Is the hemp plant the world's answer to our dietary and sustainable resource woes?
Its fiber is praised as one of the strongest to make textiles with and its seeds are touted for their oil and complete protein.
But, should we be buying stock in hemp farms? Or, are hemp food products just a fad?
First of all, before all of the anti-marijuana people get fired up, I'm talking about the 2 very low THC producing sub-species of Cannabis. One which has fibrous stems and the other which has oil rich seeds.
Hemp is a highly sustainable crop because it grows fast and requires little to no pesticides or herbicides. However, it does require nutrient rich soil, so fertilizers are normally used.
Non-THC crops are used to make clothes, rope, biofuel, paint, and food products. They have been cultivated for 1000's of years.
Hemp Seed Oil: This oil is cold pressed from the hemp seed and is marketed as a better choice than olive oil. The oil has a light nutty taste and can be used on salads or for cooking. It has a smoke point of 330 degrees Fahrenheit, which is lower than that of olive oil.
It contains less saturated fat than olive oil as well as provides 2.5 grams of omega-3 and 7.5 grams of omega-6. The oil I sampled was "GOOD Original Hemp Seed Oil". They also use this oil to make a line of salad dressings and mayonnaise.
Hemp Protein: This has become a popular choice among vegans as a way to get extra protein their diets. The hemp crop has less environmental impact than the soy crop and I won't even go into the impact the dairy industry places on the environment in oder to produce whey protein.
The downside to hemp protein is that it is more expensive and yields less protein per gram of product. 30g of hemp protein powder yields 15g of protein, while the same amount of whey yields 21g and soy 24g. However, hemp protein powder delivers 8 grams of fiber, while the other two have very little to none. I looked at Nutivia hemp protein for this comparison.
Hemp Milk: This cow's milk alternative is also gaining popularity as yet another way to avoid the cow puss. I recently wrote an article comparing the nutrition of milk alternatives, so I won't repeat that here.
I think any plant that can be grown easily, that's good for the planet, and that has a lot of practical applications should be considered a viable crop. The USA has been reluctant in allowing farmers to grow hemp, so most is imported from China.
Hemp protein is a great option for those that need more protein in their diets, but can't or don't want to use whey or soy. I'm a bit 50/50 on the use of the oil. Although it does have healthy omega-3, it also has quite a bit omega-6. Many nutritionists believe these should be consumed in a balanced ratio.
Perhaps hemp food products will come down in cost as more brands enter the marketplace providing increased competition.
Have you tried hemp protein or oil? What did you think of it?