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5 Great Ways to Include Hemp Seeds in Your Daily Diet

You may have encountered a hemp enthusiast at a jam-band show or a street fair, and maybe were a little taken aback by his sheer, raw passion for this plant. Hemp will save the world, many of these evangelists proclaim! It could transform the economy! You can make anything out of it, clothes, houses, you name it! It's the most complete health food there is! If only it were legal ...

These little seeds pack a nutritional punch and can be eaten so many ways.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Hemp is a variety of cannabis. Hence it's illegal to grow in the U.S., although there is a push on to make it legal to grow industrial hemp with a low content of psychoactive compounds. (And Colorado farmers just harvested their first small, legal crop, thanks to a legalization measure passing there). But it is available in Canada, and hemp seeds, powders and foods made with them are widely available in groceries and health food stores. No, they won't get you high but the health food claims for hemp are largely accurate. (No, you won't be able to fly or leap tall buildings in a single bound).

The seed of the plant is especially high in nutritional value. These little nuggets of nutty flavor contain all eight essential amino acids, complete high-quality protein that's more digestible than protein from other sources, various minerals such as zinc and magnesium, and lots of healthy fatty acids, including alpha-lineoleic acid, a variety of Omega-3 fat, as well as Omega-6. The health benefits are myriad: improved heart health, better digestion and circulation, protection against certain cancers, reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, strengthening the immune system and decreasing inflammation. And there are multiple, easy ways to work them into your diet.

They're delicious and easy to eat as a snack. You can eat a handful of the shelled seeds, as is or toasted, as a snack. And there are many treats available in health food stores or from businesses that specialize in hemp products—healthy "candy" bars that blend hemp seeds with coconut, chocolate, nuts or fruit. There's a so-called "goo ball" available from hemp products outlet Plant Kingdom in Ohio that contains a dizzying array of healthy ingredients including chia seed, cranberry, almonds, organic cocoa nibs, locally grown puffed spelt and much more.

The seeds are also the perfect salad ingredient. Throw a handful on top of your kale, maybe along with some nuts and dried cranberries to add a little crunch and texture and make a big bowl of tasty superfoods for a super-healthy meal. You can also throw a toss some into your smoothie where their soft, mellow flavor blends right in with your other ingredients. You can puree the seeds or get a hemp powder supplement. Either way it's so good for you.

Hemp oil can be used in place of olive oil on your salad, or it can replace flaxseed oil in your smoothie—it's got more nutritional value than either. It's not a cooking oil though, and you'll want to keep it refrigerated to maintain its freshness. Look for cold-pressed organic oil in your local health food store.

Hemp granola cereal for breakfast is a way to get your day off to a flying start. You can also toss some in your oatmeal to give it a nutritional wallop—or grab a hemp bar to take on the road if you're in a hurry. They all have the proteins, healthy oils and amino acids to keep you feeling great and full of energy all day.

Hemp seeds are used to make non-dairy "dairy" products like hemp butter, cheese and milk, a great substitute for the animal-derived versions if you're a vegan. Like soy and rice milk, hemp milk is shelf-stable. Try it if you want to avoid soy (one of the products most likely to contain GMOs) or if you need to steer clear of products containing gluten. It's deliciously creamy, great to drink and great on that hemp granola cereal as well.

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