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Staying #HealthyAtHome With Hemp During COVID-19

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

The COVID-19 health crisis has taken the globe by storm. With states issuing shelter-in-place orders, or in Kentucky, “Healthy at Home,” direction, many of us are finding our daily routines disrupted. Whether its work, childcare, or education, we’re having to figure out how to operate under these unprecedented circumstances, oftentimes neglecting what’s most important… our health.

Our mental, physical and emotional well-being should be a top priority. This can be difficult considering the enormous amount of stress and anxiety many of us are experiencing because of this pandemic. Stress and anxiety can weaken the immune system, lowering our body's defenses and creating an environment for illness thrive. Therefore, it is absolutely crucial we take steps to cultivate a healthy lifestyle for ourselves and for those around us.

Hemp products are just some of the many tools that can help you feel and look your best while navigating through daily challenges brought on by the coronavirus. Whether it's incorporating hemp foods into your daily diet, using hemp-infused body products, or taking hemp-derived supplements, the hemp plant can play a powerful role in your new healthy at-home routine. Here’s how:

Whole Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds are produced when the male hemp plants pollenate the females, or when monoecious varieties (containing both male and female sexes) pollinate themselves. The tiny brown seed produced is considered a “superfood,” packed with protein, fiber, and essential fatty acids. Its rich nutritional profile provides a variety of potential health benefits, from antioxidant effects to heart, skin, and joint improvement.

  • Protein | Essential amino acids (EAAs) are the building blocks of protein. They are crucial in the synthesis of muscle growth and the prevention of muscle catabolism as well as mental health. The body cannot produce EAAs on its own, so we must get them through our diets. With all nine EAAs, hemp seeds are considered a complete source of plant-based protein. Hemp seeds are especially rich in an amino acid called arginine, which has benefits for the heart.

  • Healthy Fats | Like EAAs, essential fatty acids (EFAs), cannot be produced by the body. Of particular interest to our health are the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3) and linoleic acid (omega-6). It has been estimated that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the typical Western diet is almost 10:1 due to increased use of vegetable oils rich in omega-6 fatty acids as well as reduced fish consumption. A deficiency in omega-3s could contribute to chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The hemp seed contains the ideal 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 EFAs to help create a better bodily balance. The gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6, found in hemp seeds has also been linked to reducing inflammation, which may decrease your risk of diseases like heart disease.

  • Fiber | Since whole hemp seeds have the outer shell intact, they have significantly more dietary fiber than shelled (hemp hearts). In particular, insoluble fiber. Dietary fiber is important for maintaining digestive health, helping to speed up the elimination of toxic waste through the colon and promote gut health. It also plays a role in lowering your cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Hemp fiber can help curb your appetite and make you feel full, longer, without a significant amount of calories meaning it can help with weight control to help prevent or reduce obesity.

  • Vitamins and Minerals | According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), adult Americans do not typically get enough calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, D, and E. The hemp seed contains significant amounts of phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and Vitamin E, along with iron, sodium, manganese, zinc, and vitamins B1 and B2. These are all vital for achieving optimal health.

Whole hemp seeds are crunchy with a nutty flavor and can be eaten whole, roasted or toasted, and tossed in salt or seasonings. They make a great addition to salads, pasta or quinoa dishes, or multi-seed bread and crackers. Some breweries even use them to make beer. While hemp seeds can be eaten whole, they can also be processed into a variety of by-products that are easily incorporated into foods, body care, or industrial products.

Hemp Hearts (Shelled Hemp Seeds)

Shelled hemp seeds, commonly called hemp hearts, are the soft inner part of the seed with the outer shells removed. They have a light nutty flavor and contain many of the benefits of the whole seed, without the added crunch from the shell. One serving of hemp hearts, approximately three tablespoons (30g), contains about 10g of protein, 11-12g of healthy fats and provides about 50% (210mg) of the daily recommended amount of magnesium. Since the shell is removed, there is significantly less fiber than the whole seed with just 1.2g.

Hemp hearts are the most popular hemp food by-product, and they can nutritionally enhance just about any meal without notice. Typically preferred over whole hemp seeds, the hearts make a great topping on salads, pasta, ice cream, yogurt, pudding, oatmeal, etc. They can also be added to cooked vegetables, falafel, burgers, hummus, pesto, baked goods, and desserts. Hemp hearts can also be used to make hemp butter, hemp milk, and hemp crusts.

Non-Dairy Hemp Milk

While it isn’t a direct by-product of the seed, hemp milk is a delicious plant-based, nut-free alternative to dairy milk. Compared to other non-dairy milks, like soy or almond, hemp is the top pick for calcium content with one 8-ounce serving supplying nearly 45% of the recommended daily allowance. Like hemp hearts, it’s also rich in heart-healthy fatty acids. Since hemp milk is nut-free and produced from a non-GMO crop, it is also less likely to cause allergies or various health issues associated with soy.

Typically made with just two ingredients, hemp hearts and water, hemp milk is easy to make at home and can be enhanced with natural sweeteners or flavors. It has a light nutty taste and sits somewhere between almond and soy milk texture-wise, depending on how much water is added. Hemp milk can be enjoyed on its own, in cereal, smoothies, shakes, or used in place of dairy milk in just about any recipe. Coffee lovers suggest it produces better “latte art” than soy.

Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp oil, not to be confused with hemp extracts or CBD oil, is cold-pressed from the seed. About 49% of the weight of hempseed is oil, comprised of about 76% healthy fats including omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Unrefined hemp oil is a darker green hue with a rich nutty plant flavor. The more refined the oil, the lighter the color and less potent the taste.

Hemp seed oil can be used in food, body care, and industrial products. While it has a relatively low heat tolerance and is not suitable for frying, it’s great in salad dressings, pasta sauces, or marinades. It can also be used as a dietary supplement in place of fish oil. The EFAs found in hemp oil can help decrease inflammation, lowing the risk of heart disease and similar ailments. The gamma linolenic acid (GLA) found in hemp oil may also help symptoms associated with PMS or menopause caused by sensitivity to the hormone prolactin that could be related to low prostaglandin E1 (PGE1). A study showed that women with PMS who took 1g of fatty acids with 210 mg of GLA felt a notable decrease in symptoms.

Hemp oil is commonly used in body products such as soaps, lotions, balms, shampoos, conditioners, and cosmetics. It contains a significant amount of linoleic acid, an essential building block for ceramides which make the skin’s barrier stronger so it can effectively keep water in and irritants out. Its rich fatty acid content provides antibacterial properties and suggests it can aid in skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis and general aging. Additionally, hemp oil can also make industrial products that are better for the planet and our health such as paints, inks, lubricants, and biodiesel fuel.

Hemp Protein (Seed Cake)

Hemp cake, more often referred to as hemp protein, is the by-product of cold-pressing the seeds for oil. The remaining material, comprised of the seed shell and fiber, is then ground and sifted to produce a powder. Sometimes the oil by-product is added to the leftover shell material from the hulled hemp seeds. The hemp protein powder can be further refined and incorporated into a flour.

A 1/4-cup (30g) serving of hemp protein powder contains around 120 calories and 15g of protein, depending on the brand and refinement. While that amount is much less than soy or pea protein powders that can contain up to 90% protein, hemp protein is typically much less refined which accounts for its lower protein content. Hemp protein powder is rich in EAAs with a profile similar to egg whites and soy. However, some studies have shown that hemp has relatively low levels of the EAA lysine, making it a poorer quality option for that nutrient. Animal proteins are typically easier to digest than plant-based proteins, but research shows that 91–98% of the protein in ground hemp seed is digestible, meaning your body can process almost all of the amino acids for muscle repair and maintenance. It is thought that the body breaks down the proteins edestin and albumin quicker, which is what makes it easier to digest.

Most hemp protein powders also contain up to 7–8g of fiber per 1/4 cup (30 g) serving and provide 18–28% of the recommended daily intake. However, they contain varying amounts of fiber depending on whether they were made from hulled or unhulled hemp seeds and whether additional fiber was added. Other plant-based protein powders like soy, pea, and rice contain very little fiber because they are so highly refined. Since most of the healthy fats are concentrated in the hemp seed oil or hull, most of it is removed from the protein powder during processing with the exception of about 10%. A 1/4-cup (30g ) serving has around 3 grams of fat, most of which is unsaturated and excellent for heart health. Since hemp protein powder is less refined than other isolated proteins, it contains more fat than most protein powders. It’s also rich in antioxidants and minerals, especially magnesium and iron.

Hemp protein powder can be added to shakes and smoothies. It can also be incorporated into baked goods. It is very dense and grainy, so it can not replace flour in recipes. However, it can be used to substitute a portion of the amount. For example, if a recipe calls for one cup of flour, you could add 1/4 cup of protein powder and use 3/4 cup of flour instead. Experiment with different amounts and recipes to see what works best!

Hemp-Derived CBD

CBD stands for cannabidiol, one of many cannabinoids present in cannabis. Unlike Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a cannabinoid that induces psychoactive effects, CBD offers many health benefits without the “high.”

Perhaps the strongest evidence for the efficacy of CBD is shown in patients with epileptic syndromes, particularly in children. In numerous studies, CBD was able to reduce the number of seizures, and in some cases, it was able to stop them altogether. In fact, the first FDA approved cannabis-derived medicine for treating these conditions, Epidiolex, contains CBD.

CBD is also commonly used as a treatment for anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders. It may also offer an option for different types of chronic pain. A study with rats showed that CBD applied on the skin could help lower pain and inflammation due to arthritis. Another study demonstrated CBD inhibiting inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat. More human studies should be done to substantiate the claims of CBD for pain control.

The CBD is extracted from the hemp flower using CO2, ethanol, or other solvents to make a tincture that can be made into a variety of products such as capsules, edibles, or topicals. These products can be full or broad-spectrum, which means the inclusion of other cannabinoids such as CBG, CBN, and CBC, or it can be isolated into a pure form. Some users argue that isolated CBD does not produce the desired results of a full or broad-spectrum oil due to the “entourage effect,” meaning that cannabinoids are meant to act synergistically.

Currently, CBD oils derived from the hemp plant are legal in all 50 states and can be purchased over-the-counter. However, the FDA has yet to determine how to regulate these products and could restrict CBD amounts or specific products in the future.

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