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Hemp seeds have been used medicinally for millennia and hemp is the earliest plant cultivated for textile fiber, which dates back to 8,000 BC.
However, this superfood has had a challenging history of acceptance within modern nutrition and is now just beginning to shake its cannabis connotation. That association is the primary reason that the unparalleled health benefits of hemp seeds have gone relatively unnoticed over the last century.
Even though hemp comes from the Cannabis Sativa family, it does not contain any of the psychedelic compound its namesake is famous for—THC.
However, in 1937, hemp was effectively made illegal in the US by the “Marihuana Tax Act of 1937,” partly due to the confusion between hemp and its cousin, Cannabis Sativa (Marijuana). Ironically, four years later, at the onset of the Second World War, the same government that made hemp illegal released a promotional video to the public titled "Hemp For Victory," it declared that all Americans should grow hemp to help support the war effort (avideo4u, 2010). Shortly after the conclusion of WWII, hemp was once again made illegal—along with the rest of its family (Cannabis Sativa, Indica, Ruderalis, etc.).
Hemp protein is one of the healthiest overall forms of nutrition currently available from a single food source
Hemp contains all of the amino acids needed to help repair muscle cells, regulate the nervous system, and improve brain function
Based on their robust nutritional value, hemp seeds have the potential to become a cornerstone of the North American diet
Edestin, a protein which makes up approximately 65% of the hemp protein, is so similar to the protein found in the human body that it is currently being used as a major component of a human blood plasma substitute
Thanks to its lean protein, hemp is a great way to lower your meat intake
Protein (albumin and edestin)
Omega-3 and Omega-6
Hemp seeds contain 13 of the 15 essential minerals. The only two it doesn't contain are chloride and fluoride, which are both easily supplemented by the average human diet via water, table salt, and other commonly used condiments.
Hemp contains elevated quantities of omega-3 (healthy fat), as well as a mix of soluble and insoluble fibers, which can help you feel full for longer and reduce hunger cravings. So, hemp is considered a natural appetite suppressant. While there is much debate about what how much omega-3 fatty acid the body needs, many researchers agree: "The optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 (n6/n3) is between 2:1 and 3:1, which is the exact ratio found in hemp seeds" (Callaway, 65).
Hemp seed contains—and is the only known source of—edestin, a legumin protein. Legumins are often referred to as “plant casein” because of the numerous chemical similarities between the two. Edestin, which makes up approximately 65% of the hemp protein (the highest ratio of any food source in the world), is globulin protein. This type of protein is similar to the structure of human blood plasma, making it one of the most digestible food sources in the world (Dalotto, 19), (Patel, 361) and (Horska, 2005). The other type of protein found in Hemp is albumin which is another high quality protein also found in egg whites. Globulins and albumins are classified as globular proteins and are involved in almost all of the body’s processes.
Vitamin and mineral content are two key indicators commonly used to determine the nutritional value of a food source. The Merck Manual states that there are 6 essential minerals and 9 essential trace minerals (Johnson, 2013). Hemp seeds contain 5 of the essential minerals and 8 of the trace minerals, for a total of 13 of the essentials (Dalotto, 28). Why is that important? The only essential mineral that hemp seeds don't contain in statistically significant amounts is chloride. Chloride is most likely the easiest essential mineral to include in the human diet since it is abundant in common table salt, one of the world's most commonly used condiments. The "Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Adults" is 1,000 milligrams (Johnson, 2013), which many people exceed. When attempting to determine the value of a food source’s mineral content, it would be best to find a food that has lower amounts of chloride, such as hemp seeds. The only essential trace mineral hemp seeds don't contain in statistically significant amounts is fluoride. Fluoride, like chloride, is also one of the easiest trace minerals to obtain from a conventional human diet because the majority of the world's water supply is fluoridated. Moreover, fluoride has been called into question as an essential trace mineral, considering that its primary function is dental care (Cerklewski, 475).
Amino acids play a key role in aiding muscle recovery. When these amino acids are depleted, it leads to reduced overall performance and immune function. Hemp protein contains all 20 amino acids, including leucine, the key amino acid in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). Leucine plays a role in protein synthesis, tissue regeneration, and metabolism. Hemp protein also contains glutamine which is important for muscle recovery.
We know that protein is important, but what makes a good protein source? Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are essential for almost all biological processes. In the human body, there are more than 100,000 different proteins, but almost all of them are composed of 22 proteinogenic (protein creating) amino acids. Of these 22 amino acids, 9 are considered essential, since they cannot be produced in the body. Hemp seeds contain all of the known essential amino acids and essential fatty acids (Callaway, 65). Except for lysine, all of the amino acids and fatty acids in hemp seeds are statistically significant, according to the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS). This is the method used by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to calculate the quality of a protein (Wang, 11), (House, 11801) and (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2013). Even though hemp seed lysine levels are considered low, hemp seeds still have a significant amount of available lysine (Callaway, 67).
When it comes to supporting proper brain function, it’s crucial to understand the importance that fat plays in brain health. Up to 70% of the brain is made of fat, so eating high-quality fats is one of the most important ways to ensure your brain can function correctly. Specifically, the brain prefers high quality omega-3 (rather than the more common, inflammatory omega-6) fatty acids. Hemp is a great source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids such as alpha-linolenic acid (one of the essential fatty acids), and has an ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6.. Hemp protein also contains a significant amount of glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is a neurotransmitter that helps people deal with psychological and work-related stress. Hemp is a great tool to support cognitive function.
Hemp has many anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce the risk of heart disease. For example, hemp contains the amino acid arginine, which is known to protect against cardiovascular disease. Arginine is the metabolic precursor to the production of nitric oxide (NO), a widespread signaling molecule that participates in virtually every cellular and organ function in the body. Nitric oxide is now recognized as the pivotal signaling messenger in the cardiovascular system and participates in everything from regulation of vascular tone to homeostasis of blood pressure. Hemp also contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which lowers the likelihood of blood clotting, thus improving your chances of preventing and/or recovering from a heart attack. Lastly, hemp contains tocopherols, which are believed to lower your risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and age-related macular degeneration.
As previously mentioned, hemp is an excellent source of omega-3. Some research suggests that increasing your omega-3 intake can help regulate the skin’s oil production, improve balanced hydration, and suppress acne breakouts. It can also help soften rough, dry skin, have a soothing effect on dermatitis, boost your skin’s resistance to UV damage, and improve the overall health of your skin. The benefits of omega-3 also extend to other areas of cosmetic health, including strengthening nails and promoting healthy hair growth.
In addition to its nutritional value, hemp seed is also rich in natural antioxidants such as phenolic compounds, tocopherols, and phytosterols, which may play a role in reducing the risk of chronic diseases including cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, lipid metabolism and cardiovascular health.
Hemp seeds are an excellent source of dietary fiber. They contain soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which are necessary for healthy digestion. Healthy digestion is important for avoiding issues such as constipation.
In conclusion, this superfood has emerged as one of the healthiest overall sources of nutrition currently available from a single food source. As research on hemp seeds continues, there is no doubt that we’ll continue to uncover even more secrets about this incredible seed, and how it can be used to achieve exceptional health.
Want to feel the incredible benefits of hemp yourself?
avideo4u. “Hemp For Victory.” Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube, 15 Aug. 2010. Web. 11 Oct. 2013.
Boutrif, E. Recent Developments in Protein Quality Evaluation. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. World Health Organization. Web. 1 Nov. 2013. <http://www.fao.org/docrep/U5900t/u5900t07.htm>
Callaway, J.C. “Hempseed as a Nutritional Resource: An Overview.” Euphytica 140 (2004) 65-72. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Sept. 2013.
Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®). National Cancer Institute. National Cancer Institute, 10 Oct. 2013. Web. 2 Nov. 2013. <http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cannabis/healthprofessional/page3>
Canada. Drug Agency. Drugs and Drug Policy in Canada: A Brief Review and Commentary.Nov. 1998. Web. 21 Oct. 2013. <http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/SEN/Committee/362/ille/rep/rep-nov98-e.htm>
ClosedCaptionsZone. “Reefer Madness.” Online Video Clip. Youtube. Youtube. 27 Feb. 2011. Web. Sept. 22. 2013.
Cerklewski, FL. “Fluoride—Essential or just Beneficial” Nutrition 14.5 (May 1998): 475-76. Web. 2 Oct. 2013.
Dalotto, Todd. The Hemp Cookbook. Rochester: Healing Arts Press, 2000. Google Books. Web. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.
Evert, Alison. “Vitamins.” Medline Plus.Medline Plus. 18 Jan. 2013. Web. 9 Oct. 2013. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002399.htm>
Hemp Industries Association 2012. As Momentum Builds for Policy Change, U.S.Market for Products Made from Industrial Hemp Continues to Thrive. [press release] Web. 25 Feb. 2013.
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Horska, I. “Edestin-Comprising Agent for Substitution of Blood Plasma and a Method of its Production” Application. WO2005058332 A2. 30 Jun. 2005. <http://www.google.com/patents/WO2005058332A2>
House J, J Neufeld and G Leson. “Evaluating the Quality of Protein from Hemp Seed (Cannabis sativa L.) Products Through the Use of the Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score Method.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 58.22 (2010): 11801-7 Web. 7 Oct. 2013.
Johnson, Larry E. Overview of Minerals. Merck Manuals.Jun. 2013 Web. 1 Oct. 2013. <http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/disorders_of_nutrition/minerals/overview_of_minerals.html?qt=&sc=&alt=>
Katona, István, Tamás F. Freund. “Endocannabinoid Signaling as a Synaptic Circuit Breaker in Neurological Disease.” Nature Medicine14.9 (2008): 923-30 Web. 28 Oct. 2013. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18776886>
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Sarwar, G. “The Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score Method Overestimates Quality of Proteins Containing Antinutritional Factors and of Poorly Digestible Proteins Supplemented with Limiting Amino Acids in Rats.” The Journal Of Nutrition 127.5 (1997): 758-64. Web. 2 Oct. 2013.
Small, E. and D, Marcus/A, McElroy. Hemp: A new crop with new uses for North America. Alexandria: ASHS Press, 2002. Web. 15 Nov. 2013. <http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu02/pdf/small.pdf>
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Yonavjak, Logan. “Industrial Hemp: A Win-Win For The Economy And The Environment” Forbes.Forbes, 29 May 2013. Web. 13 Oct. 2013 <http://www.forbes.com/sites/ashoka/2013/05/29/industrial-hemp-a-win-win-for-the-economy-and-the-environment/>
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