Health Benefits of Hemp Consumption

Publication Year: 

Image retrieved from on January 28th, 2014.
Image retrieved from on January 28th, 2014.
Image retrieved from on January 28th, 2014.

It's a hot day at the Bancroft Gemboree, a mineral and crystal show held in cottage country north of Toronto on the first weekend of August. Dozens of rock and jewelry dealers have their collections set up on tables outside the local hockey arena. So does HempDreams, a hemp ice cream company based in Killaloe, a small Ontario town with a large counterculture population. Killaloe is about 45 miles (75 kilometers) away, near the east end of Algonquin Park. Hippies started moving to the area in the mid-1960s, drawn by cheap land and privacy. Now, among the craftspeople, musicians, writers, and pot growers of the community, there's strong support for the legalization of hemp and a burgeoning local industry that uses hemp to make food and crafts.
Hemp ice cream is just one of the products that can be made from oil pressed from the seeds of the plant. Even with all the safeguards mandated by Canadian law—licensing, fencing, security—and the scarcity of hemp seed, HempDreams is able to sell its product in that Bancroft parking lot for about the same price as regular ice cream. Not only does hemp ice cream appeal to those people who prefer hemp on principle, but there's a huge market among people who are lactose intolerant and can't digest the milk sugars in regular ice cream. And hemp ice cream, along with all of the other foods that can be made from the plant, addresses a need among vegans and vegetarians.
Is hemp ice cream tasty? Our family of four put it to the test.
HempDreams makes three flavors: vanilla, natural maple, and chocolate. With our three-year-old, the chocolate was quite popular, both as food and as a full facial cosmetic, It was also the favorite of our seven-year-old. I liked both the chocolate and the vanilla. My wife, a nutritionist, said she found the flavors a bit weak, but quickly added that it was far better tasting than any other non-dairy ice cream she'd tried.

To make ice cream from hemp you use the oil from the seeds. Hemp seeds grow in flowering buds located at the top of the plant and at the end of the larger branches. Depending on the strain, each plant can produce from 500 to 25,000 seeds. Even after prohibition sterilized hemp seed is still used occasionally in bird food. The oil makes bird feathers shine, and the seeds are high in nutrients. In fact, the testimony of parakeet fanciers that their birds would not sing unless they were fed hemp seeds convinced Congress to make an exception for them in 1937. Hemp seeds, which can't be made into food for American people, are fine for the country's birds as long as the seeds are sterilized. The seed husks contain trace levels of THC, not enough to stimulate humans or birds.
There are about 50 essential nutrients for human health, including two essential fatty acids (fats), eight essential amino acids (proteins), 13 vitamins, 20 or 21 minerals, a source of energy (calories), and water. Foods usually contain some, but not all, of the nutrients we need. Even among people in developed countries, deficiencies in essential nutrients are quite common; more than 60 percent of North Americans get less than the recommended daily amount of one or more essential nutrients. People in affluent nations eat too many processed foods; refined white flour, white rice, white sugar, and refined fats. The refining processes strip away most of the vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids, leaving the calories with out the nutrients.
Human nutrition is a science that's awash in controversies, theories, and ideologies. Hemp activists would like to see their favorite plant assume the title of “nature's perfect food.” At the very least, hemp seeds hold some of the nutrients that are too often left out of North American and European diets. Hemp seeds contain 25 percent high-quality protein and 40 percent fat. Hemp oil has a remarkable fatty acid profile, being high in desirable omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and also delivering some GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) that is absent from the fats we normally eat. All of these compounds are beneficial to health. Deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids can lead to skin diseases, heart disease, and inflammatory conditions along with premature aging and disorders of the central nervous system. Omega-3 fatty acids also promote cardiovascular health and are believed to help protect against many cancers, including breast cancer.
Hemp oil contains 57 percent linoleic (LA) and 19 percent linolenic (LNA) acids, in the 3:1 ratio that matches our nutritional needs. These are the essential fatty acids (EFAs) that our bodies cannot make. The best sources are oils from freshly ground grains and whole seeds, but the EFAs are fragile and quickly lost in processing. EFAs are the building blocks of longer-chain fats, such as eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and acid (DHA) that occur naturally in the fat of cold-water fish like sardines, mackerel, salmon, blue fish, herring, and, to a lesser extent, tuna.
In our bodies, essential amino acids and EFAs work together to produce energy. They combine to form lipoproteins, which make up the membranes of every cell in our bodies. Lipoproteins also form the hemoglobin in our blood and move fats through our bodies. To maintain healthy bodies, it's important to balance our intake of protein and essential fatty acids. The average North American consumes more than enough protein and not enough EFAs to balance it out. Increasing EFAs in the diet can decrease the toxicity of extra protein, and also reverse many of the common health problems we have today, including heart disease and cancer.
Adding these nutrients to the diet seems to lower risks of heart attacks because omega-3 fatty acids, one of the EFAs, reduce the clotting tendency of the blood and improve cholesterol profiles. They also have a natural anti-inflammatory effect that makes them useful for people with arthritis and autoimmune disorders. In western diets, Omega-3s come primarily from salmon, herring, sardines, and other oily fish.

hemp oil

Oil from cold-pressed hemp seeds is a prime vegetable source for complete proteins. The oil contains all eight essential amino acids, is more easily digested, and tastes better than its vegetable-protein rival, soy. Hemp seeds are the only edible seeds to contain a very rare nutrient—gamma linoleic acid, or GLA, which is an active agent in lowering cholesterol.
Whole hemp seeds can be used for snacks, in cooking, even roasted and mixed in coffee. Processed hemp seeds can be used to make non-dairy milk, various styles of cheese and ice cream, or ground up and used in spreads similar to peanut butter. After the seeds have been crushed for their oil, they can be processed into protein powder, flour, and veggie burgers, or even used to brew beer.
Unrefined hemp oil can be taken daily as a dietary supplement or used in salad dressings and cooking in place of other vegetable oils. For maximum nutrition value, hemp oil should be stored in the refrigerator and used quickly.
hemp spread

Many people eat the seeds plain or add them to other foods, including baked goods, baked potatoes, or dried fruit and nut mixtures.
Because it's usually grown without pesticides, hemp protein is equal or superior to soy protein. Whole hemp seeds contain about 23 percent protein; hulled seeds contain around 30 to 31 percent. Hemp seeds are hulled to remove the outer fibrous shell, to make products such as hemp milk, cheese, and tofu.
The protein in hemp seeds also contains the highest amount (65 percent) of edestin protein among plant seeds. Edestin is a type of globular protein, classified by their globe-like shapes, that is easily digested and utilized by the the body. All enzymes and antibodies in the body are globular proteins, as are many of the proteins found in blood and hormones that carry out many of the important life functions in our bodies. Animal-feeding studies have found that edestin proteins are capable of serving as the sole source of protein in animal diets. Because of their high quality protein, hemp seeds were used like soy beans for premium cattle feed in the United States until they became unavailable in the 1950s. As more people get more of their protein from plants, it makes sense to look at the plant foods that provide the best nutrition for other herbivores.
Many of the diseases that afflict developed nations, including heart disease and cancer, have dramatically increased in the past century. Researchers now recognize that the increases in these diseases probably correspond to overall changes in our diets, especially to the consumption of processed fats and excess animal products. Many of our current health problems are thought to be related to fatty degeneration diseases, which come from eating too much bad fat and not enough good fat.
For example, the proportion
of saturated fat(usually from animal products) we consume is often too high. Second, we eat to many refined and processed fats. These fats usually start of with good sources of plant oils, high in polyunsaturates; however, the processes used to make them more shelf-stable can convert them from nutrients to toxins.
Essential fatty acids are inherently unstable, and easily react to heat, light, and oxygen. These reactions can convert them from healthy molecules into unhealthy ones. In order to obtain oil that is nutritious, plant seeds should be processed with great care in the absence of heat, light and oxygen, then stored in opaque bottles at reduced temperatures. Unfortunately, the processing of most commercially available oils is the exact opposite.
Manufacturers are concerned with making fats an oils more stable, so they have a long shelf life and can be stored for up to a year without turning rancid. They often subject natural oils to severe processing with high heat and chemicals, with no care to exclude light or oxygen. These processes remove the unstable molecules, which, unfortunately, also contain the nutrients.
The worst case is partially hydrogenated oils, where almost all of the nutrients are removed by the formation of large amounts of unnatural molecules that can be extremely toxic to our bodies, including high amounts of trans-fatty acids. Trans fatty acids were once polyunsaturated fats which have been processed into saturated fats. Most margarines and shortenings are partially hydrogenated oils, and most contain high amounts of trans-fatty acids.
In 2003, the hemp food business got a boost when officials of the 30th annual American Music Awards handed out gift bags containing hemp-based foods and cosmetics to all the nominees, presenters, and performers.
These gift bags, each worth $30,000, were put together by Dick Clark Productions, which does the same thing for the Golden Globe ceremonies. Because of the U.S. Government ban on most hemp products, Dick Clark's people had to go to Canada to get hemp goodies. Along with things like scooters and tickets to rafting trips in Chile, each bag held Hempola Honey Dijon Dressing, Lip Balm, and High Protein Pancake Mix.

pp. 70-74 Hemp A Short History of the Most Misunderstood Plant and its Uses and Abuses by Mark Bourrie (2003)

hemp seeds, oil, milk, bread
Hemp birdseed
hemp oil
hemp food