Hemp Seeds: Classification and Nutritional Value

Hemp seeds, often overlooked and considered a "poor" product, have recently gained prominence, especially in plant-based diets. Today, they are recognized for their nutritional properties and are considered a valuable food supplement.

What are Hemp Seeds?

Hemp seeds are small, brown seeds, also known as hemp hearts, of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. Despite belonging to the same species as cannabis (marijuana), hemp is a different variety and is grown for non-drug uses. Hemp seeds are highly nutritious and have numerous health benefits. They can be consumed in various forms: whole or hulled, raw or cooked, whole or powdered, as oil or in other processed products.

Understanding Hemp Classification

The categorization of hemp has long been a subject of discussion. Initially, it was thought that hemp consisted of several species. However, current understanding suggests that the variations seen in hemp are not separate species, but rather different subspecies or varieties within the same species. Hemp seeds, which are edible, come from a plant in the Cannabis genus, part of the Cannabaceae family.

Classifying hemp can be intricate, as it involves distinguishing between species, subspecies, or varieties, depending on the criteria used. Hemp plants are diverse, each with its own distinct characteristics. Some varieties are noted for their narcotic effects, which arise from compounds called phytocannabinoids found in their buds, leaves, seeds, and flowers. These compounds are psychoactive, affecting the mind or behavior.

In contrast, other hemp varieties are cultivated for non-narcotic purposes. They are used in making textiles, producing oils, and as feed in agriculture. Additionally, some hemp types are being explored for their potential in the biofuel industry. This versatility makes hemp a plant of significant interest across various sectors.

Hemp Seeds in the Diet

Hemp seeds can be considered an intermediate food between dried fruit and cereals. Like wheat, barley, oats, etc., hemp seeds can be consumed on their own (hulled or whole) and can be incorporated into various recipes.

Cold "pressing" of hemp seeds yields a vegetable oil with a taste similar to that of hazelnut. This oil is highly susceptible to rancidity and must be stored in the refrigerator. The leftover from the extraction process can be used to produce flour or feed.

Hemp seeds can also be used in the formulation of more complex products such as tofu, seitan, or some beverages.

Nutritional Properties of Hemp Seeds

The nutritional content of hemp seeds is similar to that of achenes. The caloric intake is mainly provided by lipids, but the protein fraction also seems quite significant; carbohydrates are essentially complex. The fatty acids (about 35% of the weight), contained in hemp seeds, are mainly polyunsaturated (2/3 of the total); furthermore, the share of "essential" lipids (ω3 and ω6) and vitamin E is remarkable.

The proteins in hemp seeds, unlike most vegetables, are not only abundant (≥20% of weight) but also have a good biological value. This is particularly important as one of the most controversial characteristics of the vegan diet is the deficiency (or inadequate ratio) of essential amino acids.

The fibers contained in hemp seeds are abundant and are even more so in unhulled, therefore whole, seeds. This nutritional component is very beneficial for the proper functioning of the intestine, for the regulation of absorption, and for the prevention of colon tumors.

Hemp seeds also contain a good vitamin profile, although detailed information on precise quantities is not known.

In conclusion, hemp seeds are a versatile and nutritionally rich food that can be a valuable addition to any diet. Their unique combination of proteins, fatty acids, and fibers make them a powerful tool for promoting health and wellbeing.

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The Wellyme Team

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