Newbie guide to hemp foods
In late 2018 we saw a change to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, which at long last allowed hemp seed (and related products) to be sold as food for human consumption. Before this legislation, hemp products in New Zealand we few and far between. If you hunted for them in speciality stores, they often came with a disclosure label stating the product was for the sole purpose of “ANIMAL FEED.” My favourite demonstration of the bizarre legislation at the time was seeing some stores stock the Australian artisan chocolate brand, Pana Chocolate’s Hemp variety in the bath and beauty section of the store, indicating that it was for “eternal use only” … yeah, sure…
Now since the red tap has been lifted off hemp, we’re seeing many hemp products become mainstream. At some local supermarkets, we’re even seeing a section dedicated to hemp-related products. They are popping up everywhere.
Nutritionally, hemp is popular because it’s protein-rich, and for vegetarians, is theoretically a “complete” protein (debatable). It also has a lot of vitamins and minerals. Meaning, it’s “nutrient-dense”. Simply adding 3 tbsp of hemp seeds into a bowl of berries and yoghurt could boost the nutrition quality to provide nearly half of an adult’s daily requirements for zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus as well as several B vitamins. Hemp seed oil also provides the plant-made version of omega 3. Although there’s controversy around whether plant-sourced omega 3 is comparable to animal-sourced omega 3, hemp seed oil is nutrient-dense and probably anti-inflammatory – making it a healthy fat/oil.
Hemp is also thought to have a number of benefits in the sustainability department, however, I’m not an expert on this topic so won’t lay any claims here.
You may have picked up on the hype and sporadically chosen a bag of hemp-something in a recent shop. If you’re stuck on what to do with it, here are some practical ideas for some common hemp products which are now flooding our supermarkets.
Eat them as is.
I know this is the obvious tip. You’ve probably already tried this one and found out that it isn’t a very practical way to eat hemp seeds. Since hemp seeds are so tiny and soft, they’re difficult to eat by the handful as a snack and they stick to your hand. However, if you throw them into grain-free granola or nut mix and store into a snack-size container, you have a delicious protein and healthy-fat rich snack for on-the-go.
Sprinkle them over anything.
Just like you would use any other edible seed (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower), sprinkle them on a salad or over yoghurt. Hemp seeds can add a delicious texture as well as a creamy nutty flavour to sweet or savoury meals.
Hulled hemp hearts blend well into smoothies. With a high-speed blender, they don’t leave any gritty husks or “bits”. Great little protein and healthy fat addition.
Another fantastic use for hemp seeds can be as a creamer. This wonderful Keto Chicken Soup recipe mixes hemp seeds in with cauliflower mash to create a thick and creamy home-style recipe without dairy or starch.
Alternative “milks” tend to be ridiculously overpriced for what they are. To make hemp “milk”, simply blend one or two tablespoons of hulled hemp hearts with water in a highspeed blender. If desired, add a pinch of salt and sweetener and you have a delicious, creamy, dairy/soy/nut-free hemp “milk”. A fantastic option for people with allergies.
Be warned, this “milk” does coagulate with hot drinks.
Hemp seed oil
One thing important to note about hemp seed oil is that because of the high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, this oil can oxidise and lose its quality easily. This means you DON’T want to heat it. Use it as a garnish or dressing on cooked foods or salads.
Both hemp seed oil and hulled seeds can be used in a pesto or blended together to make a creamy green dressing. Hemp seed oil can be easily substituted for olive oil in many pesto and dip recipes. In a pesto, you may also choose to add the hulled hemp seeds mixed in with another nut such as pine nuts or walnuts for the nutty element.
I often recommend that if you’re having a smoothie as a meal (i.e. for breakfast) then it should include a healthy fat and protein source. Hemp seed oil works well in a smoothie as a source of healthy fat because it doesn’t solidify like coconut oil and it doesn’t add a strong taste like peanut butter (if you’re not into that kind of thing). Secondly, for a source of protein, include a few tablespoons of hemp protein powder.
Hemp flour is a little trickier to use. It’s not quite flour and it’s not particularly tasty (in my opinion…). Hemp flour is very fibrous and commonly used as an addition combined with other gluten-free or paleo flours. It’s not a sole replacement for white flour, so best start by following existing hemp flour recipes.
There may also be not a lot of industry consistency, like coconut flour. Meaning the texture and dryness can vary dramatically between brands. I would recommend trailing different rations of hemp flour in a few recipes.
Hemp protein can be a good protein powder choice for vegetarians and for people who don’t tolerate whey, pea, or egg protein. The problem is that it’s average tasting on its own and there are few flavoured hemp protein powders on the market. If you find a delicious one, please let me know.
I also wouldn’t rate hemp protein highly as a post-workout shake. Simply because it’s not very tasty mixed with water, and if you’re looking at optimising muscle protein synthesis, you may be better choosing an animal protein (such as a whey protein shake or eating an egg or meat).
However, hemp protein powder can be a good protein supplement option to add to meals which tend to have lower protein levels such as smoothies, chia pudding, or oats.
NOTE: Be cautious to read the label of hemp flours and hemp protein. They are very different products. Hemp flour is more fibrous and has little protein compared to a dedicated hemp protein powder. Not ideal to be mixing into your smoothie!!!
Thanks for reading and enjoy playing with adding a bit of hemp into your life. You can buy hemp products from hempwellness.co.nz.