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.
Since hemp seed is very low in sodium and calories and is a complete protein, it can be eaten in large quantities without fear of gaining too much weight. Complete proteins make the body feel full because all of the necessary amino acids have been taken in through food, thereby inhibiting the release of ghrelin and curbing hunger pains. This reduces the chances of overeating and subsequent weight gain. Also, fiber makes the body feel full and stimulates good digestion and fast passage of bowels, which can reduce weight and increase the efficient absorption of nutrients.
The world-leading producer of hemp is China, which produces more than 70% of the world output. France ranks second with about a quarter of the world production. Smaller production occurs in the rest of Europe, Chile, and North Korea. Over 30 countries produce industrial hemp, including Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Ukraine.
Hemp seeds can be eaten raw, ground into hemp meal, sprouted or made into dried sprout powder. Hemp seeds can also be made into a liquid and used for baking or for beverages such as hemp milk and tisanes. Hemp oil is cold-pressed from the seed and is high in unsaturated fatty acids. The leaves of the hemp plant, while not as nutritional as the seeds, are edible and can be consumed raw as leafy vegetables in salads, and pressed to make juice.
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.
Eating shelled hemp seeds will not produce the same effects as smoking marijuana. According to David P. West Ph.D., a plant researcher who has studied hemp extensively, the compound in marijuana that produces its psychotropic effect, THC, is only produced in the flowers, buds and leaves of the cannabis plants, not the seeds. However, since the seeds come into contact with the rest of the plant, some residue may remain on the seeds after processing and shelled hemp seeds may contain extremely low levels of THC. The exact levels vary by brand, so if you are very sensitive to THC and happen to buy a brand with higher-than-average levels, you may experience euphoria or hallucination. It is also highly unlikely --- although not impossible --- to get a positive drug test result after consuming large amounts of shelled hemp seeds.
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While hemp seeds are grown in many parts of the world, its major producers include Canada, France, and China. Hemp has been prohibited from cultivation in the United States since about 1950. Despite its value, the U.S. government doesn't recognize the differences between industrial hemp and marijuana. In fact, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA, classifies all varieties of Cannabis as marijuana, making industrial hemp just as illegal regardless of its use.
For profitable hemp farming, particularly deep, humus-rich, nutrient-rich soil with controlled water flow is preferable. Waterlogged acidic, compressed or extremely light (sandy) soils primarily affect the early development of plants. Steep and high altitudes of more than 400 m above sea level are best avoided. Hemp is relatively insensitive to cold temperatures and can withstand frost down to −5 °C. Seeds can germinate down to 1–3 °C. Hemp needs a lot of heat, so earlier varieties come to maturation. The water requirement is 300–500 l/kg dry matter. This is around 1/14th that of cotton, which takes between 7,000 and 29,000 l/kg, according to WWF. Roots can grow up to 3 feet into the soil and use water from deeper soil layers.
A seed revolution is occuring in our midst. Hemp, chia, flax and canary seeds are excellent, nutrient-rich choices. Since these seeds can be costly and expire quickly (most, like hemp, are best stored in the refrigerator), buy a small bag of one seed and, when finished, switch it up. Each seed has a unique nutritional profile, so enjoy the variety and keep 'em moving by spoon, fork or straw!
In the early 1990s, industrial hemp agriculture in North America began with the Hemp Awareness Committee at the University of Manitoba. The Committee worked with the provincial government to get research and development assistance, and was able to obtain test plot permits from the Canadian government. Their efforts led to the legalization of industrial hemp (hemp with only minute amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol) in Canada and the first harvest in 1998.
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.