Edible products made from hemp seeds

Date: 13.03.2020

''The old saying of Hippocrates: Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food is especially true for hemp oil.''

Matjaž Kološa

Matjaž Kološa
Nutrition consultant, educator, IC Pyramid Maribor and Matjaž's cookery s.p.

The supply of hemp seeds and edible products made from them have only appeared in the last twenty years, so the use of hemp in the kitchens at home or in diverse public establishments and restaurants has mostly not yet found its rightful place.

Certainly, the price of hemp seeds is not a negligible contributing factor.

In Slovenia, the first hemp seed product was hemp seed oil, which can be prepared using larger or smaller oil presses.

Hemp oil is slightly nutty in flavor, has a typical hemp aroma, and has a golden green color due to  chlorophyll and carotenoids. The high content of naturally occurring antioxidant vitamin E offers protection against oxidation of present unsaturated fatty acids.

The old saying of Hippocrates: Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food is especially true for hemp oil. The oil contains all the essential fatty acids - especially omega-3 (ALA) and even gamma linolenic (GLA) - which are strongly lacking in modern diet. These fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects and thus counteract many of the inflammatory processes that occur in the body as a result of lifestyle. The chronic occurrence of inflammatory processes, also stimulated by foods containing omega-6 fatty acids, can lead or strongly contribute to many of the known civilizational diseases, such as arthritis, parodontosis, chronic bowel inflammation, arteriosclerosis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and more.

Essential, especially omega-3 fatty acids, due to their chemical properties, are highly unstable, reactive and can be broken down quickly by oxidative degradation and the resulting rancid products are damaging to the body. Therefore, such oils (including linseed, walnut, camelina) are to be filled into smaller dark bottles, after opening, refrigerated and consumed in a short time. They are by no means to be used for heat treatment of dishes, as they produce trans fatty acids at high temperatures. So we use them for salads, cold dishes, and maybe just as an addition to foods just before serving them.

After pressing of the oil, the remaining degreased unhulled seeds are called hemp seed cake and many oil producers make hemp flour from it. The hemp seed cakes are ground and then sieved to remove coarse husks. Hemp flour contains all the hemp proteins and can be used as a supplement to conventional flours in the preparation of various bakery or confectionery products and as a protein supplement for the preparation of beverages, shakes and similar products for athletes.

Unhulled seeds are not commonly used in foods because of the hard shells and the many anti-nutrients they contain (phytic and oxalic acid, tannins, trypsin inhibitors, cyanogenic glycosides, saponins, etc.). Anti-nutrients have a negative effect on the metabolism of certain nutrients, but fortunately also have some healing effects. One of the most well-known anti-nutrients is phytic acid and its salts - phytates that bind minerals to compounds that our body cannot absorb. Anti-nutrients can be more or less effectively removed by soaking seeds, heat treatment and, of course, hulling.

Hulled hemp seeds, which are slightly nutty in taste and are suitable for adding to many dishes, are most suitable for food. They are a real nutritional bomb, containing as much as 48% high-quality fat, most of which are polyunsaturated fatty acids, 25% proteins, 8% carbohydrates - only 2% sugars - and 7% fiber. From the minerals there is plenty of magnesium, zinc, iron and potassium, while the abundant vitamins are B-complex and vitamin E.

Hemp seeds are considered to be a very non-allergenic food and in addition to high-quality fats, they are famous for their high-quality and easily digestible proteins that contain essential amino acids for humans. Thus, hemp seeds are an ideal source of protein, especially for athletes, pregnant women, children and basically everyone.

We do not need to be a master chef's to use hemp seeds and oil in our kitchen, the basic rule is: less is more. To make it even more simple, use hemp seed oil or hemp seeds on already prepared dishes before serving. The hemp seeds can be used for example as a substitute for parmesan for sprinkling on dishes. Thermal treatment of hulled seeds is not necessary, in fact we lose a lot. By heat we destroy the nutritional value of the seeds, and because of the mild taste of the seeds, we gain practically nothing.

Hemp seeds can also be used to make a hemp drink-a milk substitute with no heat, as well as cheese substitutes by curdling.

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