I had a client a while back that was looking for some new healthy food ideas. I suggested hemp hearts. She was mildly mortified and said she would be very "uncomfortable" eating hemp. I quickly threw several other suggestions her way -Cashews! Almonds! Walnuts!... I really felt like I offended her (and that I was a raging hippie). But I'm here to tell you that hemp hearts are 100% legal -and thank goodness for that, because hemp's health benefits are positively drool-worthy (and so is this hemp pesto!).
Hemp products, especially hulled hemp seeds (also known as hemp hearts), are an outstanding source of complete vegetarian protein and contain one of the highest and most balanced essential fatty acid profiles of any seed on the planet. Here are 10 healthy reasons to get more hemp in your diet, along with tasty recipe suggestions and a dilly pesto, featuring this mighty, nutrient-packed superfood.
10 Reasons to Eat More Hemp
2. Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs): This comprises 47% of the hempseed’s makeup and delivers the ideal balance of omega-6:omega-3 fatty acids for the human body -3:1.
3. High in Fibre: The high fibre content, along with the hempseed’s high protein content, make this a low-glycemic food.
4. Vitamin E: A potent antioxidant. Hemp seeds contain three times more vitamin E than flaxseeds.
5. Brain Food: Hemp seeds contain lecithin, a powerful brain-supportive nutrient.
6. Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA): An anti-inflammatory, EFA that is known to help balance hormones and promote glowing skin.
7. Mineral-Dense: Hemp contains an abundance of minerals including, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, sulfur, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, iodine, chromium and many more.
8. Detoxifying: Two of the sulfurous amino acids hemp contains, cysteine and methionine, help the liver to better perform its detoxification functions.
9. Sustainable: Hemp seeds are a sustainable source of protein, helping to reduce your impact on greenhouse gas emissions caused by commercial animal farming for protein.
10. Versatile: Hemp can be used in a variety of ways including, body care products using hemp oil (e.g. hemp shampoo), clothing, paper manufacturing, plastic manufacturing, building materials and rope.
As far as brands go, I love Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts. They have a pleasing nutty, slightly “cheesy” taste to them, and blend seamlessly into any recipe, savoury or sweet. You can purchase Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts in the natural health section of most grocery stores, online, at health food stores or at Costco (which is where I get mine -best deal ever!).
How to Cook with Hemp
Hemp oil (usually sold as hemp seed oil) can be used as a salad dressing or added to a smoothie or juice. It's an unstable oil, so it's best not to expose it to direct heat. Hemp oil benefits are limited to it's rich EFA complex. It doesn't contain protein, like hemp seeds do.
Hemp hearts (hulled hemp seeds) can be sprinkled anywhere for extra nutrition, flavour and texture. Add them atop a salad, in oatmeal, blended in a smoothie, added to muffins and more.
Hemp milk is very simple to make, using the same technique as this homemade almond milk from a past post.
Hemp protein powder is a plant-based protein powder, that can be added to any beverage for everyday nutritional insurance, or used as a post-workout recovery supplement.
Hemp pesto is also an option. I made a “dill-icious” pesto with hemp hearts and fresh dill. I love to have pasta at least once a week, and like to switch up my sauces. I tossed the dill pesto with gluten-free brown rice noodles, but it’s equally as delicious with zucchini noodles, used as a condiment for a veggie burger, or simply drizzled over roasted vegetables. This tasted very Greek-inspired with the dill, but if you're not a fan of dill, feel free to use any other fresh herb you like.
For a tutorial on how to cook brown rice pasta like a pro, along with another delectable vegan pasta sauce (my favourite omega-3-packed, Vegan Bolognese!), see my past post here.