A friend called me in a panic when her pediatrician pronounced that her 14-year-old son probably will grow an additional four inches this coming year. He is already 6 feet tall. How on Earth is she going to feed a boy who is growing that rapidly?
Many of us are in a similar predicament, perhaps minus the 6-foot-4 projection; our kids are growing so fast we often feel we cannot keep up. Because they are what they eat, we want to fill them with nourishing food that will support their growing minds and bodies. But how to accomplish this when our kids need to eat so plentifully and so frequently? There isn’t time to grill a steak or make a bean chili every time hunger strikes.
So I suggested my friend start by securing her son some hemp. (No, not its recently legalized-in-the-District cousin.) Rather industrially grown, FDA-approved, healthfully delicious hemp seeds.
Hemp seeds are practically a perfect food:
• They are a substantial source of protein. Just 1 1/2 tablespoons offers about 5 grams of this important nutrient. Even more impressive, hemp seeds are a complete protein with all 20 amino acids, including the nine essential amino acids that we must obtain through the foods we eat because our bodies cannot produce them.
• Hemp seeds are also a fantastic source of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation in the body, lower the risk of heart disease and support brain health.
• They provide fiber for healthy digestion and prolonged satiety.
• Hemp seeds deliver B vitamins for energy and healthy blood.
• They are loaded with antioxidants, such as vitamin E and beta-carotene, which fight tissue damage.
• They are also full of calcium for strong bones, magnesium for heart health, zinc for immunity, along with potassium, copper and phosphorous.
A rapidly growing boy requires all of these nutrients in spades, so hemp seeds are clearly a smart food choice for him. Just a few tablespoons a day can help him get the nutrients he needs to healthfully reach that towering 6-foot-4 by next summer. As a bonus, kids who are allergic to nuts and other seeds are not usually allergic to hemp seeds.
My friend had a question: Should a mother really give her teenage son a food that is derived from the same plant species as pot? I told her not to worry. Hemp seeds and marijuana are related in that they both come from plants in the cannabis family, yet they are wholly different seeds, the hemp seed lacking the hallucinogenic THC. A teenager cannot get high or fail a drug test by chugging smoothies made with commercially grown hemp seeds. And who knows, maybe a daily hemp seed smoothie will spur a constructive conversation with your teenager about pot and why hemp seeds are the only way to go.
How to use hemp seeds:
• Add a tablespoon or more to smoothies or milkshakes. This is a good alternative to protein powders that have chemicals.
• Add either ground or whole hemp seeds to pancake batter. The seeds are tiny and soft, so even whole they blend well into batter.
• Incorporate ground hemp seeds into baked goods such as muffins and cookies.
• Top a bowl of yogurt with hemp seeds.
• Sprinkle on hot cereal and stir into granola.
• Bake into granola bars.
• Sprinkle on salads, or blend into a salad dressing for creaminess. The healthful fats make the vitamins in those salads more absorbable.
• Add to soups.
• Sprinkle onto ice cream or other desserts for an extra hit of protein. They also make a milkshake super creamy.
• Mix into peanut butter before spreading on anything.
• Use in pesto instead of pine nuts for a similar creaminess.
• Mix into burger meat.
• Drizzle hemp oil into salad dressings or onto roasted vegetables or blend into a smoothie.
• Make hemp milk: Blend a cup of hemp seeds with four cups of water, and add a tablespoon of honey or grade B maple syrup. Strain and drink cold, use in smoothies, or top granola. Homemade hemp milk lasts for up to three days in an airtight container in the fridge.
First published in the Washington Post on July 28, 2015.