People Are Discovering The Nutritional Benefits of Hemp Seed,
Nut and Oil
are expanding onto the shelves of grocery and natural food stores
across North America. By definition, these are foods containing
seeds or the oil, nut (hulled seed) and/or flour (ground
seed cake) derived from the seeds. Examples of currently available
hemp food products include salad dressings, nutrition bars,
breads, cookies, granola, waffles, nut butter, chips, pasta,
frozen deserts and cold-pressed oil supplements. These products
are sold for much more than their "hemp cachet" alone;
manufacturers promote hemp foods for their exceptional nutritional
and taste benefits. Examining the composition of hemp seed will
help explain these benefits.
oil seeds, the hemp nut consists mainly of oil (typically 44%),
protein (33%) and dietary fiber and other carbohydrates (12%,
predominantly from residues of the hull). In addition, the nut
contains vitamins (particularly the tocopherols and tocotrienols
of the Vitamin
E complex), phytosterols and trace minerals. Overall, hemp's
main nutritional advantage over other seeds lies in the composition
of its oil, i.e. its fatty acid profile, and in its protein
which contains all of the essential amino
acids in nutritionally significant amounts and in a desirable
seeds contain plenty of linoleic
acid (LA), an essential fatty acid (EFA) from the "omega-6"
family, yet they offer little alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the
other EFA from the "omega-3"
family. Health agencies around the world agree that humans should
ingest these EFAs in an omega-6/omega-3 ratio of about 4:1.
Since common seed oil and animal fat, both low in omega-3, account
for most of our fat intake, Western diets typically have omega-6/omega-3
ratios of 10:1 or more, which is far too rich in omega-6 and
correspondingly too deficient in omega-3. Recent clinical research
continues to identify this imbalance as a co-factor in a wide
range of common illnesses, including cardiovascular diseases,
arthritis, diabetes, skin and mood disorders. A 1999 workshop
by the U.S.
National Institute of Health (see http://ods.od.nih.gov/
news/conferences/w6w3_abstracts.html) demonstrated the impressive
benefits of a balanced omega-6/omega-3 ratio in our diet: reduced
risk of atherosclerosis, sudden cardiac death and certain types
of cancers, decrease in the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis,
mood improvement in bipolar disorders and optimized development
studies, these benefits are often achieved using omega3-rich
fish and flax oil supplements. A more "holistic" approach
consists of shifting our general dietary fat intake towards
nuts and oils offering a better omega-6/omega-3 ratio. Hemp
nut and oil offer an omega6/omega-3 ratio of 3:1 or less, depending
on plant variety. This exceeds the target ratio of 4:1 and compensates
in part for omega-3 deficiencies in the rest of our diet. No
other vegetable oil offers EFAs
at such high concentrations and, more importantly, in such a
desirable omega-6/omega-3 ratio.
also provides significant amounts of the more rare 'super' polyunsaturated
fatty acids, notably gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and stearidonic
acid (SDA). These are not essential themselves, but our body
only naturally produces them from the LA and ALA essential fatty
with GLA and SDA appears to alleviate the symptoms of atopic
dermatitis and other skin diseases in some patients. Clinical
trials of the putative benefits from ingested hemp oil are currently
under way at the University of Kuopio in Finland to assess the
extent of these potential benefits. GLA and SDA content in hemp
seed vary considerably with variety and this needs to be considered
when using hemp oil to treat such symptoms.
typically contains less than 10% saturated fatty acids, and
no trans-fatty acids, which are particularly detrimental to
our blood cholesterol balance. To avoid conversion of polyunsaturated
fatty acids to unhealthy peroxides at higher temperatures, hemp
oil and nut are best used for cold and warm dishes where temperature
is kept below the boiling point (212° F). Hemp oil should
not be used for frying. When using it for light sautéing,
keeping the pan at low heat and with sufficient moisture in
the bottom limits both temperature and the formation of peroxides
and off-flavors. Hemp nut can be lightly toasted and baked in
bread and pastry dough keeping in mind these temperature and
is also of exceptionally high quality in terms of amino acid
(AA) composition and protein structure, the latter affecting
digestibility and utilization by the human body. Hemp protein
contains all of the essential amino acids in more nutritionally
significant amounts and at a ratio closer to "complete"
sources of protein (like meat, milk and eggs) than all other
oil seeds except soy. Hemp protein consists of two globular
proteins, albumin (33%) and edestine (67%), with a structure
very similar to proteins manufactured in our blood and is thus
readily digestible. Hemp protein appears to be free of antinutrients
that are found in soy to interfere with protein uptake. So,
eating hemp seed or nuts delivers protein with a favorable AA
composition and in a structure readily utilized.
advantage over other sources of fats and protein thus lies in
its highly desirable balance of basic nutrients. Simply put,
when eating hemp seed, nut and/or oil, our body obtains much
of what it needs without the caloric ballast of non-essential
nutrients. Yet, unlike fish and flax oil supplements and assorted
protein powders, properly processed hemp seed offers these benefits
with the additional bonus of a nice flavor profile - hemp tastes
good. Fresh cold-pressed hemp oil and hemp nut, particularly
when toasted, add a nice nutty flavor to many dishes and packaged
food products. Hemp nut and oil therefore are attractive both
nutritionally and culinarily, rendering them truly modern food
Benefits of Hemp
results in a 95.5% fuel-to-feed ratio when used for pyrolysis
the thermochemical process that converts organic matter into
* Biomass has heating value of up to 8,000 BTU/lb., with virtually
no residual sulphur or ash during combustion.
* Hemp is the #1 producer of biomass per acre in the world.
Biomass energy expert Lynn Osburn estimates that 1 1/2 to 3
1/2 million acres of hemp would replace all of Canada's fossil
* From 75°/O to 90% of all paper was made with hemp fiber
until the late 1800's.
* An acre of hemp will produce as much pulp for paper as 4,1
acres of trees over a 20 year period.
* The hemp paper-making process requires no dioxin-producing
chlorine bleach and uses 75% to 85% less sulphur-based acid.
* Hemp paper is suitable for recycle use 7 to 8 times, compared
with 3 times for wood pulp paper.
* Hemp produces the strongest, most durable natural soft-fiber
on earth. Until the 1 820's, up to 80% of all textiles and fabrics
for clothes, canvas, linens and cordage were made principally
* Hemp cloth is stronger, more durable, warmer and more absorbent
than cotton. Best of all. ' grown in Canada, cotton cannot.
* An acre of land will produce 2 to 3 times as much fiber as
cotton, about 1,000 Ibs. of fiber per acre.
* Hemp grown in most parts of Canada will require no herbicide,
fungicide or insecticide applications. Up to ½ of all
agricultural pesticides used in North America are applied to
the cotton crop.
* Natural, organic hemp fiber breathes and is recyclable, unlike
petroleum-based synthetic fibers.
* A fully mature hemp plant may contain 1/2 of its dry-weight
* Once hemp seed oil has been extracted, the remaining seed
cake is second only to soya bean for protein content and is
an excellent source of nutrition for either farm animals or
Agricultural Benefits of Hemp
France and Spain have all legalized low THC varieties of hemp
for an agricultural crop. England planted 1,500 acres of hemp
as a first year crop. Reports from England state that farmers
are receiving in excess of 3,000$ per acre for their hemp crop.
* Low THC hemp is not suitable as a psychoactive drug.
* A Canadian report from the late 1800's demonstrated that hemp
works very well in rotation with bean and corn crops.
* In 1991 Ontario farmers receiver 290$ and 240$ per acre for
grain corn and soya bean respectively.
* Hemp was grown successfully in Canada for over 100 years.
For a period in the late 1800's Canada produced 'hi: of all
England's hemp requirements. At kite time, England was the largest
hemp consumer in the world.
* In the 1930's, a South Western Ontario newspaper reported
that Canadian grown hemp was among the best in the world and
far superior to tropical hemp.
* In Canada hemp can be grown successfully from our southern
borders to approximately 60O North Latitude, the parallel that
divides the North West Territories from the provinces. This
remarkable range is possible due to hemp's short growing season,
usually 90 to 110 days.
* The hemp plant will reach a height of up to 5m (16ft.) and
sink a main tap root down 1 ft. This tap root will draw nutrients
from deep in the soil and make them available to subsequent
crops when the hemp leaves are shed on the soil. This extensive
root system also helps to alleviate the problem of soil compaction.
* Hemp is very easy on the soil and returns up to 60% of the
nutrients it takes from the soil, when dried in the field.
* A report from Kentucky states that hemp was grown on the same
land for 14 consecutive years without soil depletion or reduction
* Hemp is very economical crop to grow since it requires virtually
no pesticide applications.
* Hemp is also relatively drought-resistant and has been relied
upon several times during drought-induced famine for its high
* Hemp is very resistant to increased UV radiation and should
not suffer decreased yields, unlike soya bean and corn.
Global Benefits of Hemp
Market for Hemp Products
Partly Excerpted from the 2002/2003 Vote Hemp Report. Gero Leson,
D.Env. is an environmental scientist and consultant with extensive
experience in food and fiber uses of hemp and other renewable