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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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January 11, 2010

Dear Mark: How Primal is Hemp?

By Mark Sisson
47 Comments

As I’ve always said, part of the Primal Blueprint’s power is its continuing evaluation and evolution. As a broad lens defined by tried and true physiological principles, the PB can effectively assess and (when appropriate) seamlessly accommodate “new”/rediscovered practices and foods. Readers send me questions all the time that help redefine or further confirm the Blueprint’s existing range. Here’s one such inquiry.

Dear Mark,

I’ve been seeing more hemp products in the stores these days and have friends who call themselves hemp converts. They say it’s a good protein source. What do you think of hemp? Do you consider it Primal?

Hemp products have indeed exploded onto the marketplace in the last few years. Consumers appear to have waved off past alarm about drug associations. Up until the late 1990s, a large portion of the U.S. hemp imports came from China, where industry practices often left measureable levels of the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Since Canada legalized industrial hemp in 1998, the import picture has shifted. Today most hemp products come from Canada and are essentially free from THC contamination. (The U.S. doesn’t allow cultivation within its borders.)

If you look at the nutrition, there are some reasons to recommend hemp. As seeds go, they’re a good source of protein. (Industry sources sometimes say 33% protein. Other sources, including a university nutritional overview concluded 25%.) For a plant source, it’s a thoroughly respectably source of usable protein (albumin and edestine being the primary forms) and offers all the essential amino acids. Hemp also contains a healthy dose of fiber, vitamin E complex, iron, magnesium, and potassium. Then there’s the fatty acid content. Hemp is very high in PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) to the tune of 80% or so. Although the prevailing CW would fall down and worship the very acronym on the page, there’s more to the picture as Primal types know. Yes, hemp has a good amount of omega-3 to its name, and it also has plenty of omega-6. The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio comes out around 3:1, which is considerably better than soy but still falls short of the PB-recommended 1:1. (The omega-3 is also in the form of ALA rather than the preferred DHA and EPA.) To its credit, the omega-6 content does include the healthier gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and stearidonic acid (SA), both of which are believed to be anti-inflammatory in nature. Nonetheless, the very high PUFA content makes the seeds and oil prone to rancidity.

I think we’ll see more research coming out in the next few years exploring the particular health benefits of hemp now that the drug-associated fervor has died down and the public understands that these products don’t pose a psychoactive risk. Traditional practice supports hemp’s anti-inflammatory action. Specifically, the GLA and SA in hemp are credited with effectively treating skin disorders, particularly eczema. Some recent studies also point to hemp’s positive influence on immune function, and its prevention of unhealthy blood platelet aggregation (clumping), which researchers attribute partly to the GLA content. Finally, other researchers have explored hemp’s apparent stimulation of the brain enzyme calcineurin, which helps support both cardiac and neurological functioning.

In terms of palatability, the shelled seeds have a fairly nutty, mild flavor. I’ve enjoyed the seeds in salads and have seen people add them to homemade protein bars. Some folks liken them to sunflower seeds or pine nuts – fitting comparisons, I think. Although hemp seems to be fairly well tolerated and don’t contain the same anti-nutrients that soy does, those who are more sensitive to other seeds might find the same digestive reaction with hemp.

I can’t personally speak to the oil’s taste, but I’ve heard it can vary considerably by brand. (Hemp eaters, what say you?) If you purchase the oil, it’s of course important to look for cold-pressed and store it in a dark container in the refrigerator. As for hemp protein shakes, I’d say they’re reasonable secondary alternatives for those who can’t/won’t eat whey-based. I’d definitely put hemp above soy in the #2 spot. That said, I’d do a little homework into the processing of the brand, given the high PUFA content and its rancidity risk. Look for cold pressing (for initial oil removal) and cold milling (for powder production).

Finally, as to whether hemp is Primal or not, I’d put it (like other seeds) in a supporting role. It’s not main Primal fare, but – when eaten in its healthiest (fresh) state – it can complement a good Primal eating plan.

Let me know what you think. As always, thanks for the questions and comments, and keep ‘em coming!

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47 Comments on "Dear Mark: How Primal is Hemp?"

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dragonmamma
dragonmamma
6 years 8 months ago

I do miss my summertime hemp milk/mango smoothies. Half a cup of hemp milk, a mango, and frozen green tea cubes sure hit the spot when the weather is hot.

I really like Hemp Dream, but it’s definitely not to everyone’s taste; I’ve heard complaints that it tastes like wet rope, but to me it has a nice earthy, seedlike flavor.

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[…] Original post by Mark Sisson […]

Grok
6 years 8 months ago

I’ve been considering switching to hemp protein for my occasional shakes. Seems like it would be less processed than the dairy proteins.

Superheated, dried protein from who knows how sick cows, can’t be better can it?

Tara tootie
6 years 8 months ago

Haha hemp dream may be more described as woody/cardboardy/ropey lol.

BUT mixed with other things, its actually quite nice and the flavors really take a nice turn away from cardboard and more to seedy. 🙂

Tara tootie
6 years 8 months ago

Also, what seeds are out there with a favorable O6:O3 ratio?

kyle
kyle
1 year 4 months ago

that would be chia over 3x’s the omega 3 than 6. although the overall pufa’s are very high, so while your getting a good ratio it’s still a lot of 6 along with it. i mean does 3 cancel out 6 idk…?

melissam
melissam
6 years 8 months ago

I’m concerned about the polyunsaturated oils being rancid since all the hemp products in the US are made from ground seeds. In Sweden I did buy the whole seeds and ground them myself for protein shakes, but those are illegal in the US.

Erin
Erin
6 years 8 months ago

You can buy the whole seeds (shelled) which are nitrogen-flushed. I haven’t had any rancidity issues with them (I refirigerate them after opening).

Jennifer Cote
3 years 2 months ago

I live in California and just ordered 5 lb. unhulled whole seeds from nuts.com. I heard good things. I hope to find they’re true!

jennifer
6 years 8 months ago

hemp oil is REALLY nice…try to find the brand Manitoba Harvest. it is a really nice nutty taste. the hemp milk does tend to taste like butt. the meal is quite okay.

BenevolentForce
BenevolentForce
6 years 8 months ago

I hadn’t had any reason to try hemp up until now, but that shake dragonmamma described sounds delish! Can’t wait for a hot day to whip one up.

Kristin J
Kristin J
6 years 8 months ago

I picked up some hemp protein powder on a whim several months ago. Most of that bag is still sitting in my cupboard because I can’t stand the texture it gives to foods. I’ve tried it mixed with yogurt and mixed with almond flour as batter for deep fried shrimp. I almost want to call it gritty, but the texture is very fine. It kind of feels like it creates more friction between my teeth.

Ross
Ross
6 years 8 months ago
I guess I’m not seeing the point of hemp. Especially for someone who can tolerate lactose and dairy, hemp food products seem like a solution in desperate search of a problem. Further, all of the proposed problems solved by processed hemp are only really problems if you think satfat and whole foods like eggs, red meat, etc. are artery clogging and unhealthy. I think hemp makes great clothing, cordage, etc. Eating the seeds of a plant, which comes along with the processing needed to work around the natural defenses of that plant, feels way too much like “Eat healthy whole… Read more »
Barbara(Blood, Sweat and Heels)

I’m glad you addressed this question Mark! I have been wanting to make some raw “bread” and most are made with hemp of some type. Your blog has become like a one stop shop of info!

Adam
Adam
6 years 8 months ago

“Hemps protein is complete, containing all 10 essential amino acids, making it superior to other sources of protein”…”Since hemp protein is raw, its naturally occuring digestive enzymes remain intact, allowing the body to utilize it with the greatest of ease”

From The Thrive Diet by Brendan Brazier

Ross Bagley
Ross Bagley
6 years 8 months ago

Um, so plant seeds are now contributing the enzymes needed to digest them now? The enzyme argument of raw-foodists is one of the strangest of their arguments, and probably the argument farthest from any evidence to support it.

If you’re eating hemp raw, you might as well be eating wheat or soy raw. In a survival situation, it will provide some calories and moisture. But for day to day consumption? Stay far, far away.

Erin
Erin
6 years 8 months ago
Since hemp is a seed like sunflower or sesame, I wouldn’t compare it to eating raw to wheat or soy, which are totally different types of foods. But I do agree with the arguement of the raw food enzyme theory being rather weak (and I used to be a raw foodist!) As far as the seed vs. the protein, I (and a number of people I know) find it way easier to digest the seeds than the protein, which is very gritty and very high fiber (hard on some people’s digestive tracts). The seeds blend nicely into smoothies and have… Read more »
coconutter
coconutter
5 years 1 month ago
Unlike soy or whey (and, btw, unlike sunflower and especially sesame seeds, which are full of phytates and oxalates,), hemp doesn’t contain any antinutrients. Hemp can provide much more nutrition than “some calories and moisture”. I’ll skip the details cause it’s not the info that is hard to find – if you’re intrested, of course. For me, it’s one of the best – perfectly balanced and easy digestable – things to eat on a daily basis.. well, it could be – here, in russia, hemp products (and seeds too) are really hard to find and the prices for all “unuasual”… Read more »
Brian
Brian
4 years 7 months ago

It is untrue that hemp does not contain any anti-nutrients. Hemp has A LOT of oxalates in it.

http://www.glutenfreeandbeyond.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1920

There’s a post just past half-way down the page that shows the oxalate concentration of hemp.

I ate a serving or two of hemp daily for nearly a year, and began passing blood clots in my urine. The doctor determined that I was excreting a large amount of oxalate and that it was damaging my kidneys. Stopped eating hemp and the blood clots disappeared.

coconutter
coconutter
5 years 1 month ago

Misprint in the first message: “Unlike soy or wheAT”

Richard Shelmerdine
6 years 8 months ago

I just had to read this post after seeing the title :). I agree with you though. It’s not necessarily primal its kind of secondary to it but still pretty close.

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[…] Article courtesy of Mark’s Daily Apple Hemp came up in Saturday’s nutrition chat, so I thought I’d post this today. While I agree that it’s a good choice for vegetarian protein, remember, for you Paleo peeps out there, protein had eyes, a soul and a face…so I wouldn’t recommend this as a protein choice UNLESS you are a veggie. […]

warren
warren
6 years 8 months ago

i’ve wonderd if they use them to up the omega-3 content of “omega-3 eggs”.

paleo_piper
6 years 8 months ago

I use hemp seeds on a salad from time to time. I’ve used hemp oil also on my salads in a blend of olive and walnut oil. Tastes like a nutty oil to me. Glad to hear they get the primal stamp, but I do love my nuts and seeds so this is just one more for variety.

I also store them in the fridge, btw.

pat
pat
6 years 8 months ago
I’m so glad you’ve addressed this topic, Mark! I’m a long time hemp advocate, and I’ve wondered for years if it was ok as a protein source; as a former Zoner, I avoided it because of the high ratio of omega 6 to 3 fatty acids. But since this type of omega 6 is ‘better’, I might start stocking up on hemp seeds again! Hemp seeds are really tasty; I once tried hemp butter, and it was a little bitter. Probably varies by brand. Hemp for clothing, paper, oil, fuel, you name it. Hemp may one day save the planet!… Read more »
Primal Toad
6 years 4 months ago

I enjoy hemp on a regular basis, usually a little at a time. I love them in smoothies and also enjoy sprinkling them on salads, fruit bowls, or even adding them in things like omelets.

Eating them everyday may be fine, I enjoy them 3-5 times a week and usually 2-3 T at a time.

Sally JPA
5 years 11 months ago

Unsweetened hemp milk is nice for dairy-free baking or savory stovetop goods where you want to thicken a bit without coconut milk.

But drinking it plain? I don’t do that.

coconutter
coconutter
5 years 1 month ago

It’s also a great stuff for those who have Coeliac/Crohn’s/IBS/LGS.

Julie
Julie
4 years 7 months ago

Hemp products, especially hemp oil, is the best way to to feed one’s own cannabinoid system. Evereything with a vertebrae has a cannabinoid system. This system modulates and regulates all other systems os the body. Science has know this for years. Just look up “cannabinoids” on PubMED.

For more information: Download for free the book, “The Cannabis Papers – a citizen’s guide to cannabinoids” at Lulu.com.

K Cody
K Cody
4 years 5 months ago
Hi Mark, I’ve been enjoying your posts for some time. I’ve been making hemp a main part of my diet. I feel like a million bucks and have unending energy. I eat 4-12 tbsp with 3 servings fruit in a smoothie daily. I supplement with large vegetable dishes as well as honey and vinegar twice a day. Sometimes I include other seeds, nuts, and occasionally yogurt or fermented cheese, very rarely meat. What would you say in response to making hemp my main source of protein and fat? I am dairy and gluten intolerant so whey is out of the… Read more »
Caroline
Caroline
4 years 2 months ago

Hi K Cody — Did you ever get an answer to this question? I’m a busy college student who’s constantly on the go, and have been thinking about making hemp seeds my primary protein source, as they are so portable.
Thanks!

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[…] this week.  I’m not entirely sure how hemp seeds fit into my lifestyle, but here’s Mark Sisson’s outlook.  I found this recipe on Eat the Cookie!  One of my favorite sites to get ideas […]

Yvette Kane
Yvette Kane
4 years 3 months ago

I love hemp oil.I use it as the required 2 tsp of oil for Weight Watcher. I have been looking for comments or research to support it for a long time.I know how it makes me feel and it is good. I use Manitoba Harvest.The bottle is well done, as in flip/squirt top,no waste. The powder is an acquired taste. As for the seeds, they are great too. Just be sure to store all in the fridge and they will keep for a long time,as in MANY months.(seeds still good from last summer).
thanks for covering hemp.

Cindi@MyPrimalAdventures
4 years 1 month ago

I understand that puree’d hemp, like nutritional yeast, can be used to make a sauce like cheese sauce. I am lactose-intolerant, but I still eat hard cheeses. Around here, you cannot get raw, unpasturized anything. You can’t even get full-fat yogurt. So I wonder if sprinkling ground hemp on my “meatza” is better than regular mozzarella?

Nancy
Nancy
4 years 30 days ago

I had too much hemp seed oil on hand so I started adding a tablespoon to my dogs’ dinner. After a month or so I noticed a difference in the 8 year old goldie’s energy level: She became positively bouncy! She also lost about 5-10 lbs over 3-4 months – nothing else changed about her diet or routine. This was a dog who huffed and puffed hard after a normal trip to the park. The benefits have continued now for 6 months. Next I’m going to try them with hemp seed butter.

Seth
3 years 11 months ago

Hey all. There is a new hemp product out there that is great. It is a hemp milk and it taste amazing and has no additives or fillers. It is a great way to get tons of protein and omegas everyday. It is called Simply Hemp Milk.

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[…] it is in the form of ALA rather than EPA and DHA.  That doesn’t mean it’s bad, as Mark Sisson points out ”to hemp’s credit, the omega-6 content does include the healthier gamma-linolenic acid […]

Sonja
Sonja
2 years 11 months ago

Is blood sausage primal

Diana Ofer
2 years 5 months ago

Is it possible that two tablespoons a day of Hemp Seed Oil are causing me to gain quite a lot of weight. I have been using it for a few months and my weight is rising all the time. I am not eating more or differently than usual. I also take two omega 3 capsules each day. I am female and 69 years if age

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2 years 3 months ago
[…] Finally for those interested in the Paleo Diet: Since beginning the diet in 2013 I have adjusted and adapted it to my needs. Although I am faithful to the fundamental aspects of the diet I have made some adjustments! If you’re just beginning with the diet, I highly recommend you follow the course of the diet. Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint amongst other publications, has some valuable insight  for our strict Paleo-ers “… as to whether hemp is Primal or not, I’d put it (like other seeds) in a supporting role. It’s not main Primal fare, but – when eaten in its… Read more »
Kandice
1 year 11 months ago

I used to be recommended this web site by means of my cousin. I’m
not positive whether oor not this put uup is written by him as nobody else recognise such specified approximately my problem.
Youu are amazing! Thanks!

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1 year 10 months ago

[…] Mark Sisson says: “As to whether hemp is Primal or not, I’d put it (like other seeds) in a supporting role. It’s not main Primal fare, but – when eaten in its healthiest (fresh) state – it can complement a good Primal eating plan.” […]

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[…] is hemp milk paleo? Primal guru Mark Sisson says that hemp and other seeds should not be main primal fair but that hemp is good in a…. He notes that it is very high in poly unsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and has an omega-6 to […]

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[…] il me semble intéressant de considérer un complément en protéines sous cette forme. Mark Sisson classe la protéine de chanvre en numéro 2 (son premier choix étant la […]

Deysha Victorine
Deysha Victorine
1 year 3 months ago

I’ve been using ATH Organics Hemp Gold for awhile and haven’t had any issues of rancidity as long as you use it within a reasonable time period (1-2 months). It does dry out after long exposure to oxygen so I leave it in the refrigerator after opening.

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[…] Egg Protein Powder – Super Human Coach Hemp Permitted On Paleo Diet – The Paleo Diet Is Hemp Primal? – Mark’s Daily Apple FAQs – Is Protein Powder Ok On A Paleo Diet? – Balanced Bites Paleo Protein Powders […]

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[…] Sunflower Seeds, Brazil Nuts, Pine Nuts, Walnuts, Hazelnuts, Pistachios, Derivative Butters, Hempseeds Pumpkin seeds, Macadamias, Sesame […]

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