Hemp: nutrition without the munchies

The humble and previously controversial hemp seed might just knock your socks off with its super nutritional qualities, writes dietitian Joel Feren.

No food can claim superfood status, however, not all foods are created equal. Meet the humble and previously controversial hemp seed. It might just knock your socks off with its super nutritional qualities.

Hemp seeds come from the cannabis sativa plant. Although the seeds do not contain any of the mind-altering compounds of cannabis, the Australian government prohibited consumption of the seeds until late 2017. Since then, the profile of this little seed has been on an upward trajectory, thanks to its stellar nutritional credentials. So, what does make hemp seeds so good?

Hemp is a complete protein

Few plant-based foods can boast that they contain all 20 amino acids, including the nine essential amino acids. Yet, hemp seeds do tick that box, making them a wonderful food for vegetarians and vegans alike. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and the human body cannot make them all. Therefore, it is essential that we maximise our intake of the ones we cannot make; especially for those following a plant-based diet.

Further, in addition to containing all the essential amino acids, hemp is in fact a good source of protein. 30 grams of hemp seeds provides over nine grams of good quality protein – important for muscle-building, hormone production and to support a healthy and viable immune system. Mixing hemp seed powder, such as the matcha powder from Hello Hemp, with milk and yoghurt, for example, makes a post-training protein shake to maximise workout gains.

It can help keep you regular

Two tablespoons of hemp seeds provide 10% of daily fibre requirements. Dietary fibre is our friend in more ways than one: it not only helps to keep the bowels regular, but can also work towards reducing cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Another benefit is that it helps you to feel fuller for longer, thereby reducing the urge to snack.

By and large, Aussies drop the ball when it comes to hitting their fibre targets. Diets high in fibre can be protective against type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, including colorectal and stomach cancer. Boosting fibre intake should be a top dietary goal for many people.

Hemp is a rich source of omega-3 fats

Omega-3’s have been shown to improve heart health, cut the risk of blood clots, decrease plaque in arteries, reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure and boost good cholesterol (HDL). They are also involved in the production of the ‘happy’ hormones in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, and therefore hemp may be protective against depression. Additionally, there is emerging evidence that increased consumption of omega-3’s may provide protection against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Hemp is packed with vitamins and minerals

Hemp has an impressive nutritional profile, boasting a number of key nutrients, including vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.

Hemp tastes good

Hemp not only provides key nutrients, the seeds also have a pleasant, mildly nutty flavour. Like many small seeds, they’re very versatile and can be added to a range of dishes, from breakfast cereals, smoothies and salads, to soups, stews, casseroles and stir-fries.

If you’re looking to add an interesting and nutritious punch to mealtimes, consider giving hemp a try – your digestive system, heart and head will thank you for it.


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Joel Feren
Known as The Nutrition Guy, Joel is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist. He regularly consults to the food industry including Melbourne-based hemp food producer, Hello Hemp. He is also a media spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia. thenutritionguy.com.au