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Here's Everything You Need To Know About Eating Hemp

Australia's newest "superfood" is here!

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If you've seen more and more hemp-based foods cropping up recently, you're probably not alone.

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At the moment in Australia, hemp is vying for the crown of trendiest superfood. While you may have always just associated it with that weird stall at the markets selling woven bags and Birkenstocks, it turns out that hemp is actually quite a versatile little plant. Here's everything you need to know about it.

Why are we all talking about hemp now?

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Despite it having been legal around the world for decades, late last year Australia passed a law allowing hemp to be sold as a food product. This means you can buy whole hemp ingredients like seeds and oil, or you can buy foods containing hemp, like granola, burgers, and salads. I’m sure hemp kombucha isn’t far off.

Isn’t hemp like… weed?

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So, hemp is a species of cannabis (aka marijuana), but contains a very low level of THC – the psychoactive component of weed which gets you high. In Australia, hemp crops are regulated to ensure the level of THC remains low for all food products.

So it won't get me high?

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People have been concerned for a while that eating hemp would have the same effect as smoking a joint – one of the reasons it has taken so long to be allowed in Australia. But that’s definitely false: I ate a three-course meal where every dish included hemp and, apart from a slight food coma, there were no side-effects. It’s basically just like eating chia or sesame seeds.

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Hemp's a superfood? What does that even MEAN?!

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A lot of people have been labelling hemp as a “superfood” but keep in mind that there is no testing or regulation surrounding this terminology. I can call my 3am drunk pizza a superfood just as legitimately as a hemp-selling company can label their product. That being said, hemp is definitely a healthy addition to your diet.

According to health advocator Dr Sandy Krafchik, hemp seeds have a unique nutritional profile, and are actually a complete food source. "They have a nearly perfect ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 essential fatty acids, which can help prevent heart disease, cancer, and high cholesterol."

Hemp is also a good source of plant-based protein – it’s about 25% protein which is similar to soybeans (which are used to make tofu). It contains amino acids which help your body absorb the nutrients from your food and build muscle, and it’s a good source of fibre which helps digestion.

This is all pretty confusing but basically: Hemp is good for you.

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You’re not missing anything by not eating it – so long as you're eating a nutritionally balanced diet.

According to the Spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia Joel Feren: "Hemp may help you to reach your required intake of certain nutrients, however, there are a variety of other inexpensive and 'mainstream' foods readily available to help you achieve the same outcome. These include: soy foods (e.g. beans, tofu and milk), legumes, salmon, chia seeds, nuts and other seeds, as well as eggs, just to name a few. You don't need to spend a pretty penny on achieving good nutrition, the key is to include a large variety of nutritious foods as part of your own super diet."

Farming hemp is also better for the planet than lots of other food sources.

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It doesn't need as many chemicals or fertilisers to grow, so in turn, requires less water than plants like corn or cotton. Plus, the crops naturally improve the soil structure, remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than trees do, and are drought- and weed-resistant.

Where can I get some?

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If you're interested in getting the raw ingredients and cooking for yourself, hemp-based ingredients like oil, seeds, and protein powder can be bought in pharmacies and online.

But if you want to get a taste before you commit, more and more cafes and restaurants are introducing hemp into their menus. There’s a Western Australian brewer making hemp beer, there are a couple of hemp burgers in Queensland – just keep an eye out on your nearest ~trendy~ cafes.

And really, it's versatile as hell.

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Personally I’ve started sprinkling hemp seeds over salads and veggies. They're also good on top of porridge, in granola, or even just with greek yoghurt and fruit as a snack. It adds a tiny bit of flavour and it’s a good way to get healthy fats into a meal. But I’m also a bit of a wanker when it comes to healthy foods – you could achieve the same result with coconut oil, avocado, fish, or eggs. So really, it's up to you!