Hemp - Food of the Future
Written and researched by Kyla Sheffield
Hemp is one of the most useful plants on the planet (I would personally go as far as saying THE most useful!). Used for thousands of years as food, fibre, fuel and medicine, it seems as though there is no limit to the potential of this plant. But unfortunately hemp’s potential has been severely limited. This humble plant, so long revered for it’s many uses, has been restricted, condemned, burned and banned by governments for the last 80 years, partly due to fears about its medicinal cousin Marijuana (but that’s another blog!) and partly due to corporate vested interests in competing industries (oil, big pharma, plastics, synthetic fabrics, etc). Due to these fears and imposed restrictions, the hemp industry has missed out on many years of advancement and we the people, have missed out on years of hemp’s many gifts.
Thankfully hemp is now making a resurgence. In many nations that once banned cultivation, including Australia, it is now legal to grow hemp. A burgeoning industry is forming, producing everything from bio plastics, textiles, health foods, cosmetics, natural building materials and more. When compared to cotton, hemp wins hands down, using less than half the water to produce at least twice the fibre that is stronger and more durable, without the need for chemicals (and the added bonus of the seeds). Hemp plastics are extremely strong - way back in 1940, Henry Ford made a body for a car that was lighter than steel but could withstand 10 times the impact without denting, so you can just imagine the potential now.
In terms of paper production, hemp also regenerates much more quickly that trees, and needs less chemicals to grow and to produce the paper. As for fuel, not only can the seeds be pressed into oil and used as biodiesel, the leaves and stalks can also be fermented to produce ethanol! Hemp building materials are already being put to the test in Australia, and if you live near Byron Bay, you can go and learn about hempcrete at the hempfarm (http://www.hempfarm.com.au/hemp-building/)
As a food, hemp has many benefits as a vegan protein source full of balanced omegas and essential fatty acids. Unfortunately, in Australia, hemp food is still not approved for human consumption. In fact, Australia and New Zealand remain the only countries in the world whose governments have not legalised this amazing source of nutrition. Regardless, I will list some of hemp’s nutritional highlights here, as hopefully in the near future, we will join the rest of the world and get to reap the benefits of this amazing food source.
Nutritional Benefits of Hemp Foods:
- 33% easily digestible protein
- All 9 Essential Fatty Acids, plus all 20 non-essential FAs
- High levels Omega 3, 6 & 9, in optimum ratio
- Rare source of GLA (gamma linolenic acid), used to reduce inflammation
- High in Fibre, low in Carbohydrates
- Good source of Phytosterols
- Minerals including Calcium, Magnesium, Iron and Zinc.
- Vitamin E and other antioxidants
- B vitamins including folate
- Heart health, digestive health, skin health
Benefits of Hemp Oil in Cosmetics:
- Absorbed easily into skin
- EFAs replenish dry skin & prevent cell loss (making skin look younger)
- Soothes & heals
Ecological Benefits of Growing Hemp:
- Pest, weed & drought resistant
- Very low water consumption
- No pesticides or herbicides required
- Captures C02 (20 times more than pine forests)
- Highly productive yields (up to 5 times more fibre than cotton, and better quality)
- Multiple outputs from one crop (fibre & food for example)
- In fact, according to Hemp Foods Australia, if Australia replaced its 444,000 hectares of GMO cotton crops, we would save 2 million mega litres of water, produce up to 5 times more fibre as well as enough protein and omega-3 for every Australian for 5 months!
Uses for Industrial Hemp:
- High quality, strong fabric
- Natural Building Material, ‘hempcrete’, hemp straw bale
- Natural wholefoods, superfoods & supplements
More info & resources: