Hemp Oil = Good Fats
by Mathew Kadey, www.fuelforlife.ca
It should come as no surprise that for many people in Western society far too many daily calories come from fat. While it is true that high intakes of animal-origin saturated fat and hydrogenated fat (trans-fats) are detrimental to health, it is also just as true that essential fatty acids are crucial for long-term well-being. These essential fatty acids are the polyunsaturated fats known as linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linoleic acid (omega-3). Like vitamins, these two fats are essential for proper human functioning and cannot be made in the body from simpler molecules. This means that they must be supplied in the diet for incorporation into every cell wall.
The list of benefits of consuming a diet rich in essential fatty acids is impressive and constantly growing. Helping prevent and/or relieve symptoms of heart disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, depression, stroke, asthma and hypertension, while promoting infant brain development, good skin and shiny hair as well as aiding in weight management, are all on essential fatty acids’ remarkable resume. Much of this can be attributed to the lipid-modifying and anti-inflammatory properties of these fatty acids.
Dietary sources of omega-6 fat include cooking oils (corn, sunflower, soy, peanut), seeds and nuts, while good sources of omega-3 fat are oils from flax, fish and walnuts. However, when it comes to essential fatty acid intake there is often one very good food source that gets overlooked – that being hemp oil.
Hemp oil is produced from the plant known as Canabis sativa l. and has been a traditional food in China as far back as 1500 BC. Hemp has been legal to grow in Canada since 1998, and lately health-conscious consumers have discovered the health benefits linked with this wonder food.
Since hemp seeds are found at the top of the Canabis plant located within a protective shell, hemp products such as hemp oil contain no, or miniscule amounts of, THC. In fact, you would probably have to smoke a whole field of hemp to get any intoxicating effect.
Are you asking yourself why you should incorporate hemp oil into your already impressive array of dietary oils? Consider this:
The Perfect Fat Ratio
The anti-inflammatory effects of both omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids have been demonstrated in many studies, in particular in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. However this only occurs when these fats are consumed in roughly similar amounts, such as what is found in hemp oil.
What is particularly interesting about hemp oil is that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fat is 3:1, which is generally the ratio recognized by the World Health Organization as being ideal for optimum health. Most North Americans consume a ratio of 10:1 as a result of a heavy reliance on oils and products that contain significantly more omega-6 fat (e.g. soybean/vegetable oil). There is a good indication that a diet that is too heavily weighted toward omega-6 fat can negate the positive health benefits of essential fat intake. Daily intake of hemp oil can help ensure your fat intake is closer to what nature intended.
In addition to having one of the highest mono- and polyunsaturated fat contents of all the oils, hemp oil is naturally low in cholesterol, and saturated fat represents only 9% of total calories. Diets high in saturated fat can elevate LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which is a risk factor for atherosclerosis.
While omega-6 intake in general is quite high among the general population due to a high consumption of vegetable oils, there is one omega-6 fat that is relatively rare in our food system – that being gamma-linoleic acid (GLA). In addition to borage oil, spirulina, black currant and evening primrose oil, hemp oil is one of the other few sources of this metabolite of linoleic acid.
GLA is quite similar in chemistry to one of the beneficial fatty acids present in fish called EPA. And like EPA, some studies have shown that GLA may help in reducing heart disease. Potential health-promoting effects of GLA include:
- Helping prevent conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and periodontitis by limiting the inflammatory process. The human body converts GLA into prostaglandins, which are hormone-like compounds that help to regulate inflammation.
- Increasing the effectiveness of cancer treatment. For example, GLA may enhance the ability of medications used to kill off cancerous cells in the treatment of breast cancer. In addition, GLA in itself may help prevent certain cancers by inhibiting cell proliferation.
- Along with DHA and EPA, GLA appears to have lipid-modifying effects such as reducing blood trigyleride levels. This is useful in the fight against heart disease.
- Treating certain skin conditions such as eczema.
- Treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Alzheimer’s disease since essential fatty acids like GLA are necessary for the health and proper functioning of the nervous system.
- Promoting growth and neurodevelopment in pre term infants.
When you choose hemp oil you are not only making a wise choice for your body, you are also making a wise choice for the environment. As a hardy plant, hemp requires less water than many crops and is suited to grow very well in the Canadian climate. As a result of its short growing cycle, hemp is ideal for farmers using crop rotation to help prevent soil depletion. Also helping the soil, as well as reducing water pollution, is hemp’s ability to grow without the need for pesticides and herbicides. And for those who are worried, and rightfully so, about the introduction of genetically modified foods, the good news about hemp oil, unlike some other common oils (soy, canola), is that hemp oil is never genetically modified.
Hemp Oil Tips
- It is important that you do not cook with hemp oil. It will break down and become ineffective if exposed to high heat.
- Store hemp oil in a cool, dry place away from light (e.g. refrigerator) to prevent the oil from turning rancid. Always buy hemp oil in a dark bottle.
- To ensure optimal quality choose hemp oil that is produced using cold/expeller pressed methods, and that contains no artificial additives.
- Hemp oil can be added to salad dressings or smoothies, used in yogurt or as a dip for your favourite bread.
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