What foods spring to mind when you hear the word “Superfood”? Chia seeds? Goji berries? Maybe something green, like Broccoli? Yes, they’re definitely healthy, but what is it about them that makes them “super”? I checked the Macquarie Dictionary to see what it had to say and discovered that a superfood is “a food with such a high concentration of nutrients, especially of vitamins and minerals, that only a small amount has to be consumed in order to gain the [associated] health benefits”. So, there really is a way to tell superfoods apart from “ordinary” healthy foods.
Here’s another word – Hemp. What mental picture does that conjure up? Green leafy plants hidden amongst the tomatoes? After all, it is just another name for marijuana, isn’t it? Well…no. Hemp and marijuana come from the same overall species of cannabis plant, Cannabis Sativa, but unlike marijuana, hemp is specifically cultivated to contain as little tetrahydrocannabinol (THC—the stuff that gives a “high”) as possible (0.3% or less). In fact, on 28th April 2017 the Council of Australian Governments approved hemp as a safe food product and the required legislation was passed on 12th November 2017, which is great (and long overdue) news for every Australian who cares about their health. Why? Because in a world of superfoods, hemp has a five-star health rating and stands tall as one of only five key, natural superfoods. Let’s take a closer look.
Firstly, hemp contains a whole bunch of vitamins.
|NAME||ALSO KNOWN AS||NEEDED FOR HEALTHY…|
(from Beta Carotene)
|bones, teeth, eyes, skin, immune function. Antioxidant.|
|Vitamins B1||Thiamine||energy levels, metabolism, heart function.|
|Vitamin B2||Riboflavin||energy levels, metabolism, nerve & blood cell development, skin, hair & nails, regulation of hormones.|
|Vitamin B3||Niacin||brain function, metabolism, blood cell production, skin, digestion. May promote healthy cholesterol levels.|
|Vitamin B6||Pyridoxine||metabolism, red blood cell production, nervous system function, brain function, immune function.|
|Vitamin B9||Folate||metabolism, red blood cell production, nervous system. Essential for DNA synthesis, and growth & development of all cells in the body.|
|Vitamin C||Ascorbic acid||skin, tissue repair, immune & nervous systems, bones, teeth, metabolism, eyes. Antioxidant.|
(the “sunshine” vitamin)
|bones, teeth, muscles, eyes, immune function. Needed to absorb calcium and phosphorus. Antioxidant.|
|Vitamin E||Tocopherol||eyes, skin. Gives anti-ageing protection from conditions such as heart disease, stroke, arthritis and diabetes. Antioxidant.|
Secondly, hemp contains a range of important minerals, including:
- Iron – needed for red blood cell production, metabolism, transporting oxygen throughout the body
- Phosphorus – needed for energy production and transportation, maintaining the balance of acidity and alkalinity in the body
- Magnesium – needed by the body for over 300 reactions and functions, including metabolism, insulin production, heart health, bone and muscle health
- Zinc – needed for a healthy immune system, wound healing, DNA synthesis, maintaining a sense of taste and smell
- Copper – needed for healthy connective tissue, metabolism, bone health, works with iron to produce red blood cells
- Manganese – needed for the formation of healthy cartilage and bone
- Sulphur – needed for immune function, detoxification, cellular respiration
- Calcium – needed for healthy bone and teeth formation, blood clotting, nervous system function, heart function, muscle contraction, hormone system function
Thirdly, hemp contains all 21 Amino Acids, which are the vital building blocks of the body, including the 9 essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce. These are responsible for muscle control, mental function and general maintenance of cells, tissues and organs.
Next, hemp seeds are a great source of high-quality protein, containing 33g of protein in every 100g. Better still, protein from hemp seeds is more digestible than protein from any other food, including meat, whole eggs and soy beans, making them an excellent protein source, especially for vegetarians and vegans.
Do you remember those science lessons at school where you learnt about the green stuff in plants? No? Well, the green colours in plants and vegetables are due to the presence of chlorophyll, another of nature’s wonders that has many health benefits. Hemp seeds and Hemp oil are rich in chlorophyll and their mild, nutty flavour makes them a great-tasting way to include chlorophyll in your diet.
The evidence for hemp being the new superfood is pretty convincing. What else?
Omega 3 essential fatty acids are well-known for their numerous health benefits, including their ability to fight inflammation and improve heart health. They also play an important role in infant brain development and are a crucial part of human cell membranes. Hemp, our new superfood superhero, contains plenty of the essential fatty acids our bodies need, and in the ideal ratio of 3 x Omega 6 to 1 x Omega 3. Omega 6 essential fatty acids are equally important as they promote healthy skin and hair growth, good bone health, regulate metabolism and balance hormones.
Quick question–ever wondered why Omega 3 and Omega 6 are called essential, when so is everything else I’ve mentioned so far? Are they more important than anything else in terms of our overall health and well-being? Well, no, but you could be forgiven for thinking that’s the reason. Just like the 9 essential amino acids our bodies can’t produce, we can’t produce our own Omega 3 and Omega 6, so it is essential that we consume them as part of our daily diet. And what about Omega 9? Omega 9 fatty acids can be produced by the body, hence their non-essential label, but they are also vital to good health and it’s important to have enough of them. Omega 9s are monounsaturated fats, which promote good heart health, may lessen the risk of stroke, can help to increase energy, decrease anger and enhance mood, and may help to improve memory.
So call it what you will—superfood, total food, whole food—it’s obvious that hemp could be a food group all on its own. There is just one more very important fact I’d like to leave with you, which is that hulled hemp seeds can be made into milk and then used to make any type of dairy product, including butter, cheese and ice cream. As well as being packed with nutrition, hemp doesn’t contain the estrogen mimickers and trypsin inhibitors that are present in other popular milk substitutes.
Hemp IS the new superfood. In fact, if hemp formed the main part of your diet throughout the course of your life, you would never be lacking in nutrients. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.