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What are the health benefits of hemp?

Hemp seeds

As heart-friendly seeds and oil or dairy-free ‘milk’, hemp has shaken off its hippy reputation to enter the mainstream

What is hemp?

Hemp, also known as Cannabis Sativa, has a cultivation history going back at least 10,000 years; it’s been used to make fabric, paper and, recently, eco-friendly cars. Laws passed in North America in the 1930s lumped hemp in with the narcotic marijuana (same species, different plant) so production was halted, but farming continued in parts of Europe and China.

How is it used?

A highly sustainable crop, it can be eaten in seed form or made into oil, dairy-free ‘milk’ and protein powders. Its nutty taste works in both sweet and savoury dishes – ideal for those with nut allergies seeking an alternative to nut oils for dressings, for example. A 30g serving of seeds can be sprinkled over salads, blended in juices or whizzed into gluten-free ‘breadcrumbs’. And the milk is delicious with cereal and porridge.

The nutrition facts

Hemp seeds are high in protein (around 9g per 30g) and contain all 20 amino acids (protein building blocks). Both the seeds and oils provide essential fatty acids, while hemp oil has one of the lowest saturated fat contents of all oils (even less than olive oil, although slightly more than rapeseed) and is rich in polyunsaturated fats. Indeed, studies show that hemp seed may be linked to better heart health. Hemp ‘milk’ is a great option for dairy-free diets and is often fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

First published: Nov 2016

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