An excellent source of protein, rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6, and full of essential fatty acids that have heart health and anti-inflammatory benefits, hemp belongs to the cannabis family. Often, its cousins, such as marijuana, are known to drive harmful effects when consumed. But hemp is unlike the other members. Known to contain dietary fibre, vitamin E and minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulphur, calcium, iron and zinc, hemp is an ally of health and wellness.
The food market is always on the lookout for new and novel treasures that cater to the growing needs of the health-conscious consumer. And highly nutritious hemp is being used in the food manufacturing industry in various ways. According to a research from Innova Market Insights, North America and Western Europe are embracing hemp as an ingredient. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for new products containing hemp has risen by 63% in Western Europe and 31% in North America (2011-2016), while globally it rose by 42% during the same period.
Hemp seeds have higher levels of Omega-3 and Omega-6 compared to olive or sunflower.
HIGH ON HEALTH
Initially mistaken for cannabis as it comes from the same plant, hemp has less than 0.3% of the hallucinogen as compared to marijuana. In the US, however, hemp seeds are considered a Schedule I narcotic, until planted in the soil. After about a few weeks of growth, the fibres of the hemp plant grow long and strong, thus making them suitable for textile and ropes. Traditionally used to make yarn, cloth, paper and shipsail canvas, it is now grown for industrial use such as plastic composites and biofuel.
But when it comes to the kitchen, the seeds are all that you need. Our forefathers claimed it to be as important as grains such as barley, wheat, soy and rice.
Preet Marwaha, executive VP of California-based Planet Hemp, reportedly said hemp has the highest quality protein for the human body due to its structural composition of edestin and albumin protein. Moreover, it is one of the best sources of Omega-3 and Omega-6, delivering the fatty acids in an almost ideal ratio for our body, along with other key nutrients such as iron, magnesium and zinc, he added.
Most recently, the surge in demands for plant-based proteins and alternatives to soy and pea has once again shifted the spotlight to this wonder drug. While it compares to chia seeds and flax seeds that are the popular sources of plantbased proteins among organic and conscious consumers, hemp seeds are known to contain maximum protein per serving versus the other two. It does not have to be ground (like flax) or supplemented with lots of water (like chia) to avail the nutritional benefits, thus making it easier to consume.
With multiple applications across seed, protein powder and coldpressed oil, many companies such as Planet Hemp are pioneering innovative products that capitalise on the nutrient reserves of this cannabis. Likewise, in 2015, NP Nutra, supplier of nutraceautical ingredients, launched NutraProtein Power Blend, a best-selling plant-based protein powder which combines the properties of organic hemp powder
as well as other ingredients such as sacha inchi, brown rice, pea protein and purple corn.
The complete protein derived from hemp is believed to be superior to that obtained from whey, soy or sunflower.
In the US alone, hemp-based sales of products including functional foods and beverages, skincare products and others reached US$688 million in 2016, of which 19% (US$129 million) were in food products, according to a quote by Margaret Gomes, director of Marketing at NP Nutra.
According to Braden Vernon of Hemp Foods Australia, the company is seeing an increase in the demand for hemp-based ingredients in Asian markets such as Japan and South Korea. He said that Hemp Foods Australia is also trying to develop new products, such as muesli bars and cereals, containing hemp seeds for the Asian market.
Terry Memory of 13 Seeds Hemp Farm at Gardners Bay in Tasmania, Australia, is already preparing some six products made from hemp for the conscious market, to be released by this November once the use of hemp for food products becomes legal in Australia. 13 Seeds is already using hemp in skin-care products and this new law will open new opportunities for the company, he concluded.
HEMP IN YOUR FOOD
The small, round and lightly nutty-flavoured seeds can be eaten raw or added to salads, desserts, yoghurts, cereals and bread. They can also be pressed for oil, milled into protein powder, roasted or shelled and made into hemp foods. But that is not where the hemp stops. The application possibilities of hemp are constantly evolving. After pressing the oil, JD Farms — New York’s first legal hemp farm — processes the by-product into hemp flour to make products such as pasta. They have also started cultivating young hemp leaves for salad mixes.
According to Innova Market Insights, cereals, sports nutrition and snacks are the key drivers behind hemp’s application growth and there has been a 76% growth in the bakery category for hemp applications globally, from 2015-2016. Hemp snacks are already doing the rounds at Natural and Organic food shows across the globe.
SAVING THE PLANET
Hemp is not just good for human health but it is equally good for earth’s health too. It is carbon-negative, which means that its production generates no waste and no byproducts, and requires no pesticides either. In addition, it benefits the soil and it is drought-resistant. Beyond food, hemp has more than 50,000 product applications, ranging from cellulose to chemicals and fuels.