Like many nutritionists, Steve Billig takes issue with the term “super food.”
“We live in a culture where people say, ‘Just tell me what the best thing to eat is, or tell me the top three,’” says Billig, who founded the Vegetarian Nutrition Center in Denver. “But that’s not the way nutrition works, as one of the tenets of healthy eating is variety.”
He adds that there is only one food that, on its own, can provide a human with complete nutrition: mother’s milk … for infants.
But what about hemp, the latest “it” snack among super-food proponents?
“What a super food is, is a food that is nutrient-dense,” Billig says. “Hemp is a first-class, nutrient-dense member of the seed family.”
Yes, hemp seed — the soft-textured, shelled byproduct of the low- or no-THC cannabis plant — is rich in protein and essential fatty acids like other so-called super foods such as blueberries and salmon. When Billig helps vegans and vegetarians design a wholesome diet, he counts hemp seed along with flax seed as a piece in the food-group puzzle. “A variety of nuts and seeds, including hemp, is the foundation for a good diet,” he says.
But this is a considerably more measured take on the benefits of eating hemp seed than the growing list of food entrepreneurs who have become hemp devotees.
“The body is this amazing factory,” says Tara Miko Grayless, owner of the organic, vegan, gluten-free and GMO-free food company Happy Hemp. “With all its cogs and whistles well-oiled, (the body) can do what it’s supposed to do. Hemp seed is the oil to your factory.”
Grayless speaks and writes often about a time in her life when stress, depression, insomnia and chronic digestive issues sent her looking for food solutions. She was at first skeptical of hemp, because she had yet to learn just how different the hemp plant is from its cousin marijuana. But once she began cooking with hemp seeds, she was hooked.
“You’ve got Omega 3, 6 and 9, and it actually has more protein than meat, fish or tofu, which I was shocked to hear,” says Grayless, who now goes by the moniker Ms. Hemp and provides recipes for the ingredient through her blog and website. “This is essentially a food that you don’t have to do anything to, and it tastes good. It’s got this amazing, moist warm flavor like sunflower seeds or pine nuts. You basically just want to eat it right out of the bag!”
Grayless is but one of the people who now count hemp seed as essential to eating and living well. What follow is some more information about her product as well as two other hemp seed options; prices will vary and do not include shipping.
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Happy Hemp: The packets of raw or toasted hemp seeds from this company based in Austin, Texas, are great for cooking or on-the-go eating. According to Happy Hemp’s website: “Happy Hemp elevates any meal to super-food status by adding nutty goodness and a healthy dose of protein, fiber, and essential amino and heart healthy fatty acids to any meal.” The company also sells a stylish and spacious hemp-fabric tote.
Prices begin at $6 for a 2-ounce packet at happy-hemp.com. Available in Denver at Nooch Vegan Market.
Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts: “In 1995, I was unhealthy and unhappy,” writes Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods co-founder Mike Fata. “Then, a friend introduced me to hemp foods. … Before long, I had enough natural energy to climb a mountain.” His company’s raw, shelled Hemp Hearts are larger than some of the other tiny hemp seeds out there. Hemp Hearts are recommended for salad, cereal and yogurt.
$6.99 for an 8-ounce bag at Natural Grocers; read more about this company and its array of hemp foods at manitobaharvest.com. Available in the Denver metro area at Whole Foods Market, Natural Grocers Vitamin Cottage, Sprouts Farmers Market and Vitamin Shoppe.
Hippie Butter: In addition to selling snackable seeds, this company also produces hemp seed shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, massage oil and moisturizing cream. For the kitchen, Hemp Seed Cooking Oil and Hemp Seed Flour are also part of the Hippie Butter line.
Various hemp seeds cost about $7 for a 4-ounce packet at hippiebutter.com