The old adage “You are what you eat” is one to live by. Today, more and more people are making healthy dietary choices—not only for their own health, but also for the health of the Earth.
Hempseed is known by researchers and physicians to be one of the most nutritious food sources on the planet. Its 33 percent protein content is well-balanced, easily digestible, and also rich in iron, zinc, magnesium, vitamins B and E, Omega-3, and GLA. A Canadian government report says that hemp protein has 66 percent high-quality edestin protein—the highest percentage of any plant source. And hemp has the ideal 3:1 ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3.
No wonder the hemp foods sector is booming! Walk down the aisles of a good store and you can now find hemp oil, hemp seeds, hemp protein, hemp bars, hemp bread, hemp butter, hemp milk . . . even hemp ice cream!
The Origins of Hemp Foods
More than 6,000 years ago, hemp was cultivated in China from a wild plant that grew in central Asia. The Chinese recognized the nutritional value of the hemp seed, and used it as a food source long before they used soy. About 1,000 years ago, hemp traveled to Europe, where one of the most popular ways that peasants used the plant was to make hemp butter by grinding the tasty seeds.
Health and Eco Concerns Regarding Soy Foods
Soy foods stand in marked contrast to hemp foods. Since the 1970s, the soy-food industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to convince the public of soy’s supposed “health benefits.“ Consequently, the average American diet includes about 10 percent soy—in dressings, butter spreads, cooking oils, shakes, desserts, etc. Yet, while the mainstream media has long promoted soy, a growing number of health professionals now caution people to think twice before consuming it in large quantities, due to potential allergic reactions, soy’s impact on thyroid health and mineral absorption, its poor fat ratio, and its estrogenic properties.
We should also be concerned about the environmental impacts of soy foods. First, most soybeans grown today are genetically modified, and even organic soy is often contaminated with GMOs by wind drift or processing. Also, toxic chemicals are applied to conventional soy fields in great amounts, causing damage to ecosystems from South America to America’s heartland.
A July 13, 2009, article, “Study Released in Argentina Puts Glyphosate Under Fire” stated: “. . . research released by Argentina’s top medical school showed that a leading chemical used in soy farming may be harmful to human health.”
The article explained how soy cultivation is producing deformed frogs and adding untold hardships to small farmers. Do people understand that buying non-organic soy milk, food bars, cereal, and even common soy protein, supports this bitter harvest?
And it’s not only how soy is grown. The toxic chemical hexane, a petroleum byproduct, is used as a solvent to extract soy oil for about 98 percent of all soybeans processed in America. When ordering a soy burger or soymilk, you wouldn’t request a side of petrol solvent. But you get that added serving of hexane—also a major greenhouse gas emitter—anyway! Listen to what leading health researcher Mike Adams, a.k.a. “the Health Ranger,” says about soy protein products.
If you eat only organic soy (a much better choice), please read The Soy Report Scorecardby the organic watchdog group Cornucopia. If you are going to use soy, choose foods that are both organic and fermented, such as miso, tamari, and tempeh. The fermentation process makes soy more bioavailable and reduces its antinutritional qualities. And beware: Some firms claim “made with organic soybeans” even though their products contain hexane-processed soy.
Another issue that medical doctors are watching is soy’s effects on the thyroid.
Also, learn why longtime vegetarian Julia Wey is rethinking her consumption of soy foods.
Unlike soy, hemp isn’t genetically modified, and no company uses hexane to extract its healthy oil. Another plus for hemp is that it’s easy to grow without pesticides or herbicides. It smothers weeds as a rotation crop, and its long taproot helps to restore soil health. Besides the seeds’ nutritional benefits, hemp’s strong fibers are being used to replace unsustainable cotton, petrol, and concrete in everything from clothing to car parts to construction materials.
More than thirty industrialized nations grow commercial hemp, including England, Germany, China, and Canada. Nevertheless,
United States law forbids growing hemp without a federal license. This has prevented commercial hemp production since the 1950s. Visit VoteHemp.com to learn how you can help to restore hemp farming in America.
Back in 1995, I wrote a booklet on industrial hemp in which these were the opening words:
“Imagine a crop more versatile than the soybean, the cotton plant, and the Douglas fir tree put together . . . one whose products are interchangeable with those from timber or petroleum . . . one that grows like Jack’s beanstalk with minimal tending. There is such a crop: industrial hemp.
“Hemp was once indispensable to world commerce. New World colonists and traders were able to cross the Atlantic Ocean because the hemp ropes and sails of their ships, unlike other natural fibers, resisted salt damage. Not so long ago, it was inconceivable for an economy to function without hemp.”
These words hold true today, and it’s good to see that the world is again acknowledging hemp’s great value. In this era of Google and YouTube, we can all access cutting-edge health information to help us compare hemp food crops to soy. I encourage you to do your own research, and to remember that good health is our greatest wealth. Our lives depend on it.
John W. Roulac is the Founder and CEO of Nutiva, the world’s leading brand of organic hemp foods and coconut oil. A longtime advocate of holistic living, he is the author of four books (with a million-plus copies sold) on hemp and composting. He helped jump-start the modern home-composting movement in the early 1990s, successfully sued the USDEA to keep hemp imports legal in 2001, and has founded three nonprofit ecological groups. To learn more about John Roulac and Nutiva, visit www.nutiva.com/articles/.