Although they’re a relatively new arrival to Australia, hemp seeds have been a historically important food in many countries. And for good reason: These are some of nature’s most nourishing seeds, offering complete protein, high levels of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, and rare nutrients such as GLA and CLA together with a full complement of essential vitamins and minerals. They have a pleasant, somewhat nutty taste, and they’re soft enough to be eaten raw and still digested easily. That makes them perfect for sprinkling over yoghurt, cereals and salads or mixing into shakes and smoothies, and it also lets you avoid degrading their nutritional value through cooking; for hot meals, just add them as a topping at the table. Don’t be afraid to try them for baking, too – most of the nutrients do survive the heat, and hemp seeds will add fibre and flavour to bread, brownies, biscuits and more. Let’s take a closer look at the many nutritional benefits of hemp seeds. They’re an extremely balanced food, providing nearly everything you need in the proper proportions, so we’ll start with polyunsaturated fatty acids (such as omega-3s and -6s) simply because they’re the largest component. Equalled only by walnuts among plant sources of these important nutrients, hemp seeds are almost 50% fatty acids by weight, providing about two whole grams of omega-3s alone in every spoonful. They also supply omega-6s, which are used in the brain, bones, skin and hair, as well as both gamma linolenic acid (GLA) and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). GLA is an anti-inflammatory agent found in just five other plants, while CLA is famous for its weight loss benefits – and hemp seed has 15 times as much as fish oil! Moving on, hemp seeds are about one-third protein – one spoonful contains over six grams - and it’s remarkably high-quality protein at that. For one thing, it’s “complete” protein, which means that it comprises every amino acid used by the human body – including the nine essential amino acids that the body can’t make itself. That’s rare enough as plant proteins go, but hemp is truly unique in being the only plant with highly digestible edestin-based protein. This makes it much easier on your system than, say, soy – and while soy is a known allergen, hemp is not. Hemp seeds are also rich in antioxidant vitamin E as well as folate and other B vitamins. On the subject of vitamins, once again, hemp has something no other plant does: vitamin D3, which is vital for maintaining bone health. And speaking of bones, hemp seed is also a good source of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Other minerals it supplies include immunosupportive zinc and iron, which helps transport oxygen in the bloodstream… and having mentioned the circulatory system, it should be noted that hemp seeds are also high in phytosterols, which help to reduce cholesterol levels. When it comes to non-nutritive components, hemp seed still shines. It’s very low in carbohydrates, containing less than 2.5% natural sugars, but is around 10-15% fibre. Fibre makes you feel fuller, so you’re less likely to overeat when you add hemp seed to your meals. It also relieves constipation and cleanses the intestinal tract so that digestion becomes more regular. Combined with hemp seed’s easy, nearly complete digestibility and lack of allergens and toxins, this makes it very gut-friendly food. It’s also an ecofriendly food, as hemp is a low-intensity crop that uses little water compared to many common grains and legumes. It grows well in most climates and soils, naturally and organically, without pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers. This healthy seed is holistic indeed!