There’s a lot of new hemp food products being released in Australia, but what sort of hemp foods are these? Are they legal? Are they safe? Do they have any nutritional value? If you choose to use them, how should you use them? I’ve done some research and interviewed leading nutritionist and chef Zoe Bingley-Pullin to get the low down on this trending health food.
Why the recent hype around hemp foods in Australia?
It was only in November 2017 that food products derived from hemp were approved for commercial sale in Australia, following changes to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.
Are you talking about hash brownies here, or what type of food is hemp food?
None of us will be giggling or off on another planet with the hemp food we are talking about here! Whilst hemp is part of the cannabis family, a study by Swinburne University (which actually prompted the change in the code) found it to be highly unlikely that the consumption of low-THC hemp foods would result in positive THC readings from oral fluid, urine, or blood tests. THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol – that’s the mind-altering chemical compound in cannabis. Hemp has been used for food products in Europe and North America for decades.
What are the nutritional benefits?
Nutitrionist and Chef Zoe Bingley-Pullin said, “Hemp seeds are a good source of protein, they contain all three of the essential fatty acids (Omega 3, 6 and 9) needed for the human body to function and they also contain dietary fibre which can aid digestion.”
“Hemp seeds are one of the best kept secrets for healthy eating. From a nutrition point of view, the amino acids help with healing and repair of our muscle and tissue and essential fatty acids support the function of all our cells. They are also packed full of fibre to assist with healthy digestion. They really are the little pocket rockets of the food world,” said Ms Bingley-Pullin.
Hemp is described as a bioavailable protein. What does this mean?
“This means the protein is readily digested and the amino acids are absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream,” says Margaret Allman-Farinelli, Professor of Dietetics from the University of Sydney’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences and Charles Perkins Centre in an interview with the publication Good Food.
She went on to say, “The other important property about the protein is the amino acid score. The more essential amino acids – that is, those that the body cannot synthesis and must come from the diet – the higher the score. Hemp seeds have quite a good amino acid score but not as good as eggs, beef, soy protein isolate, chickpeas or kidney beans.” I interpret that as meaning hemp seeds are not about to replace the whole protein aspect in your meal, but still have quite a high level of easily absorbed protein and amino acids. So they’re a great way to supplement other protein sources in a meal.
What does it taste like?
Zoe said, “It tastes good. It has a mild earthy, nutty flavour.”
Is it worth the investment?
Hemp seeds are still pretty expensive. They are about twice the price of chia seeds. However, they offer slightly different nutritional benefits. For that reason, I think using them as part of a balanced diet is key here. I’m of the opinion that your health is your greatest asset, so investing in something that supports that is always worthwhile. If you want to make sure you are reaching all your nutritional needs with your food intake, I recommend booking into your local dietitian.
How can you incorporate it into your diet?
Now this is the exciting part, especially for someone like me that loves being creative and cooking healthy meals. Due to its flavours and nutritional elements, you can use hemp similarly to the way you would use any nut or seed.
Just like nuts, you don’t need a lot, as they are quite nutrient dense. Be mindful to stick to a serving, and not overindulge on them!
“Hemp seeds are the perfect addition to your family’s pantry because they are incredibly nutritious and also taste fantastic! My daughter Emily loves my hemp banana pancakes, and they are really simple to whip up, so we can do it together. I’m really thrilled the Thompson’s Hemp range is now available in Australia.” You can purchase it at pharmacies and health food stores.
Zoe also explained, “The lipids [fats] are good to blend in. For example, instead of dairy, combine cashews and hemp seeds in the food processor then you can dollop it on salmon or thin out with olive oil and vinegar.”
Zoe also recommended, “Add it to vitabrix for breakfast, or in smoothies and soups to boost up nutrients. You can use the hemp protein powder to replace flour used in traditional recipes.”
Zoe Bingley-Pullin’s favourite hemp recipe, Hemp Banana Pancakes
- 1 Banana
- 1 Egg
- ¼ cup Thompsons Hemp Seeds
- ¼ cup Thompsons Hemp Wholefood powder, unflavoured
- Pinch of Tumeric and Cinnamon
- In a large bowl, mix together the banana, Thompsons Hemp Seeds, Thompsons Hemp Wholefood Powder and spices.
- Make a well in the centre and pour in egg. Mix until smooth.
- In a medium sized pan, heat oil and drop 1 tbs of batter into the pan.
- Cook the pancakes on each side for 2-3 minutes and flip.
- Add toppings such as coconut yogurt, mixed berries and a sprinkle of Thompsons Hemp Seeds.
Have you tried hemp foods? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!
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