Edible hemp is the darling of the health-food world for delivering high amounts of protein and omega fatty acids without cholesterol. But, we know what you’re thinking: Will hemp seeds and their derivatives (hemp milk, oil and protein) give you a bad case of the late-night munchies? The answer is no.
Hemp will, however, power-pack your smoothies, salads, cereals and yogurt with all nine essential amino acids, omega-3 and omega-6 fats and fiber, helping you feel full and satisfied. It’s also high in magnesium to help control blood pressure and balance blood sugar — a great asset to help you feel full longer. It’s also gluten free.
As a food, hemp’s nutty (yet nut-free) flavor is usually consumed one of four ways: as a seed (that’s delicious when toasted), milk, oil or protein powder — essentially any way you would normally enjoy flax seeds or almonds. If you’re pressed for time in the kitchen, there are tons of hemp-based snack foods on the health food store shelf, ready-to-eat.
Seeds are the most common way to enjoy hemp’s delicious flavor, crunchy texture and health benefits. The hard, outer shell of the seed is removed to reveal the inner kernels (also called hemp hearts), which are tender and soft. The hemp seeds can be eaten as-is, lightly toasted in a frying pan to bring out their nutty flavor or sprinkled into blended drinks, granola and yogurt. Hemp seeds are also delicious as a coating on chicken, fish or tofu — dipped first into beaten eggs, then pan fried.
Try to buy hemp seeds fresh. Read the sell-by date on the bag and buy product that’s been kept away from bright light. Store hemp seeds in a cool, dark place at room temperature for 3-4 months, or refrigerated or frozen up to a year. These potent orbs can go rancid, so give old hemp seeds a sniff before eating.
Hemp milk is a dairy-free beverage made similarly to almond or rice milk. Soak about 1/2 cup of hemp seeds in a quart of water overnight. Blend it for a couple of minutes, ideally in a high-speed blender, then strain well and serve. You can also buy hemp milk in many health food stores. Use it on your cereal, in your coffee or for making pancakes as you would regular milk.
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HEMP SEED OIL
Made from pressed hemp seeds, hemp seed oil contains the most essential fatty acids of any other nut or seed oil, including olive oil. A word of caution, though: Don’t cook with hemp seed oil as high temperatures destroy its nutritional benefit. Keep it in the refrigerator and drizzle it over cooked meat, vegetables, tofu, beans or pasta. It’s also a great addition to crisp salads and crunchy popcorn.
HEMP PROTEIN POWDER
What’s left behind after pressing hemp seeds for oil? All of the fiber and more, which is used to make hemp protein powders. Protein powders made from hemp are a popular choice for smoothies, as they mainline all of the plant’s nutritional impact into a convenient, vegan food. Many hemp powder brands beat powdered whey protein in carbohydrates and fiber, making it a more complete food. As with hemp seeds and hemp milk, it’s rich in protein and all 20 amino acids, including essential fatty acids.
Not matter how you buy it and eat it, hemp is an intoxicating way to fill up on beneficial nutrients and a convenient way to consume your fiber.