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Nutrition's Top Seed

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This time next year a jar of hemp seed could be a respectable kitchen staple, nudging the rolled oats in your pantry cupboard - and giving chia and flax seeds some stiff competition in the health food stakes.

Although hemp seed in muesli bars, breakfast cereal - or even ice cream - wouldn't raise eyebrows in the US, Canada or Europe, its use as a food is currently banned in Australia. But this could change in the next few months if a new proposal to overturn the ban is approved by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) — a move that's backed by the Dietitians' Association of Australia.

"As good foods go hemp seed is a rock star. It has a lot to offer and it would be a shame not to have it here," says Accredited Practising Dietitian Camey Demmitt who was surprised to find no hemp seed on the menu when she moved to Australia from the US four years ago. A major benefit of hemp is that it's a way of getting extra omega-3 fatty acids back into diets dominated by omega-6 fats, says Demmitt, a member of the DAA.

"One of the problems with a typical western diet is that it includes an over abundance of processed foods which tend to be high in omega 6 fats - but not enough omega-3 fats from foods like oily fish, walnuts and flax seed. But hemp seed provides another good source of omega-3 fats that's very easy to add to the diet — and it's also a sustainable plant source at a time when there are concerns about over-fishing," she points out.

In case you need reminding about the skewed ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in our diet it goes something like this. It's not that omega-6 fats are bad for us - just that our modern food supply is so over supplied with them that it's easy to eat too many of them. This can result in a ratio of 20 to one in favour of omega-6 fats, instead of the World Health Organisation's recommended ratio of four to one — an imbalance that's been linked to a range of health problems including asthma and depression.

But what else makes hemp seed a standout, is that it's also a rare food source of a fatty acid most of us have never heard of — GLA (short for gamma linolenic acid) that works as an anti-inflammatory, according to Demmitt. Emerging research suggests it may be useful for problems like eczema, allergies and rheumatoid arthritis.

"Hemp seed is also one of the few plant foods — soy is another - that provides all the amino acids that make up a complete protein. This makes it a great food for anyone who doesn't eat animal foods," she says.

It's also high in vitamin C and E, is a source of B vitamins, iron and magnesium and it contains both soluble and insoluble fibre. Unlike flax seed, which needs to be ground in order to digest its nutrients, you can also eat hemp seed whole.

What about the taste? Similar to pine nuts. And the oil makes a good salad dressing, she adds.

In case you were wondering, munching a hemp-spiked muesli bar isn't quite the same as eating a hash cookie. While hemp and marijuana are from the same plant Cannabis sativa, they're different varieties and, according to FSANZ, hemp seed contains little or no tetrahydrocannabinol - or THC, the active ingredient that gets smokers stoned — and has no psychoactive properties.

So if it's so blameless — and nutritious - why was a previous attempt to let us to eat hemp rejected in 2002? Because of concerns that making hemp foods available would "increase consumer acceptance of illicit Cannabis use and pose problems for drug enforcement agencies," FSANZ says.

Do you include seeds in your diet? Would hemp seed find a place in your pantry if the ban were lifted?


News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: smh.com.au
Author: Paula Goodyer
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: Fairfax Media
Website: Hemp seeds are the rock stars of health food
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