Flaxseeds are fine, but lately, I'm excited about hempseeds. They're easier to use (no grinding!), they taste great, they're a complete protein source, and they offer gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) to help balance your omegas.
I’m all for healthy eating—as long as it’s easy and tastes good. Hence my new love affair with hempseeds. I find that most people know about flaxseed, but not necessarily hemp. (Maybe they imagine hempseeds are similar to what they used to dig out before smoking back in college.)
However, if you haven’t yet tried them, I am pleased to report that the hempseeds in your natural products store today (Manitoba Harvest, Navitas Naturals and Nutiva all sell organic, hulled seeds) have a mild, slightly nutty flavor, a tender texture and are great for throwing on just about anything. Here are some more great reasons to work hemp into your diet—with helpful tips from health and nutrition expert Ashley Koff, RD, coauthor of Mom Energy, published this month by Hay House.
Having to pre-grind small batches of flaxseeds before using (so that the body can absorb the nutrients), along with the rather unappetizing resulting powder, have put me off my good intentions to use flaxseeds for years. “All oils and nuts and seeds need some protection,” says Koff. But whole hempseeds are less vulnerable to oxidation than flaxseeds, or ground flaxseed. Already shelled, whole hempseeds directly deliver their nutrients: complete protein, the rare omega-6 gamma-linoleic acid (GLA), and iron.
Hemp is a complete protein source, with zero carbs.
Because it offers protein with the full array of essential amino acids, hemp is actually more comparable to plant-based protein sources such as quinoa and soybeans than it is to flaxseed or chia, says Koff. “You can toss hempseeds or drizzle hemp oil on pasta, or any carb-heavy meal, without adding carbs.” Hemp protein powder also makes a great smoothie addition; unlike many soy or whey proteins, it's usually certified organic, and the process by which the protein is extracted tends to be very "clean," not chemical-intensive, says Koff.
Hemp is a great source of the rare omega-6 fatty acid gamma-linoleic acid, or GLA.
Found in evening primrose oil, borage oil and black currant supplements, GLA is a popular natural remedy for hormone imbalances, such as those that occur during perimenopause, menopause and severe PMS. “Why take these as a supplement when you can get them through food?” Koff asks.
Hemp is eco-friendly.
A hardy, sustainable crop that played a huge role in U.S. and other agriculture in the past, hemp is never genetically modified and is often certified organic, because it grows well without a lot of chemical input and pesticides.
Your body benefits from a whole range of omega EFAs, Koff was kind enough to remind me. So eat hempseeds along with flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts and oils made from these nuts and seeds.
Parting hemp tip: Carry a 2-tablespoon serving of hempseeds in a small container in your purse and dump it onto salads when you eat out. The protein it delivers means you can skip adding tofu, salmon or chicken.