For most of us, eating hemp is linked to baked goods and sneaking around. But as of recently, only the former will still apply as hemp was finally approved for consumption in Australia.
While you may be hoping they’ve legalised hash brownies, this isn’t the case. Australian health ministers have given the A-OK to sell hemp seeds and products derived from them, nationwide. While it’s a food so low in THC (the main psychoactive component of cannabis) to have any effect, the new legislation has caused quite a high.
Among those welcoming the decision was Lachie Stuart, founder of Green Path Organics, a pioneering social enterprise specialising in Australian-made hemp food, beverages & nutraceuticals. Known in the industry as the “hemp guru” Lachie has been studying and advocating the plant for years.
“The hemp plant has been misunderstood for a century. It’s the king of all superfoods,” says Lachie. “The squishy, oily seed is a functional food and a nutritional powerhouse that can deliver important health outcomes. By weight, hemp has more protein than fish and eggs combined and it’s also a highly digestible vegan protein, with around 98% bioavailability.”
What this means is that while other food products like soy may seem to be higher in protein, the amino acids found in hemp are more easily absorbed by the body so more protein actually ends up in your bloodstream. Not only this, it’s one of the very few plant foods that contain all essential amino acids (those ones that the body can’t produce on its own), making it a complete protein. It’s no surprise then that Lachie hails it as his vegan protein powder of choice. He uses it twice daily: “2 scoops are added to my morning green banana smoothie to alkalize my body and then 3 scoops are combined with water, nuts, goji berries, seeds and cacao within 20 minutes of my lunchtime workout. In 12 months, I’ve lost over 12 kilos while maintaining strength and increasing energy.”
Protein aside, hemp also contains the perfect balance of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids. “Aside from water content, 60% of our brains is made up of essential fatty acids so hemp could also be considered a brain food because it is very rich in Omega 3, 6, & 9, in an ideal ratio of 3:1. Hemp oil, derived from cold pressing the hemp seeds, is comprised of super long polyunsaturated fats including rare ones such as GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acids). Lastly, hemp contains zinc, iron, copper, magnesium, and manganese that are all required for the body to function properly.”
And it’s versatile. Lachie suggests adding it to smoothies, sprinkling it on fish or using it to top your salads. “Hemp protein is delicious stirred through yoghurts or in juices and hemp oil is fantastic cold but ensure you don’t cook with it as it ruins the nutritional profile.”
Hemp is also a good seed to farm, being durable and water efficient in comparison to most crops. “The primary reason to choose hemp is for sustainability. As hemp grows, it absorbs carbon dioxide right out of the atmosphere, offsetting our harmful emissions,” says Lachie.
Hemp grows in a variety of climates and soil types, it requires less land use than most crops as it can thrive compact and it has an extremely fast growth rate. It also grows similar to a weed (hence the name) and is naturally resistant to most pests, decreasing the need for pesticides.
The battle for hemp approval has been fought for over a decade, with previous attempts being rejected due to concerns that people who consumed hemp could then deliver a positive roadside drug test. But the Consumption Report rendered this virtually impossible.
“People are quite happy to have poppy seeds on their bagels but we don’t associate that with opium, it’s the same thing [as hemp being linked to marijuana]. Tomatoes are widely eaten, but they’re in the same family as deadly nightshade. It’s a misinterpretation of the science, linking plants in the same family but with different properties,” Dr Duane Mellor, associate professor of nutritional science at University of Canberra and spokesperson for hemp wholesaler Hemp Foods Australia told the Huffington Post.
Hemp seeds have a long history of being used in foods and are widely available throughout Europe and North America—Gwyneth Paltrow’s been eating them for years. As with so many things, Australia was late to the party … at least now it’ll be a good one.