducing stress and anxiety.
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