Hemp seed oil is a rising star in the world of specialty oils, primarily due to its delicious flavor and perfect balance of essential fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6. Now that more research is highlighting the importance of EFAs in the diet, and a growing number of government warnings and reports are raising concerns about toxic levels of toxic contaminants in fish sources of EFAs, vegetable oils that feature EFAs are a hot trend. Sales of hemp foods grew by 66% from 2003 to 2004, and 2005 is shaping up to be the strongest year ever.
According to hemp seed oil processor Manitoba Harvest, a distinct advantage of hemp seed oil vs. flax is its content of the rare direct metabolites of Omega-6 and -3 called Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) and Stearidonic Acid (SDA). These metabolites are the same fats that are found in fish oils and are involved in the production of prostaglandin for hormones and in immune functions. GLA is a super omega-6 that some studies have shown may help reduce heart disease; enhance effectiveness of cancer treatments; treat problem skin conditions; prevent inflammation-related conditions such as Alzheimers, arthritis and asthma; and modify lipids to reduce triglycerides. GLA is also believed to help bypass enzymatic blocks in sluggish bodies that have metabolisms compromised by stress, environmental toxicity or aging to allow proper utilization of omega-6 EFAs. SDA is a powerful omega-3 that is purported to offer about five times the potency of regular ALA omega-3.
In addition, hemp seed oil offers a superior flavor profile and therefore has a wider range of culinary opportunities than flax seed oil, Manitoba Harvest asserts. Hemp oil's nutty flavor makes it a delicious addition to salad dressings, juices, smoothies, protein shakes and other dishes. Dozens of recipes are available at www.manitobaharvest.com/recipes. Hemp seed oil can also be used as a tasty low-temperature cooking oil, but it must only be used at temperatures below 350°F.
Yet another advantage of hemp seed oil is its longer shelf life. Hemp seed oil has greater stability than flax oil in part due to the healthy chlorophyll and other antioxidants in the oil.
Manitoba Harvest contracts more than 4,000 acres of hemp seed production with 20 local farmers that are shareholders in the company. They process the raw seed into hemp seed oil, shelled hemp seed, hemp seed nut butter and hemp protein powder at their 6,000 square foot state-of-the-art, kosher-certified and USDA-certified organic facility. Manitoba Harvest products are distributed to more than 2,500 stores and are also sold in bulk to manufacturers of bars, cereals, cosmetics and other products.