Portland, Maine - While we often hear of researchers seeking exotic medicinal plants in jungles, or dream of incredibly nutritious sea creatures waiting to be discovered in the vast oceans of the earth, a powerful and healing “wonder food” is already being cultivated in every other industrialized country in the world and is on the verge of awakening in the U.S -- Hemp. Hemp food is not a new concept as the Chinese were eating hempseed 8,000 years ago. Asians and Europeans have continued eating hemp up to the present day. What is fresh and exciting about hemp food in 2003 is the growing knowledge of its nutritional benefits and the diversity of healthy products and recipes containing hemp.
Hemp foods are gaining more and more recognition from nutrition experts due to their high concentration of Omega-3 and Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids, strong digestible protein profile, soluble and insoluble fiber content, and their host of vitamins and minerals. Chefs and consumers are seeking hemp because of its pleasant nutty flavor. The challenge facing hemp foods in America today is having its health and flavor merits recognized as well as having misunderstandings debunked.
HEMP’S AMAZING NUTRITION PROFILE
Hemp’s essential fatty acid (EFA) profile is closer to fish oil than any other vegetable oil. Recommendations by health officials with the World Health Organization, Health Canada, Japan and Sweden recommend a four-to-one ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 EFAs. With a ratio of at least three-to-one, hemp oil is the closest to this recommended range of any naturally occurring vegetable oil.
Hemp is one of the few seed oils containing significant quantities (20%) of alpha-linolenic acid, an important omega-3 EFA. It is also the source of a rare “super omega-3” called stearidonic acid (SDA) that is the “first metabolite” in the omega-3 family and therefore easy for the body to process. Hemp is a unique plant source of the rare and valuable super omega-6 EFA called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) that is easy for the body to process and it bypasses the enzymatic blocks to allow proper omega-6 utilization.
Hemp is 24% protein, 66% of which is “edestin,” pre-cursors to such vital body components as hormones, hemoglobin, enzymes and antibodies. Edestin protein is not only highly digestible, it also helps to facilitate digestion and suppress symptoms of vomiting. Hemp’s edestin structure is the highest in the plant kingdom. Hemp also contains each of the eight essential amino acids. It is also high in dietary fiber at 35%, of which 10% is soluble in water. Insoluble fiber helps prevent constipation and water-soluble fiber helps maintain blood glucose levels and lower blood cholesterol levels.
DIVERSE & DELICIOUS HEMP FOODS
Hemp is a delicious, versatile and healthy ingredient in a multitude of products and recipes. The emerging hemp food industry is already gaining ground by offering products ranging from supplements to ready-to-eat foods. Some examples include: Organic Protein Powder from Nutiva which, in September, won the Best New Supplement Award at the largest natural foods trade show in the U.S.; vegetarian Omega-Burgers from Ruth’s Hemp Foods; granola cereal from Nature’s Path; hemp coffees from both Hemp Oil Canada and Canolio Cosmetiques; oil and salad dressings from Hempola; whole-food bars from Living Harvest Conscious Nutrition; non-dairy frozen desserts from Cool Hemp; hemp seed nut from Manitoba Harvest; and hemp/almond/fruit bars from Alpsnack. The diversity of hemp food products is astonishing, and new products will continue to be introduced into the market over the next year.
Hemp’s emerald green oil and sesame-like seeds have a “nutty” flavor that means that taste does not have to be compromised for health. The nutty taste helps to make hemp foods such as oil and seed nut easy to incorporate in popular foods such as pasta, veggies, sauces, dips and smoothies.
HEMP: “THE HEALTHY SOYBEAN OF THE 21ST CENTURY”
The fact that hemp does not need pesticides or herbicides to thrive is an added environmental bonus. Hemp, the new “soybean of the 21st century”, would be an economic boon to struggling farmers in the U.S. Since 1998, farmers in Canada have practiced sustainable agriculture to successfully grow high-quality hemp. An increasing supply of Canadian hemp foods, seeds and seed derivatives will continue to feed the growing North American appetite for this natural wonderfood.
To help this emerging industry continue to grow and to expand into new markets, the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance (CHTA) was formed earlier this year. The CHTA is composed of farmers, processors, marketers, and researchers in Canada and the United States. The Canadian government recognizes the legitimacy and economic value of the hemp industry; Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) is one of the primary financial supporters of the CHTA. For more information about hemp foods and the CHTA please contact Arthur Hanks at 306-757-HEMP, or Mic LeBel at 207-563-7695.
Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance Members (as of October 15th, 2003)
Ailements Trieone Inc., Canolio – www.canolio.com, Chanvre en Ville/ The Hemp Club, The Cool Hemp Company – www.coolhemp.com, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps – www.drbronner.com, Farmer Direct Management– www.farmerdirect.ca, Hempco-Shazam Farms, Hempline – www.hempline.com, Hemptown Clothing Inc. – www.hemptown.com, Hemp Oil Canada – www.hempoilcan.com, Hemp Industries Association – www.thehia.org, Hemp Report – www.hempreport.com, Living Harvest Conscious Nutrition Inc. – www.ancientharvest.ca, Manitoba Harvest – www.manitobaharvest.com, Nature’s Path Foods, Inc. www.naturespath.com, Nutiva – www.nutiva.com, Parkland Industrial Hemp Growers – www.pihg.org, Ruth’s Hemp Foods – www.ruthshempfoods.com, and Vote Hemp – www.votehemp.com.