As published for Triathlete Magazine in my column “Singletrack Mind” as Getting To The Heart Of Hemp- I have been enjoying hemp hearts in my morning smoothie… so I thought I would let ya in on my little “secret”
I am normally not the one who discusses food in her columns. However, if anyone has the street cred to talk about hemp, I guess it might be the chronic, tatted, pierced mountain biker, right? Well, not so much. I don’t really have any credibility in that regard. However, I was introduced to EATING hemp hearts years ago, so introducing you to the latest fad in hemp-eating will be a pleasure.
Here is how the conversation went two years ago in regard to the food I am introducing you to:
Guy in the bike store: “Yo, Melanie. You heard what Ryder’s (Hesjedahl) secret diet food is?”
Guy in the bike store: “Hemp hearts. He eats them for breakfast and says he stays fuller for longer so he doesn’t need to eat as much.”
Me: “Really?” (thinking that it might be a stretch for Ryder to have had this conversation with this person and does Ryder honestly ever need to think about weight?)
So I left the store that day to check not the reliability of my source but more the reality of the tip. Sure enough, hemp hearts have a place in an endurance athlete’s diet. Victoria’s favorite tour rider is not the only one who may be tuned into the benefits of eating hemp hearts. The seeds of the hemp plant have no drug chemicals in them at all so you do not need to worry about any of the effects attributed to marijuana. However, these little seeds are packed with amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins and protein and thus are rapidly becoming recognized as a new superfood.
Hemp hearts are shelled hemp seeds. They contain a plethora of essential fatty acids and amino acids. Essential fatty acids are those which your body is unable to produce. They include linoleic acid (omega-6) and linolenic acids (omega-3). When eaten in the right proportions they help your body distribute and process food more effectively. The ideal ratio is four to one omega-6 to omega-3 which is what is found in hemp seeds. Most people have an adequate amount of omega-6 in their diets so often it is omega-3s that are lacking and hemp seeds can address this imbalance.
The second health benefit of hemp seeds is the abundance of plant sterols which helps to lower cholesterol levels in the body. They also contain vitamin C, vitamin E, carotene vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B6, potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium.
Hemp hearts are gluten free and vegan so they have a place in nearly every diet. Proponents advocate eating them early in the day to normalize blood glucose levels throughout the day. Although the greatest benefit of the hemp seed is realized when they are eaten raw (in a smoothie or on salad are good methods) they do tolerate cooking well and can be added to a number of baking and cooking recipes. I have provided a lunch salad recipe to try but simply adding some to your dinner salad to see how you like them wouldn’t be a bad place to start. If they helped Ryder win a stage of the Tour d’Espagne they might help you get through your next hard workout and it is probably worth a try!
Hempy Vegetable Salad with Feta
1 cucumber chopped coarsely
2 tomatoes chopped coarsely
1 red pepper chopped coarsely
1 red onion caramelized (chop coarsely then fry in olive oil until translucent, browned and later, caramelized – then cool)
1/2 cup kalamata olives
1/2 cup feta cheese
1 cup hemp hearts
3 tsp apple cider vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
2/3 cup water
1 clove garlic
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Chop onion coarsely and fry in 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat until onion is browned and translucent. May take 10-15 minutes. Don’t overheat!! In the meantime, chop the rest of the vegetables and place in a bowl with 1/4 cup of feta on top. (Fermented cheeses have vitamin B12, good for red blood cell production!)Place olives on top.
Place 1 cup hemp hearts and 2/3 cup water in blender and process until smooth. Add 1/4 cup feta to blender with pressed garlic, vinegar, oregano and salt and pepper and process until smooth and creamy.
Pour dressing (not necessarily all of it, to taste!) over vegetables, olives and remaining feta and toss. You may add additional protein such as fish or chicken to your salad. Voila! Lunch!