In many circles, hemp tends to have a negative connotation, due solely to its association with marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are both products of the cannabis plant, which means that the association does have merit. However, there are several notable differences between hemp and marijuana. Marijuana leaves are high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that produces the psychoactive effect that marijuana consumption provides.
Hemp, on the other hand, is very low in THC and is most often used for industrial purposes (such as the creation of fabrics, paper, plastics and more) more than for any type of consumption. Cannabis plants are also cultivated and bred differently depending on their intended use. Most marijuana plants are female, produced to emphasise flowering buds. Hemp plants, meanwhile, tend to be male and don’t have the flowers or buds. These different growing techniques drastically affect the THC content of the plants.
As a result, cannabis plants grown to produce hemp have THC levels of about 0.3%. For comparison’s sake, a cannabis plant cultivated to produce high-quality marijuana might have THC levels as high as 30%. This drastic difference should eliminate any concerns about hemp being a drug or a drug-related crop.
Although the primary use for hemp is for industrial purposes, it does have nutritional applications. Indeed, hemp can and does serve as a food source for both humans and animals. Moreover, it has significant nutritional benefits that many people are not aware of – benefits that make it worthwhile adding to your diet.
Most often, if using hemp as a food source, the form it will take is hemp seeds. You can purchase hemp seeds in both plain and shelled varieties. Hemp seeds with their shells are hard and crunchy, while shelled hemp seeds are considered to taste a bit better and be easier to eat. These two different varieties of seeds also have slightly differing nutritional benefits. With their shells, hemp seeds are a terrific source of insoluble fibre, which is vital for digestion and proper gastrointestinal function. Without their shells, hemp seeds lose some of that fibre but are higher in protein content.
Hemp seeds are the most common form of hemp-related food. However, the seeds can sometimes be made into other foods or ingredients as well, such as cooking oil or hemp protein (which is good for protein shakes).
Now that we’ve addressed how you can incorporate hemp into your diet, let’s consider the bigger question: why? What benefits are to be gained from eating hemp seeds – or, to a slightly lesser extent, cooking with hemp oil or hemp flour? Below, we have outlined ten of the core benefits – as well as why each advantage is important for both your short-term and long-term health.
Clearly, hemp seeds (and other food products produced using hemp seeds) are extremely nutritious and highly beneficial. Whether you are looking to lose weight, avoid afternoon or late-night food cravings, improve your digestive function or protect yourself from common health problems, hemp seeds are a worthy addition to your daily diet.
Due to their association with marijuana (and the resulting negative connotation), hemp seeds are not typically available at a conventional supermarket. If you want to buy hemp seeds – either to see how you like them or to start reaping their health benefits – you would be better off checking your local organic food market or health store. The proprietors of such establishments are usually more likely to be aware of the considerable health benefits of hemp seeds – as well as their detachment from marijuana as a drug.
With that said, if you can’t find a store in your area that stocks hemp seeds – or if you think the prices at your local health store are higher than they should be – you can always check online. Websites like HealthySupplies.co.uk and The Hemp Shop sell hemp seeds on the Internet. By shopping online, you can find hemp seeds in bulk quantities and usually for lower prices than you would pay at a local organic foods store.
Before you start adding hemp seeds to your diet, you should be aware of a few minor possible side effects.
Firstly, by adding hemp seeds to your diet, you are also increasing your intake of polyunsaturated fat. This type of fat is good for you but can lead to mild diarrhoea – especially if your body isn’t used to it. In most cases, you can avoid any significant symptoms by starting small with your hemp seed intake and gradually increase it over time.
The other drawback or side effect of eating hemp seeds relates back to the THC content of the cannabis plant. While hemp seeds should not include enough THC to create any sort of high, there is a possibility that ingesting a lot of hemp seeds over a short period could create trace levels of THC in your body. If you are required to take drug tests for work, sports, or any other reason, there is a slight possibility that the THC content of hemp seeds could cause you to fail a drug test.
For the most part, though, these side effects tend to be minor and rare. In any case, the significant health benefits of hemp seeds should greatly overshadow the few drawbacks.
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