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curious about hemp nutrition?
Acclaimed Dietitian Ashley Koff is here to help! Every month Ashley Koff, RD will be answering one of the pressing questions we recieve about hemp nutrition. To submit a question click on our button above and an email will be sent over to Ashley. These questions may be featured on our website as well as in our monthly eNewsletter.What do you recommend to boost immunity heading into winter months & cold season?
I've recently had surgery, is there anything in hemp foods i should be concerned about like fiber content, omega profile (blood thinking), etc? (JUNE. 2013 QUESTION)
When it comes to surgery, and what’s safe and healthy before, during, and after, your doctors, nurses, and dietitians are the key people you must discuss these issues with because each person and each surgery needs to be addressed individually. By asking the question you are bringing attention to a key issue and that is to note that the beneficial properties of whole foods containing healthy nutrients as well as, and especially of note, dietary supplements – can shift to potential risks when something like a surgery is occurring. Yes essential fatty acids – your omegas – help to promote healthy blood but that can also mean they have a thinning affect. In most instances, food sources are not going to be an issue unless you are mono-eating (only eating one food) or overeating on one food or one nutrient. Conversely, dietary supplements and that includes fiber supplements, which are a concentrated source and an added source of a nutrient(s), need to be reported as they can certainly be an issue before, during and after surgery.
Are hemp foods good for kids with autism? (May. 2013 Question)
Yes! While the vast span of the autism spectrum, and the even more vast nature of every child, as well as the fact that not all hemp products are created equally - means that it is hard to answer this question with just one reply. I did anyway. And the reasons that I did are as follows:
- Hemp is never genetically modified and doesn't require pesticide use to grow.
- Hemp Hearts contain plant protein along with natural fiber that's easy to digest and essential fatty acids - all if these promote healthy digestion and aid in supporting healthy brain and hormonal development.
- Hemp foods (unless combined with other ingredients) are gluten-free,dairy-free,corn-free,nut-free etc all of which are common intolerances for autistic children.
Parents of autistic children - regardless of where their child falls on the spectrum - know that better quality daily nutrition will nurture their growing bodies and incorporating hemp is a choice they can and should feel good about making.
MY SKIN IS IRRITATED, CAN HEMP HELP? (april. 2013 QUESTION)
There are several things that can trigger skin irritations and several different types of skin issues. To determine whether nutrition is a facto, it helps to classify skin issues as either acute (immediate – think hives, rashes) or chronic (ongoing – think breakouts or eczema). In the case of the acute reactions, these typically occur from either external or internal contact with an irritant - something that the body doesn’t recognize or to which you are allergic or intolerant. In these instances, topical applications of calming oils (of which hemp is included) can help but beyond that there isn’t a real need to change the diet other than to avoid the item that triggered the response. For rashes, dry patches, pimples and other skin irritations that occur regularly or are ongoing, nutrition plays a more central role to help the body heal. While these skin irritations may be rooted in the body encountering something it doesn’t recognize, the bigger issues are ones of potential bacteria imbalance, inflammation, and sub-optimal digestive function. Hemp is a plant source of essential fatty acids (we say “essential” because the body doesn’t make them so we need to get them in through our food choices). Sufficient intake of our essential fatty acids – both omega 3s and 6s – has shown to help optimize skin and digestive health. What’s more, hemp contains GLA, a critical omega 6, which helps address hormone balance, as well as hair, skin and nail healthy growth. So I advise my patients to consider regular hemp consumption – seeds and the oil – as part of a nutrition plan to address skin irritation and overall health.
My doctor recommended cod liver oil & GLA supplements for my daughter but i am wondering if there is a way to get the nutrients in through food (which i prefer anyway) because she isn't great about taking pills. (march. 2013 QUESTION)
Well first off – kudos to you for looking to food first to satisfy nutrition needs. And second, kudos to your doctor for knowing to recommend the full spectrum of essential fatty acids – not just a few omega 3s like EPA & DHA - as the body needs quality sources of many omega 3s and 6s daily. To answer your question directly, yes, consuming a serving of hemp oil will provide GLA as well as ALA that transfers to the EPA and DHA (which is what the cod liver oil provides) in your body (just like it does in the cod’s body). But if that sounds like alphabet soup to you let me make it simpler. Adding a serving of hemp oil or Hemp Hearts to your daily food intake is an excellent way to meet your essential fatty acids needs. Additionally, you can offer her wild essential fatty acid rich fish like salmon, cod, sardines, anchovies to increase omega 3 intake. Other great additions to the diet for the range of essential fatty acids include walnuts, organic soybeans, and chia seeds. Now one of the reasons your doctor may have recommended the supplements is to therapeutically treat you and to do so is trying to achieve a higher level of these nutrients daily. If that is the case, you will need to make sure that your meal plan daily includes the quantity that he or she desires you achieve. Hemp oil is an easy addition to a salad, smoothie, soup etc so its certainly doable but it’s important to confirm the right daily dosage for your daughter.
I have a family history of heart disease and want to focus my diet on heart-healthy choices. i know fish is good or that i should take fish oil but i just don't like it and don't tolerate the capsules. What else can i eat? (Feb. 2013 QUESTION)
Great question as so many people share your concerns. Recently, I was on a panel with Dr Oz and someone asked him this question about genetics (risk for heart disease if it's in your immediate family) and he said it's about 1/3 genetic and 2/3 diet and lifestyle. So the good news is that what you choose to eat and what you choose not to eat will play a major role in your risk reduction for heart disease. Hemp Hearts are a great heart healthy food to exchange into your diet for less heart-healthy options. For example, if you use Hemp Hearts instead of croutons or bacon-bits on a salad or soup, you make a heart healthy nutrition upgrade. Also you can make hemp pesto with Hemp Hearts and use it as a spread instead of adding cheese to a slice of toast or a pizza. Why are Hemp Hearts heart healthy? Check out my latest blog on the topic here.
I am dealing with several issues and just saw a naturopath who advised a gluten-free, dairy-free, no soy, no added sugar (except a little raw honey), no fish, no alcohol and consume organic foods only. oh and i don't like meat. Help! (Jan. 2013 QUESTION)
Well, I think I know your doctor! Ha, ha - but seriously, I work with numerous integrative medicine practitioners who send me their patients with dietary recommendations such as these - and with good reason. When we are trying to heal the body naturally, the goal is to reduce irritation so that it starts to calm down and then can begin healing. Many of the above foods fall into a category of "known irritants" and the others can contain metals, chemicals, and other toxins that could put unnecessary burden on the body thus interfering with healing. So you get these recommendations, which can feel like a life sentence, when in reality it's a prescription for healing. It's actually why I am so grateful to have hemp as a food option. Whether it's a protein powder to replace a dairy or soy one, or the need for a quick trail mix that needs to be gluten-free and non-GMO and no added sugar etc, having Hemp Hearts to toss in a baggie with gluten-free cereal and organic dried fruit is a lifesaver. So is learning to make hemp pesto which adds indulgence as well as dairy-free and a good source of non-animal protein that can make any veggie dish more exciting or be the perfect spread on gluten-free crackers. So as you start to navigate a new nutrition plan try to focus less on what's on the no list and more on what can and should be on the YES I CAN list - and by the way, it does include raw cacao too which partnered with Hemp Hearts can make for a delicious truffle - life shouldn't seem so bad anymore, right?
I hear that most people do not get enough of the 'right' nutrients from their foods, which is why many people take vitamins or supplements. I want to keep things simple and cost-effective, what do you recommend? I.e. What are the key vitamins to be concerned about? (Dec. 2012 Question)
Today, whether it's the hecticness of our day, the lack of availability of better quality options, declining nutrient levels in our soil, or health complaints and disease, there are several reasons to consider nutrient supplementation. But that said, that's what it needs to be - supplemental nutrients - to ensure your dietary intake offers the nutrient levels your body needs.
When it comes to choosing dietary supplements, I recommend that: a) they are considered exactly that - supplemental to a healthy diet (no amount of supplements can combat the negative impact of poor quality food choices); and b) that your supplements are Qualitarian too - as in making the better quality choice when you buy them (see what supplements I've given the AshleyKoffApproved (AKA) stamp to at ashleykoffapproved.com/AKA-lists).
There are a number of things the body needs daily that we don't make in our bodies like vitamins and minerals as well as "essential" fatty acids and "essential" amino acids for protein. I typically recommend that the most basic dietary supplement regime include a source for all of these - with the exception of the protein (amino acids) as those are more easily consumed in food. If you are eating hemp daily - Hemp Hearts or Hemp protein powders (not just the oil) then you are getting a good intake of many of the vitamins and minerals we need daily as well as meeting your needs for healthy fats and proteins. But taking a quality supplement of these ingredients isn't wrong or poor nutrition, and if you are traveling, it’s great to use the supplements to be a safety net to a healthy foundation for your day.
What do you recommend to boost immunity heading into winter months & cold season? (Nov 2012 QUESTION)
Tis the Season - the head cold, sniffles, so tired I can't get up, sore throat season. The key to preparing your body to avoid or reduce risk of colds is to stock it with the good stuff. I rely on a probiotic supplement (Align) and a mushroom supplement (LifeShield by New Chapter) but I also make sure to eat plenty of fermented foods as well as mushrooms often.
It’s also great to really focus on reducing your added sugar and alcohol intake - you don't have to be a party pooper but you also don't have to choose party over health - two things which can reduce your immune system's health.
From a complimentary practice standpoint, I advise herbal teas, dry brushing, infrared saunas, and keeping a consistent bedtime (hopefully on the earlier side) to help support the immune system. One thing that many people don't realize is that sleep can be the key decision maker in whether a cold settles in to stay or moves on.
While organic juices like greens with ginger and lemon, coconut water with pineapple and cayenne, and even butternut or red pepper soups deliver amazing nutrients that help clean up and protect the body - their efforts actually don't get very far unless the body has time to recover (ie sleep). So in order to support your immune system this winter check out the quality supplements, make a grocery list that includes fresh or frozen organic fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and start setting an alarm - not to wake up with but to give you a warning - it's time for you to go to bed and get the recovery that sleep's clean up system has to offer.
CURIOUS ABOUT HEMP NUTRITION? Are hemp foods safe for pregnant women/nursing mom's? (oct 2012 Question)
Are you pregnant or nursing? Then you should be considering hemp. For all new moms, hemp offers nutritional benefits as well as time saving ones - for example, did you know that a serving of Hemp Hearts gives you your protein and healthy fat needs as well as key vitamins and minerals and all you have to do is toss them back into your mouth or on top of a salad or soup. Hemp provides our essential fatty acids - in Nature's intended balance, which means both omega 3s as well as Omega 6s (and the often elusive omega 6: GLA - which is key for optimal hormone health for women).
Sometimes the stress of a newborn, of having trouble breast feeding or even when it's a breeze documenting the feeds, the poops, etc your mind and your body go into or stay into overdrive (stress, anyone?). Stress, other than keeping us up at night - are you folding the babies laundry instead of sleeping or are you getting in a late night phone or video chat with a long lost (since you had the baby) friend instead of taking a nap - harms us by keeping the body from optimal digestion including absorption of quality nutrients and elimination.
What's great about hemp is that it contains magnesium to help the whole body relax. It can't help you by faking a nap, talking on the phone or fold the laundry for you, but it can get the body to turn down it's own response to that stress and start allowing normal digestion to occur. So I say to new moms, it's not just that hemp is safe for you, it's that hemp is critical for you at this exciting time in your life
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR RECOMMENDATIONS FOR A HEMP WEIGHT LOSS DIET? (Aug 2012 question)
Before I lay out my suggestions, I want to clarify a few of the terms, however, so that we are all on the same page. First, weight loss is an effective manner to improve one’s health; but healthy weight loss is: The kind that occurs at a pace the body can manage not just the loss of weight but the toxins that are stored with that weight Technically better termed “fat loss” referring to the loss of weight coming from fat while retaining or even building lean body mass Personalized to your body (do you have digestive issues, did you just have a baby, do you exercise, how’s your sleep …etc?).
Ok, now that you have that food for thought, let’s see what a healthy weight loss plan looks like.
- Consume only quality whole foods: this doesn’t mean shopping at whole foods exclusively (though they offer a lot of great stuff) but rather choosing to only consume what your body will recognize best – food (not chemistry experiments) in the form closest to the way it grows in nature. For example, this means Hemp Hearts, hemp milk, hemp oil, hemp protein and even using hemp based products on your hair & skin as opposed to products that contain artificial colors, sweeteners, preservatives or genetically modified organisms.
- Yes, you CAN consumes ANY food – as long as you pay attention to Quantity. If you adhere to rule #1, no food is off limits (unless you have a diagnosed reason to avoid). By learning the quantity that you can and should have at one time (see the nutrition plan at ashleykoffapproved.com/nutritionplan for all portion sizes) you can put together satisfying eeating occasions without feeling deprived. Reducing deprivation helps diets become lifestyles because you aren’t waiting for “one day” when you can have something forbidden again.
- Learn to Nutrient Balance (vs calorie count) – you will lose more fat without losing your energy when you learn to combine your nutrients versus overdoing it on one kind or forgetting another. “Nutrients” are carbs, protein, and fats (see the nutrition plan at ashleykoffapproved.com/nutritionplan to identify what falls into each category). Hemp in its whole form (Hemp Hearts) provides mostly protein and healthy fats – it does deliver some fiber but doesn’t have enough carbohydrate (fiber) to satisfy your carb needs when you consume Hemp Hearts, it pairs great with fruit, starchy vegetable soups, grains / grain flour foods etc.
- Pit Stop, regularly – note: eating more often is NOT the same as eating MORE more often! What Pit stop refers to is learning to eat less at each eating occasion (pit stop) but then spread it out, maybe more like every three hours or so.
Have some Hemp Daily – hemp delivers essential fatty acids (omega 3s & 6s) including GLA, minerals like magnesium, and fiber as well as other numerous other nutrients that specifically aid in the fat loss process. These nutrients optimize hormones, contribute to feeling full with less food, and help reduce inappropriate inflammation and stress which can challenge fat loss. Net, net, Hemp Helps with weight loss especially when you consume one serving daily exchanging hemp into your diet and removing less good quality food products.
My Doctor says I am pre-diabetic & should choose low glycemic foods, can i have hemp foods? (july 2012 question)
Whether you are diabetic, borderline, or focused on prevention, your best plan is to become a Qualitarian (like me!) and choose nutrient rich foods to give your body what it recognizes best. Hemp is one such nutrient rich food as it naturally provides plant sources of proteins and fats (plant forms like hemp have shown to be anti-inflammatory which means they help reduce risk if chronic disease like diabetes). Hemp also provides fiber, which helps to slow the impact of carbohydrates on the body (a great thing!). But beyond fiber, hemp does not provide other carbohydrates.
We all need quality carbs in our diet (like whole food forms of fruits, starchy vegetables, beans and grains) so your best bet is to pair Hemp Hearts with one serving of any of these carbs to meet your nutrition needs, or add a serving of fruit to a smoothie made with hemp protein (but use water or an unsweetened non-dairy beverage. Juice, milk, and beverages with added sugar provide additional carbs that you would need to factor).
So the short answer is not only, yes, hemp is a great choice for all including diabetics and pre-diabetics, but it's a recommended food... Exchange less nutrient dense foods for plain hemp foods in your diet and your body will thank you.
True or false: omega 3 fats are good for us but omega 6 fats are bad for us? (june 2012 question)
First, nature doesn't provide omega 3 foods and omega 6 foods - that happens only in dietary supplements. Look at any fat in nature and you will see that it is a blend of different fatty acids.
Second, not all omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are created equal. Fats are very sensitive and if they are heated too high or left in sunlight or exposed to air they will go rancid and all rancid fats are "bad" fats no matter their length (3,6,9, etc). Third, when it comes to our bodies we need a blend of omega 3s and 6s. There is important research being done in this area but even without those results, what we do know is that choosing one fatty acid over another is a mistake. In fact, it appears that we actually need more omega 6 in the diet than omega 3 fatty acids, and there are some omega 6 fatty acids like GLA which play a critical role in hormone, skin, hair and overall health. So what do you need to know? Consume foods in their organic whole food form and consume a variety of fats and you will get what your body needs for optimal nutrition. When it comes to fats, avoid all highly processed fats, budget your saturated fats, and consume fats rich in essential fatty acids (3 and 6), like hemp, daily.
About Ashley Koff, R.D. Celebrity Dietitian, Author, Health & Lifestyle Contributor
Ashley Koff is an internationally renowned registered dietician who is on a mission to help people get healthy by bringing quality eating into every home. With television appearances, print and online contributions, Koff’s goal is to educate the public on being a Qualitarian, Koff’s “Qualitarian” philosophy is founded on choosing to eat the highest quality food available. By choosing organic over non-organic, non-GMO over GMO, preservative and artificial ingredient-free foods and beverages, the body gets what fuels it optimally, while avoiding what can do it harm. Committed to helping consumers, healthcare practitioners and the media easily identify products that contribute to a healthy lifestyle, Koff created The Ashley Koff Approved (AKA) Lists, a tool to help people recognize products that meet a high standard of nutrition, and marketing integrity.
Ashley has been named one of the Top 10 Registered Dieticians in the US by Today’s Dietician Magazine and Best of LA’s “Nutritionist/Dieticians” by CitySearch three years running. Koff appears regularly on national television programs, including Dr. Oz, Good Morning America Health, The Doctors, CNN, AOL and E!, She is the lead expert for the Huffington Post Living’s ‘Total Energy Makeover’ with Ashley Koff RD. Koff is also frequently featured in publications like, The New York Times, InStyle, Reader’s Digest, O! The Oprah Magazine, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Redbook, Women’s Health, Shape and is a contributing editor for Natural Health Magazine, the dietician for espnW and presently sits on the advisory board of Fitness Magazine.