There seems to be a seed revolution happening on supermarket shelves these days. Everything from breakfast cereals to granola bars to yogurts has chia and flax in them. And now, the latest super sexy seed is hemp.
It may be fairly new trend-wise, but hemp seeds actually have been around for millennia. Though it’s currently illegal to grow it in the U.S., that wasn’t always the case: George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew it.
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So, why’s it banned? Hemp is related to marijuana (the two plants belong to the same genus, Cannabis Sativa), but unlike marijuana, you can’t get high on hemp. Though it contains a trace amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound in marijuana that makes you high, there isn’t anywhere near enough in hemp to get that result. Eating hemp also won’t cause you to fail a drug test (though if you’re in the U.S. Air Force, we didn’t tell you to eat it.)
Now you know what hemp doesn’t do, what’s it good for?
Hemp is protein-rich and it’s full of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It’s a good source of fiber. And it’s loaded with minerals such as zinc and magnesium.
What do I do with it?
There are many ways to enjoy hemp seeds. Here are some of my favorites:
In smoothies. Add a couple of tablespoons of hemp seeds ($14 for 12 ounces, amazon.com) to your smoothie instead of nut butter to get the protein and fiber boost with a neutral flavor. Great for anyone with a nut allergy. It also comes in powder form ($23 for 32 ounces, amazon.com) if you prefer that for smoothies.
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On salads. Toss a tablespoon or two on top of salad right before serving for a bit of texture and mildly nutty flavor. Similar to what you might do with sunflower seeds. It’s also a nice addition to pasta salads.
As a topper. Sprinkle hemp seeds on top of a pilaf or other side dish to give it more texture and a nutritional boost. Or, try it on yogurt or oatmeal.
As a spread. Again, perfect for people with nut allergies. Grind up a cup of hemp seeds with 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil, a tablespoon or two of honey or maple syrup and a big pinch of salt. A neutral type of oil like grapeseed works well, or go crazy and use hemp seed oil ($13, amazon.com). Use the finished product as you would any nut butter: on bananas or apple slices, in a sandwich, licked off a spoon. (Oops, did we say that?)
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In granola. I love to make homemade granola, and now I toss in some hemp seeds to give it something extra. With such a mild flavor, it goes well in all of my favorite recipes.