Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Helping Hemp Help Humanity

By John Dvorak,

Nowadays, everyone is trying to live healthier.  Getting more exercise,  eating more fruits & vegetables, consuming less (or no) meat and understanding "good fats" and "bad fats" is a growing national trend.  With the public's realization that healthy eating results in a higher quality of life, hemp is being cast as a "superfood" that contains many beneficial components.

Hemp foods are naturally high in protein, fiber, amino acids and essential fatty acids (the "good fats"), but they will not get you high.  Manufacturers ensure that hemp foods contain minimal amounts of THC, so you cannot fail a drug test from eating hemp. Hemp seeds contain several vital minerals including phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc.  They are also a source of Vitamin E and carotene, a pre-cursor form of Vitamin A.   So, it is obvious even to the oblivious that hemp seed is one of the most complete sources of nutrition known.  This makes the lore of Buddha subsisting on hemp seed a little less apocryphal.

 Hemp seed is gluten free and there have been no reported allergies to hemp.  This is especially important considering that more and more people are allergic to peanuts or are lactose intolerant.

A very important characteristic of hemp foods are the Omega 3 & 6 essential fatty acids (EFAs) that it contains.  EFAs are the building blocks of our cells and they may help a number of ailments, including arthritis, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure and diabetes.  More and more studies are highlighting the need to increase our intake of EFAs.  Most solutions suggested invariably involve eating fish (especially salmon) while hemp is a much more humane and "green" alternative.  You can help correct this omission by contacting media outlets and politely asking them to report that hemp foods are an excellent source of EFAs.

The increasing demand for healthy hemp foods is resulting in more acreage being grown in Canada.  Farmers will not grow a crop, especially a "new" crop like hemp, unless they have a contract for the fiber or grain (hemp seed) from a manufacturer.  Hemp foods have a higher profit margin than products such as hemp fabric because they require less processing and can be sold for a premium because of hemp's nutritional value.  As demand increases, manufacturers will contract for more acres of hemp with farmers, more products will be available for consumers resulting in more demand which results in more contracts for more acreage and so on.  Hemp foods may be more expensive than non-hemp alternatives but since hemp cultivation is prohibited in America all hemp must be imported from Canada, Europe or China.  If large amounts of hemp were grown in America, prices could drop considerably.  Every hemp food product you buy is therefore bringing us closer to the day that American farmers are once again allowed to grow this valuable and environmentally friendly crop.

Hemp food products can now be found all over.  In addition to Whole Foods Markets and The Vitamin Shoppe, the  Harvest Co-op Markets in Cambridge and Jamaica Plain have a great selection as do both of The Hempest's stores on Newbury Street and in Harvard Square.  If your local shopkeeper doesn't have hemp, let them know how nutritious it is and ask them to stock it for you.  Thousands of hemp food products are also available via the internet, including  Just log on and start shopping!

Now that you know how good hemp is for you and where you can get it, let's discuss some of my favorite ways to enjoy hemp foods.

Hulled hemp seed, also called hemp hearts or hemp nut, give you that great hemp taste without the crunchy outer shell.  Eat it straight out of the bag, sprinkle some on your yogurt, cereal and salads or add it to dishes like oatmeal, salsa or vindaloo to give them a jolt of protein and nutrition.
Hemp protein bars are a great way to get your hemp on the go.

When you have one of Ruth's Hemp Foods' delicious "Red White & Blueberry I Want You To Vote Hemp" protein bars, you're not only giving your body a nutritious treat, but you're also furthering the efforts of Vote Hemp, a non-profit organization that is working to legalize hemp cultivation in America.

Several companies are now producing hemp protein powders, which are a great way to get the benefits of hemp in liquid form.  Mix them with juice or try one of Nutiva's flavored HempShakes.

 Hemp milk comes in several flavors including chocolate and vanilla.  Unsweetened hemp milk contains less calories per serving than skim milk, and when you consider that hemp milk is choc full of healthy goodness, you can rest assured that you've made the right choice.  Make sure you try all of the flavors until you find the one you like best.  Improvements are constantly being made if one doesn't suit your fancy.  While Living Harvest has several delicious flavors of hemp milk, my current favorite is made by Pacific Natural Foods.
 Manitoba Harvest's hemp seed butter, made by blending shelled hemp seed with hemp seed oil, is a beautiful dark green peanut-buttery spread that tastes great and goes well with crackers and sliced vegetables.   Have some hemp seed butter and blueberry jelly on toast for a tasty alternative to pb&j. 

Tempt brand hemp ice cream by Living Harvest is dairy free, cholesterol free, vegan and kosher, letting you  indulge your sweet tooth in a healthy way.  If you want to "hemp up" your breakfast, just use Hempola pancake mix using hemp seed oil and toss some hulled hemp seed into the batter for good measure.  While you shouldn't fry foods in hemp seed oil, it can be taken by the spoonful or substituted for vegetable oil in recipes as varied as gazpacho and granola.

With the recent passing of the Hemperor, Jack Herer, it is incumbent upon all of us to make that extra effort to educate ourselves and others about the many benefits of industrial hemp.  Ten years ago, the health aspects of hemp foods were becoming more well known but there were a dearth of products.  Now, tastier, healthier products are being introduced all the time, satisfying the public's increasingly health conscience needs.  However, the United States government must lift its cruel and unusual ban on hemp cultivation so that America's farmers, consumers and environment can reap the myriad benefits of this multi-faceted plant.  Every time you eat hemp food, you are making yourself healthier and helping hemp help humanity.

Hemp food resources:

Ruth's Hemp Foods -
Nutiva -
Living Harvest -
Manitoba Harvest -
Pacific Natural Foods -
Hempola -
Harvest Co-op Markets -
The Hempest -

Lovin' Ovens In The Woods Photo Courtesy of Leslie Wagenheim


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