Source of Nutrition
Hemp seeds are actually nuts and called as such on some product labels.
Hempnut is a term developed by Richard Rose, author of The Hempnut Cookbook and used to describe the shelled seed.
Hemp seeds have been a traditional source of nourishment in many countries for thousands of years. They can be roasted, ground, or used as flour in such various ways as in the form of hemp milk and tofu or as spreads for bread and crackers. Sprouted seeds can be added to salads.
Hemp seeds are one of the most nutritious foods on earth. Tasting similar to pine nuts and sunflower seeds, hempseeds can be used in any recipe.
In terms of nutrient content, shelled hemp seed is basically 34.6% protein, 46.5% fat, and 11.6% carbohydrate.
For diabetics, the glycemic index of shelled hempseed is considered low because of its low carbohydrate content. They are also full of nutrients that moderate blood sugar. Since most of the carbohydrate content is in the hull, shelled hemp seed is therefore preferred.
Not only do hemp seeds contain essential fatty acids (EFAs) in the proper ratio required by humans, but also all the essential amino acids and dietary fiber required for good health. The fiber content of hemp seed flour is 40%, which is the highest of all commercial flour grains.
No other single plant source provides balanced protein nutrition with all the essential amino acids in a favorable ratio for digestibility. In fact, two-thirds of the shelled seed is packed with these essential nutrients and is 40% more nutritious than whole hempseed.
Yes, the shelled seed is more nutritious than the whole seed. When the hull is removed, the percentage of essential nutrients rises. The protein content increases by 8% (to more than 30%), and the total fat content goes up 17% (to more than 47%). The ratio of EFAs remains the same though.
Furthermore, hemp seed is far more valuable in terms of concentrated nutrients than soybeans, the nearest vegan alternative.
Shelled hemp seeds contain 35% protein, of which 65% occurs as the easily digestible storage protein, edestin.
Hemp seeds contain all nine essential amino acids with a high content of sulfur-containing AA (methionine and cysteine), which are usually low in vegetable proteins. The absence of trypsin inhibitory activity is a major advantage over the type of protein found in soybeans.
Trace elements found in hemp seed include strontium, thorium, arsenic, and chromium. It is also a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E in the form of alpha-, beta-, gamma-, delta-tocopherol and alpha-tocotrienol.
The following are also found in hemp seeds:
- Lecithin is a type of liquid found in the protective sheaths surrounding the brain and nervous system. Lecithin helps in the breakdown of fats and enhances liver activity and enzyme production.
- Choline is produced from lecithin. It is needed for nerve impulses from the brain throughout the nervous system and for liver and gall bladder function. Its derivative acetylcholine, lacking in Alzheimer patients, is crucial for short-term memory.
- Inositol (vitamin B8) promotes hair growth, reduces cholesterol levels, prevents artery hardening, and is calming to the nervous system.
- Phytosterols, sometimes described as ‘plant hormones’ or phytoestrogens, affect cholesterol absorption, hormone regulation, and cell metabolism.
It is also high in such minerals as the following:
- Potassium supports the nervous system and regular heart rhythm and, with the help of sodium, aids in the bodys balance of water.
- Calcium is also essential for a regular heartbeat, strong teeth and bones, and nerve impulses.
- Magnesium is needed to transmit the nerve and muscle messages.
- Sulfur helps the body resist bacterial invasion and protects it against toxic substances.
- Iron, in moderate amounts, facilitate the production of red blood cells and energy.
- Zinc is important for a healthy reproductive system and the male prostate gland. It improves wound healing and strengthens the immune system.
Strains of seed hemp have been naturally selected so as to produce little, if any, THC. These nutritional varieties grow in temperate climates to heights of 14 feet. As with many agricultural grains, their seeds can be harvested in a conventional manner with a combine. Since the most modern handling and shelling of the seed minimizes its contact with the leaf resins, the shelled seed itself and the oil, nut butter, and other foods prepared from the seed have no detectable THC amounts.
Scientists are studying the use of hemp seed extracts to boost the immuno-depressed who have such illnesses as AIDS and cancer.
Edestin, a protein found in hemp seed, is so compatible with the human digestive system that in 1955, a Czechoslovakian Tuberculosis Nutrition Study found hemp seed to be the only food that successfully treated tuberculosis, a disease in which nutritive processes become impaired and the body wastes away.
Edestin is such a perfect protein that Science Magazine complained in 1941 that “the passage of the Marijuana Law of 1937 has placed restrictions on trade in hemp seed that, in effect, amounts to prohibition It seems clear that the long and important career of the protein is coming to a close in the US.”
As a result, although not solely from the lack of hemp seeds, American health has since suffered a steady decline ever since.
Sterilized Hemp Seed
The word ‘sterilized’ conjures up some misconceptions. Legal hemp seeds are either heat sterilized or steam sterilized. This is to keep them from growing into new plants. Steamed seeds are actually superior in freshness. Contrary to popular belief, few if any seed companies use irradiation to treat their products.
To steam sterilize, seeds are not cooked to the point of killing bacteria. Instead, they are brought to a temperature of 160°F for 5 minutes and then cooled. This is hot enough to alter some of the enzymes necessary for photosynthesis.
If the seeds were cooked any further, the seed coats would break, allowing the reactive oils to go rancid quickly. As it is, the shelf life of the cooked seeds is compromised. The heat opens micro fissures in the hull that allow oxygen to penetrate into the delicate kernels. Live seeds can sprout after being kept in a drawer for five years, but cooked seeds can go rancid in a few months, especially if not refrigerated.
Robert Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz, became an expert on birds and wrote about them in 1939. The book, Diseases of Birds, still stands as an authority. Stroud mentioned how nutritious hemp seeds were, but expressed frustration with the ‘sterilized’ seeds that were coming on the market as a result of the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act. He called them “rancid trash”.
All foodstuffs, every spice, every grain of rice, including hemp seeds, brought into the US is fumigated to kill all insects and other plant pests. This not only diminishes the freshness but also significantly reduces the nutrient content.
Adding insult to injury, the government also requires that these items be fumigated with methyl bromide – a toxic substance to both humans and animals.
Methylene bromide works like carbon dioxide by suffocating all living matter. It is inert enough that it does not react with the seeds and dissipates into the air. The major problem with it is that it travels into the upper atmosphere, where it depletes the ozone. However, the amount of methylene bromide used as a fumigant is a tiny fraction of what is used for tenting, houses, and agricultural fields.