Hemp and other super seeds

by Nick Rose, M.S., PCC Nutrition Educator

This article was originally published in July 2012

Omega-3 fatty acids are critical for our brains, heart health, and reducing inflammation. Adding a tablespoon of flaxseed oil or ground flaxseed to our diets is a popular way to meet our daily requirement for these essential fatty acids, but now we are lucky to offer additional “super seeds” on our shelves at PCC. Chia seed (ch-ch-ch-chia!) is an ancient food that is making an impressive comeback in the world of popular nutrition. In addition to providing a full day’s worth of omega-3s, just 2 tablespoons of the tiny chia seed also delivers 6 grams of soluble fiber and 4 grams of protein.

And then there is the mighty hemp seed, which is lower in fiber than flax or chia, but packed full of essential nutrients. Adding just 2 tablespoons of hemp seeds to your smoothie, salad or oatmeal boosts your protein intake (8 grams) while also providing a reliable source of magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, iron, zinc, copper, B vitamins, and vitamin E. All of this, plus hemp is a sustainable crop — no pesticides are used in the field, and no solvents are used to process this super seed.

Hemp seeds also offer two very unique forms of essential fatty acids. Hemp seeds contains a unique omega-3 fatty acid (abbreviated SDA), which is more easily converted into the forms that the body uses (EPA/DHA) than the omega-3s found in flax or chia. Hemp seeds also contain GLA, a unique omega-6 fatty acid (also found in evening primrose oil) that can help reduce symptoms of arthritis, eczema and PMS.

The nutritional density of hemp seeds is mind-blowing: a natural source of high-quality plant-protein, the added bonus of omega-3s, and hemp seeds are a good source of almost a dozen vitamins and minerals. Hemp seed is hypoallergenic, does not need to be ground for our bodies to digest it (unlike flaxseed), and offers a soft, nutty texture and flavor. Hemp seed also makes an attractive garnish when sprinkled atop your meal.

Hemp milk, hemp seed butter, and other hemp-based products are becoming more widely available, as more and more people catch the buzz of hemp seed’s diverse nutritional benefits.

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