Hemp seed - a treasure trove of essential nutrients

Date: 06.09.2019

''Nowadays, with the emergence of a new "the one" diet every day, when we search for rare exotic plants as superfoods, it may just be the right time to rediscover "super" foods right at our doorstep.''

Majda Povse

Majda Barbara Povše, Ph.D.
Food Technology, Institute ICANNA

Hemp seeds are a true treasure trove of nutrients, so it is no wonder that humans discovered them very early in evolution and carried them around during migration, and as molecular biological analyzes show, spread them around the globe. Nowadays, with the emergence of a new "the one" diet every day, when we search for rare exotic plants as superfoods, it may just be the right time to rediscover "super" foods right at our doorstep.
Hemp seeds are 3 to 4 mm large and covered with a thin shell. The kernels are rich in protein, unsaturated fatty acids, dietary fiber and some vitamins (A, E, B1…) and minerals (magnesium, iron, manganese, zinc…). The shell also contains additional minerals and dietary fiber. On average, unshelled seeds contain 20-25% protein, 20-30% carbohydrates, 25-35% oil, 10-15% insoluble fiber and 2% sugar, they also contain phenols, antioxidants, etc.
Nutrition experts around the world are still today in grave disagreement as to what diet is the right one for humans, but they do agree on three things: the importance of intake of omega-3 fatty acids, vegetable proteins and dietary fiber. And with hemp seeds we can meet exactly these three needs.
Hemp seeds contain essential fatty acids, known as omega 3, 6, and 9. Our bodies are not only able to synthesize these fatty acids, so their dietary intake is essential. Unsaturated fatty acids not only serve as a source of energy, but they also make sure our body functions properly, the growth and development of the brain, the nervous system ... In fact, each our cell is surrounded by such fatty acids. In addition to saturated fatty acids, with the usual modern diet we consume significantly too much omega 6 and too little omega 3 fatty acids. Hemp seeds, however, have a favorable ratio of the these omega fatty acids, namely 3: 1. Fatty acids from seeds are converted into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in our body, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and improve cellular functions. Hemp seeds are therefore an important source of these essential fatty acids for people who do not consume animal fats.
A large proportion of hemp seeds are proteins; seeds contains essential amino acids - those that we cannot synthesize. Hemp seeds are one of the rare plant sources that contains all nine essential amino acids. A unique feature of proteins in hemp seed is that about 65% of all proteins are globular. No other plant foods contain so many. Interestingly, most of the biochemical "work" in our body is done by globular proteins, including enzymes, antibodies, some hormones, serum globulin, fibrogin. Food with a good content of globular proteins provides great building blocks for our biochemistry.
Hulled hemp seeds are also a good source of fiber as they contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. The first forms a gelatinous substance in the gut and serves as food for good bacteria (prebiotic), while insoluble fibers increase the volume of gut contents and allow faster passage of food through the digestive tract.
Hemp seeds, however, are not the source of cannabinoids, although many times there is a misconception about this. Some caution is advisable when using unshelled seeds for other reasons. Namely in addition to vitamins and minerals, the shell also contains some nutrient absorption inhibitors (phytic acid, tannins, saponins, trypsin inhibitors). These substances bind vitamins and minerals in a form that cannot be utilized by the human body. This can be partly avoided by soaking, sprouting and thermal treatment of seeds.
For all the reasons named above and many other, hemp seeds undoubtedly deserve to be included in our daily menu. Excellent chefs and food producers are already skillfully adding them to a variety of foods and bringing consumers attention to this forgotten but rich source of nutrients.


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