A true superfood, hemp seeds combine high protein, easy digestibility, abundant health benefits, textural interest and a lovely flavor, sometimes likened to that of pine nuts. Sold as hulled hemp “hearts,” the little nuggets of goodness have many uses. Eat them raw for a tasty snack. Roast them for added crunch. Toss them into salads, as a gluten-free substitute for croutons. Sprinkle them on top of cereal. Use them to coat sautéed chicken. Blend them into smoothies or pesto. Germinate them in water to make hemp sprouts for use in salads and sandwiches. Or cold-press them to create hemp oil for salads and cooking.
Let’s dispense with the question on everyone’s mind: hemp seeds will not make you flunk a drug test. Hemp is in the cannabis family and related to marijuana, but its percentage of mood-altering tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is far too low to cause any reaqction. You won’t get high, but you may just feel healthier. Hemp seed has a high concentration of essential fatty acids – substances the body needs, but cannot make by itself. These fatty acids reduce the inflammation at the root of many diseases, including heart problems and arthritis. They can decrease the risk of life-threatening blood clots. Another heart-healthy component in hemp seed is the amino acid arginine, which indirectly relaxes blood vessels and thus lowers blood pressure. In addition, hemp seed’s gamma-linolenic acid can reduce the effects of prolactin, which can cause PMS in sensitive individuals.
People have been growing hemp and using it for food, fiber and medicine for at least 5,000 years. It reportedly originated in Central Asia, but is common in many temperate countries north of the equator. China and France currently top the list of hemp producers.