Green Light for Hemp Foods

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The future of human nutrition just upped the ante with a brand new superfood now in the final stages of legislation. Hemp in it’s various forms from seeds, to oils and powdered proteins are currently consumed in every country outside of Australia and New Zealand. We are now officially joining the party down under.

But, don’t get the wrong idea; it’s not that kind of party.

So why is hemp ‘super’? We know the Cannabis sativa plant contains a compound called THC - the bit that gives users a ‘high’ - but it’s super status has nothing to do with this. In fact, the amount of THC in hemp foods is negligible, which means it absolutely won’t have that effect.

Hemp foods are actually super nutritious. Most plant foods are missing certain amino acids and as a result, cannot be classed as a complete protein. Hemp foods, on the other hand, are high in all 20 essential amino acids as well as important omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, gamma linoleic acid and fibre. This means the protein profile is able to be utilised efficiently in the body and provide building blocks for a wide range of biological functions such as muscle repair, immune function, liver detoxification and neurotransmitter synthesis. The seeds themselves (called Hemp Hearts) are particularly nutrient dense, containing up to 25% protein and 30% fat as well as Vitamin E and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc.

While the rest of the world has devoured all this nutritious goodness in public, Australians have been forced to eat their hemp ‘in the closet’ so to speak. Despite labels that say ‘Do Not Eat’ many Australians are, in fact, already likely eating hemp. And companies are making and selling hemp containing products that well... look good enough to eat. You can buy hemp protein (for animals), hemp oil (for topical use only) and hemp seeds (for body scrub) in a number of high quality products. And to be quite honest, it would be very hard not to eat them up when faced with the deliciousness on display. Pana Chocolate, for example, has a Hemp and Nibs flavoured bar. It says it’s a bath bar. Heck. We think they could have easily added a ‘wink’ emoticon to the packaging right there. Do what you want with your chocolate people, but don’t throw it down the drain.

The seeds have a mild, nutty flavour and a light, creamy texture lending themselves well to a ‘nut butter’ style spread and recipes where a softer mouth feel is preferred. I might admit to the fact that I’ll eat hemp myself, as soon as the legislation changes. Until then, it’s all about the body scrub.

According to recent reports, we are about 6 months away from a final change in regulations. And from that point onwards we are moving into a new future, opening the door to not only a brand new realm of optimised nutrition products but also the economic growth that a new highly sustainable crop will give us an opportunity to take part in.

With all the hoo-ha and legislation dragging on for decades now, the question we might ask is have Australia and New Zealand been too slow and missed the boat? As far as bio-science goes, we quite realistically do have some catching up to do. The University of Saskatchewan in Canada already produces hemp protein that is 65% bioavailable compared to 35% for most other common brands. And Canada along with the USA and Europe have been growing and eating hemp, adding it to packaged cereals and leveraging the FMCG (Food Manufacturing Consumable Goods) market potential for years. Once we’ve got this legislation sorted, we better ensure we are making products that are globally competitive.

Without knowing what the future holds and where we will develop this market, I’m personally excited to see Australia and New Zealand embracing this at last. Hemp seeds (the ones I ate in Canada) are pretty delicious and I do love a little hit of healthy fats in my morning smoothie.